When you think polymath – the first thing that should come into mind is a voracious learner with an appetite for knowledge. A polymath is often someone who possesses knowledge in a wide range of disciplines. When you talk to one; you will often be impressed at how smart they sound because of the things they talk about. What makes a polymath different from others is their belief that learning areas can overlap to create new improved ways of doing things for e.g. The way Steve Jobs merged creative design with the rigid structure of computer engineering to produce the brand Apple is one such way a polymathic mindset was used.
If you are one that is already on their path to being a polymath or are interested to start your journey; here is your ultimate guide to being a polymath. Find out how tapping into this characteristic can open up worlds of opportunity for you.
The Historical Journey Of Polymaths
Our present has been paved with efforts from Polymaths across the centuries. From Nikola Tesla to Leonardo Da Vinci. All these men had one thing in common i.e. extending their knowledge in different subject matters with the aim of making the world a better place. According to this great post from Medium; there are 3 ways polymaths traditionally gather and process information:
- Information gathering (collecting and gathering info from textbooks, experiments etc.) Read: “Types of books to read to add value to your life”
- Information management( sorting info to identify gaps, fitting past information with new information to determine overlapping qualities and possibilities for integration)
- Investing (applying one’s skills)
This bring to light one very important thing – being a specialist isn’t necessarily the be all and end all. Examples from the past and sometimes present has shown us that with limited information about a subject area; one can still achieve great things. In addition, the added advantages of cross transferal of skills puts polymaths ahead of the rest. For e.g. imagine a doctor being able to analytically solve problems like an engineer. This cross transferal of skills could lead to ground breaking revelation in both the medical and engineering sectors hence the creation of the field Biomedical engineering.
The Benefits Of Being A Polymath
Apart from just the sheer joy of learning new things; being a polymath, according to neuroscience, can also have positive medical implications and help you perform better in your career. The benefits of being a polymathic thinker in your career stems from the added advantages. With more skills you will not be easily replaceable and also stand a better chance to transition into new job roles. In terms of health benefits; constant learning as a polymath does lead to perpetual secretion of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter responsible for the rate at which neural connections form in the brain. This overall results in better brain health. For e.g. people suffering from Alzheimers have found to no longer be secreting acetylcholine.; hence science dictates that the more we are able to secrete this hormone the better our chances of maintaining good brain health.
What It Takes To Become A Polymath
The path to becoming a polymath never ends. In fact, if you are a polymath or not; the process of learning should never stop. Even after retirement, you should find mind stimulating things to do to keep your brain firing. It involves lifelong learning in subjects that lead to you wanting to dig deeper and deeper. The more you learn the more your realize how little you actually do. Therefore people who love learning new things in specific areas are usually successful because of their drive to keep going forward. A post was written highlighting 5 important characteristics for becoming a polymath; it gives a clear idea of whether or not this journey is for you.
Increasing Your Mental Capacity
Think of the brain as a supercomputer. The one part of the brain is your hard-drive or memory reserves while the other is the CPU and processor of information. To be a great polymath means mastering these ways of thinking. If you would like to go a step further; you can start delving into how to effectively develop the 4 brain quadrants. This means being able to consume large amount of information quickly and retain it; and thereafter applying this information logically to real life situations. Read: how to increase your mental capacity at anything; however as a general rule of thumb:
- Always keep your mind healthy
- Use memory techniques to learn faster
- Find the learning style that works for you
- Look at the bigger picture; if you can connect new information with old information you will be able to strengthen current neural pathways
- Read complex books until it becomes easy. The advantages of reading is huge so don’t squander your time not doing it. Also Read: “How to improve your general knowledge quickly“
Also read: 5 Fun Methods to Expand Your Mind>>
Identifying What You want To Study
Just as important as learning is choosing what to learn. As much as polymaths want to sink their teeth into everything; there is often a line that one must draw when it comes to the subject areas you wish to pursue learning. Ask yourself: “what am I passionate about?” and “what makes me go into a state of flow?” Sometimes it is easier to start with one field of interest and then look at it’s intersections with other fields. In this way, it makes it easier to transition into the new field as you have a basis to start. E.g. Working as an Architect could introduce you to the field of project management or Structural engineering. Since you work directly in the field you will know how they overlap and what you would need to learn to bridge the gap. You also have the added advantage of working with people in the other fields who could help you transition over.
If you are having issues finding what interests you because you have so many ideas flowing in your head; why not try brainstorming. It will allow you to effectively classify and put your ideas down. Then you will find it much more easier to pinpoint what the solution to your problems are. Read these articles about brainstorming to learn more:
- Pre-brainstorming Activities To Help Students Think More Creatively>>
- Brainstorming Methods To Utilize For Problem Solving>>
- 6 Brainstorming Ground Rules To Set In Stone>>
- 6 Brainstorming Strategies For The Best Ideas>>
The Polymath Way To Studying More Effectively & Mental Models
Have you heard the term “mental models”? It is actually a great way to see how overlapping skills can be used in different disciplines. According to Google: “A mental model is an explanation of someone’s thought process about how something works in the real world.” For e.g. the supply and demand model from economics explains a common principle that can be applied to all areas of life. If there is a higher demand for something but supply doesn’t change; the price or value will increase. Another great example is the 80/20 principle. It can be applied to several areas and essentially says 80% of effects comes from 20% of causes. You can create your own mental models or learn existing ones; whatever the case, mental models are excellent tools to have in your polymath toolbox.
How To Motivate Yourself To Keep Learning
If you are reading this post or are interested in being a polymath, then learning shouldn’t be a problem. However, sometimes you may experience burnout because of the urge and voracity to want to learn so much so quickly. This can often lead to burnout before you even start. So take a deep breath and type out everything you want to cover learning in the future. Then choose the top five and develop a plan, with goals and time periods to learn them. This will also give you time to enjoy other intellectual hobbies instead of just being a book worm 24/7. Remember a part of learning is also physically experiencing life as well.
Also read: “Mental growth quotes to kick off your day>>”
If you are interested in some great hobbies and activities to expand your mind, Read:
Being a polymath can be daunting yet exciting path. If you are really inquisitive about life and all it’s wonders; this is the path for you. Hopefully this article can be your ultimate guide to being a polymath every time you are lost on your journey. Go forth on your journey of learning future polymath!