Whether you call them Renaissance men, polymaths or universal people, one thing remains true: they are people who know a lot about a wide variety of subjects. And even though specialization is unthinkable to them, they’re not really jack of all trades. I think of them as people who develop their mental prowess as much as possible.
And you can be one too. All it takes is a little drive and curiosity. By becoming a polymath, you’ll be following in the footsteps of other notable people such as Leonardo da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin and Aristotle.
The Last Person to Know Everything
Believe it or not, but there once was a time when someone could learn everything that’s ever been discovered. In fact, there is some debate on who the last person to know everything is. Most people give that honor to either Thomas Young or Francis Bacon. Thomas Young knew so much about a wide variety of subjects that he made notable contributions to fields such as energy, musical harmony and Egyptology.
He was the first to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphics by using the Rosetta Stone and disproved one of Newton’s theories of light. And he did all of this while he practiced medicine. I can only imagine he must never have slept.
However, as time has passed and people have become more specialized in their areas of study, learning everything that’s ever been discovered has proved impossible. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still become a polymath. It just means that you’ll never be able to master every subject out there.
I’m not sure if I consider myself a polymath. After all, there’s no committee deciding who is and isn’t one. But I’ve been able to identify three areas which have given me the greatest opportunity to learn as much as possible about everything. With enough time and effort in these areas, you’ll be able to take away enough to talk about corruption in Nigeria one minute to epigenetics the next minute without missing a beat.
1. Read Great Materials
Reading is the best way to learn something new. And when it comes to reading, I like to read a wide variety and read often. The key is to make sure that you’re always reading something new on as many topics as possible. Get into the habit of exploring subjects you don’t know much about. If you’re a history buff, read something about outer space. Since unfamiliar subjects are new to you, you’ll learn a lot more than ones you’ve already looked into.
2. Watch Documentaries
These are a great alternative to mindless sitcoms. And with such a wide variety to choose from, you’ll likely never run out of things to watch. One of the greatest benefits of watching documentaries is that often they will give you an introduction to their subject and explain things in ways that are easy to understand.
They’re also less demanding of your brain than reading. After a few hours of reading, the mind can’t really take much more of it. You won’t be able to take in any additional information. This isn’t the case with documentaries. I find that when I reach the point I can no longer read, I can still watch and enjoy a good documentary.
3. Talk to Smart People
Your social circle can affect you in ways you may not realize. People weigh their friends’ opinions more favorably than strangers. If you’re going to consider people’s opinions, you should make sure they are the most well-informed ones possible.
Also consider that many personality traits such as energy and attitude are contagious. The same goes for intelligence. As people get together in larger and larger groups, they adapt themselves to fit in with the group. In most cases, you don’t change the group – the group changes you.
I’m not advocating you ditch any friends who may not be all that smart. What I am saying is talking to smart people can really open your mind to new ways of seeing the world and new subjects to explore.
photo credit:Daquella manera
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