Most people say that you have to specialize in order to succeed. To go deep instead of wide. And it makes sense as you get paid more if you become an expert.
Now, if you have a lot of interests and hobbies, does that mean you have to forget about most of them and just stick to one field?
I’m happy to say no because this is where being a polymath comes in.
So what exactly is a polymath, anyway?
A polymath is someone who studies a wide range of subjects and is excellent at many things. For example, if you write songs, make websites, and trade stocks, you’re considered a polymath.
The word originates from the Greek word polymathes, which means “having learned much.” Regarding the use of the word “polymath,” its first recorded use was in 1624 in the book Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy.
And just like how polymaths study many subjects, numerous terms are also used to describe who they are. Some refer to a polymath as a “renaissance man” or a “t-shaped person,” while potential polymaths are called “multipotentialites.”
How can I become a polymath?
The most important thing you need to become a polymath is to always stay curious. Throughout history, great polymaths have all had this crucial trait. It’s what makes learning meaningful and fun, after all.
Not only that, but curiosity also sparks imagination that eventually fuels creativity, leading to innovation – which is why polymaths make great entrepreneurs!
So, never stop asking questions and try to challenge your assumptions to become a polymath. This curiosity will make it easier to achieve the next step, which is to develop an interest in many subjects and hobbies.
Start learning science, business, and arts. It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to learn topics completely different from each other, as that’s what being a polymath is about!
However, being strategic when it comes to learning is essential. You have to learn how to learn because it will make you an efficient learner, which is extremely useful if you’re trying to study different subjects simultaneously.
Learning how to learn means becoming familiar with different memorization and learning techniques, such as interleaving, mnemonics, and the Feynman technique. Then, you need to apply what you’ve learned.
This might be obvious to some, but getting stuck in a learning pattern without applying that knowledge is common, causing information overload and analysis paralysis.
Think of it like watching tutorials on YouTube to learn how to ride a bike without actually practicing on a bicycle. As the saying goes, “Knowing isn’t enough. We must apply.”
Remember, a polymath is an expert in many fields, not a jack of all trades, master of none.
Are there any famous polymaths?
Leonardo da Vinci is the first person most people think of when the topic of polymaths comes up. While he may be most famous for painting the Mona Lisa, da Vinci was also a sculptor, engineer, and anatomist.
Another famous polymath that comes to mind is Benjamin Franklin, who had numerous occupations, like being a writer, a scientist, and a diplomat.
Galileo Galilei was also considered a polymath, as the Italian astronomer excelled in mathematics and philosophy.
You might be wondering if there are still polymaths in the modern era.
One example of a modern-day polymath is a particular South African billionaire entrepreneur with degrees in physics and economics.
If you didn’t guess who that is already, it’s Elon Musk – a polymath with a wide variety of skills and accomplishments who handles Tesla, SpaceX, and Twitter simultaneously!
Can people with ADHD be polymaths?
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is considered one of the most common mental disorders.
But, as it turns out, having ADHD isn’t all bad; thanks to their variety of interests and tendency to hyper-focus on new subjects or hobbies, people with ADHD are often polymaths.
Some historians claim that Leonardo da Vinci had ADHD due to his numerous unfinished artworks, such as The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne and Adoration of the Magi.
What are the best careers for polymaths?
Entrepreneurship is the most obvious career path for polymaths. Running your company means learning every aspect that makes it successful, like sales, accounting, and economics.
Also, it’s easier for a polymath business owner to start numerous businesses in different industries – entrepreneurs who do this are often referred to as serial entrepreneurs.
Freelancing is also an ideal career path if you want to become a polymath because you can offer different services to clients. For example, you can provide content writing, video editing, and bookkeeping all at the same time!
And if you fancy creating new knowledge as a polymath, a researcher would be the perfect fit!
Studies show that the most creative researchers can connect unrelated ideas from one another, a skill that all polymaths possess!
Lastly, polymaths can make great fiction writers who write about multiple literary genres, ranging from sci-fi to dystopian novels.
Is being a polymath worth it?
Being a polymath is worth it if you’re a lifelong learner and passionate about learning plenty of subjects.
Additionally, studies show that constantly learning and adding new skills or hobbies keeps the brain active. This improves your brain’s plasticity, which leads to better memory and concentration.
If you want to be an entrepreneur, you should also aim to be a polymath. Because as a business owner, you must understand each aspect of your business.
It’s also worth a shot if you’re an employee because you’ll have a higher value in the workplace when you become a polymath. It will make you both credible and adaptable.
And lastly, if being intelligent is said to make you attractive, imagine how much more charming you’ll be if you’re a polymath!
Being a polymath proves that it’s possible to be an expert even if you have a wide variety of interests.
And although the road to a polymath life may be challenging, staying curious, learning how to learn, and taking action makes it far more achievable.
So, in a world full of people saying you should specialize, not generalize, just remember that there were people who’ve done both in the past, so don’t lose hope!