To become a polymath is hard work. It requires an innate desire and passion for learning new things. However, not everyone is destined to be a polymath which is perfectly fine; if there wasn’t variation in this world, it would be a rather dull place. If you are not really sure about where you fall on the “polymath scale”- then read on. Here are 5 important characteristics for becoming a polymath:
A voracious appetite for reading and experiencing new things
If you are the type of person that has a deep curiosity about things i.e. a true academic at heart – it’s probably a sign that you are destined for becoming a polymath. Polymathic thinkers have an insatiable desire for learning new things – they love a new challenge and learning new things comes second nature to them. Polymathic thinkers also have the ability to learn things much faster and often leverage the skills they learnt previously to assimilate knowledge rapidly. Think of it has continuously laying on the bricks to a sturdy foundation.
The ability to cross beyond boundaries in subject areas is critical to becoming a polymath
A distinct trait of polymathic thinkers are their ability to think beyond “silo” based learning. This often means overcoming the generic way you are programmed to think. Schools, universities and work in general promote niche based learning. It is even evident by the splitting of job functions. If you are keen on becoming a polymath however, then you must be able to overlap different subject areas. The process is referred to as interdisciplinarity. Essentially you need to be able to create mental models to link the subject areas together. I speak more about that in the coming points.
Having an open mind
You can’t expect to be on the path of becoming a polymath, if you don’t possess and open mind. Being a polymath requires you to often rid yourself of old outdated information. You need to be able to question your previous leanings and reaffirm that which you already know. Be willing to listen to others – and you will be one step closer to thinking and learning like a polymath.
Building relationships between abstract things
The path to becoming a successful polymath is ultimately dependent upon your ability to transfer knowledge between several subject areas. For example applying knowledge of lean six sigma (an engineering based tool) to improving the way you run your store is cross transferring between subject areas. Polymathic thinking has been the basis for the creation of several new subject areas over the years e.g. Biology+medicine+engineering gave rise to biomedical engineering as we know it today. Marine biology is a subject area formed by applying biology to the ocean. in the coming years there is likely to be many more crossing fields emerging as a result of polymathic thinkers crossing the boundaries of knowledge.
First principles thinking
First principles thinking means being able to go back to the basics and come up with your own unique conclusions. How does this help to be a polymathic thinker you may ask? Well, the answer is quite simple – first principle thinking means you are creative enough to question what already works in an attempt to create something that works much better. This has been an underlying trait that has led to the success of all great polymaths like: Elon Musk and Steve Jobs. Steve jobs for example was able to combine subject areas like design and technology to create the basis of what Apple stands for i.e. superior technology that appeals to the aesthetic requirements of it’s users. Ask yourself: “do I have the ability to question what already works in an attempt to create something that works even better? ”
If you enjoyed this post, also check out: 5 signs that you may be smarter than your boss
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