Are you a Polymath?

“The real master has no tools at all, only a limitless capacity to improvise with what is at hand. The more fields of knowledge you cover, the greater your resources for improvisation.”

From the time you are born, the current world-view enlightens you that it’s time to get going, and decide on that one thing you will specialize in for the rest of your life. Maybe you enjoy piano and wish to be a master of this wonderful instrument, playing beautiful music for all to hear. You could be passionate about animals and become a veterinarian. After all, we do share this word with them, and they can be our faithful companions. However, are these single passions and abilities the only thing you should limit yourself to? Let me pass a new word along to you that you may have never heard, as I had not.

Monopath- a person with a narrow mind, a one-track brain, a bore, a super-specialist, an expert with no other interests

I have always experienced a strange struggle with what I should spend my time doing. I love studying the brain, and want to be an expert of this squishy stuff in our skulls. I believe it to be the most complex thing currently known to exist. Sadly, there are many other things I am interested in. I love anthropology. The study of humankind and its origin is a subject I will always strive to learn. I love physics. I want to know how the intricate machinery of a world we simply cannot see works. I want to learn how to make a delicious, edible food out of just about anything. Why not? This IS the most important thing in all of our lives. “Food, you say!?!?” I don’t know how to break the news with you, but I ran it by Logan and he said everyone needed to hear it. So here it goes, if you don’t have food… die. It’s insane, I’m aware. I also want to be a painter. It sets my mind at ease and tickles my soul when I can create a piece of art out of some colorful liquids and a canvas, no matter how terrible I actually am at it.

So here is where my dilemma lays to rest, I’m told I should focus on one array of knowledge, and master it, WHY? Why can’t I spend my days learning all of the things? Then I scanned across the word “monopath.” Isn’t that a painful way to portray an “expert?” I immediately sent Logan the article I was reading to gain his opinion.

Let’s think about it for a second. Your brain has electrical connections that travel nearly 200 miles an hour, and has over 100 billion neurons with the capacity to hold roughly 2.5 petabytes of data. This is enough data to store and recall over 3 million hours of TV shows. Guess what? It runs off a power source equivalent to a 10-watt light bulb. Damn, we are efficient.

I quickly came to realize that it is more than alright to be interested in everything. Your brains can easily handle it. Retaining a new language seems difficult, but it’s walk in the park for your brain. Learn it all. Dip your fingers in all of the hot candle wax! Do it because it feels good (ignore my odd references)! Pull away from dull, monopathic behavior. It can grow boring. Become polymathic! Here is a precise definition of what it means to be a polymath, courtesy of our lovely friend, Wikipedia.

A polymath (Greek: πολυμαθής, polymathēs, “having learned much”)[1] is a person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas; such a person is known to draw on complex bodies of knowledge to solve specific problems.


Now, doesn’t that sound delightful. The best part…….humans are natural polymaths. This is what our giant brains were developed to help us be. We were built to function in ways that recall knowledge from all of our surroundings and all of the skills we have acquired to form one simple decision. We take into account wind speed, if the meat from a wooly mammoth is poisonous to our bodies, how much force we need to put into throwing our spear, and the probability of our significant others screaming and making obscene gestures at us if we failed to return home with food for the family. This all happens in a matter of seconds.

Think all of this is hogwash? Let’s take Leonardo da Vinci, as a brief example. You may not know what he has done, but you’ve heard of him. Why? He was a painter, sculptor, architect, musician, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, and a geologist. These are a few of his traits. The ability to make connections from various fields is where the creation of greatness stems from in a person. Take Mark Zuckerberg as another example. You may not like him, but you cannot deny that he has created something great. Using the tools at hand, along with social failure, facing adversity, and his many talents, he created a social networking apparatus to help you connect with people from all over the world. Family, long-lost friends, potential investors. There are schools already in progress to help develop our polymathic abilities. Check this out… ….a school dedicated to building thousands of people who can help change our world and future.

Somewhere along the line, technological advancement has led to us being null, and relying on all of the tools we have at hand to help us avoid learning and take the easy way out. Why learn spatial directions of where you need to go, when we can type it into GPS? Why gain the deep thoughts of a brilliant artist, when we can use Spark’s Notes and get a quick summary? DO NOT let the rapidly changing world stop you from learning. Every single day, make yourself struggle. As Logan mentioned in a previous post, there is nothing wrong with finding something to be too difficult and failing. This is to be human. We are here to remind you that this brick wall you reach is merely figment of your imagination. Nothing more.

There is no task “too difficult.” Being a polymath is not something to become. It is something you are, that the advancing world has helped you suppress. Struggling will help you develop, and pull out those naturally polymathic tendencies. Make a plan for yourself to study a new subject every week. You’ll be surprised at how many connections you make. You may come up with an invention that saves someone’s life. Make yourself so valuable to others that they can’t refuse your services. Make yourself a necessity. Be a polymath. You are a human, you kind of don’t have a choice, anyway.



Got any cool ideas or comments? Let us know! Got a topic you want to learn about, or just want to have a nice conversation? Fill us in!



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