Looking back at history, many of the most intelligent and successful people all shared one common trait – they knew many things. These people were called renaissance men, jacks of all trades, polymaths, multipotentialites, and many other names. These various names essentially boil down a single key concept – being very good at many things.
Polymaths love to dabble in many new things, but usually don’t stick with it long. However, they went through the entire process of learning about that new thing, and they don’t lose that knowledge. Over time, polymaths start to use some of their previous skills to improve the skills they are currently learning. This starts to add up, especially over a lifetime, somewhat similar to compound interest.
Let’s look at a notable polymath, Elon Musk. He founded X.com, which later got bought out by PayPal. He then went on to found a rocket company, and a car company, and a tunnel digging company – you get the gist. However, he brought new disciplines from his experiences in Software Development into the space industry and the automobile industry, even though these new companies were not software ones. His Twitter is a great example of a polymath’s brain in action – he gets a crazy idea, that may not work, but he has the money to go all-in and explore it as thoroughly as he can. In the process of exploring these ideas, he takes his compounded talents, and applies them to this new company. If it fails, he learned a lot in the process, and can add that into his brain to compound further over time, for the next crazy idea. There are many more examples of people similar to Mr. Musk in history, such as the American Founding Father, Ben Franklin. He was a newspaper editor, postmaster of colonial America, involved in writing the Constitution of the United States, a diplomat, had numerous patents, and still had many other roles in history.
I searched for a word that would describe me, and this seems to be it. I’m not anywhere near the level as notable polymaths in intelligence, however, I can continue to learn new talents and concepts to add to my mental arsenal, hoping one day they can come in handy. I can pick up new skills quite quickly, however, I need to work on staying with them a little bit longer; advanced-level knowledge of a skill is worth more than surface-level knowledge in the grand scheme of things.
Note: This post was quickly written and barely edited. Hoping to post more on this blog, and the best way to do it I reason is by just posting what’s on my mind and not sitting on it.