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People Who Have "Too Many Interests" Are More Likely To Be Successful According To Research

The modern polymath

... is someone who becomes competent in at least 3 diverse domains and integrates them into a top 1-percent skill set.

In another words, they bring the best of what humanity has discovered from across fields to help them be more effective in their core field. 

Specialists, on the other hand, just focus on knowledge from their own field.

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People Who Have "Too Many Interests" Are More Likely To Be Successful According To Research

People Who Have "Too Many Interests" Are More Likely To Be Successful According To Research

https://medium.com/accelerated-intelligence/modern-polymath-81f882ce52db

medium.com

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Key Ideas

The modern polymath

... is someone who becomes competent in at least 3 diverse domains and integrates them into a top 1-percent skill set.

In another words, they bring the best of what humanity has discovered from across fields to help them be more effective in their core field. 

Specialists, on the other hand, just focus on knowledge from their own field.

Leonardo Da Vinci

Leonardo Da Vinci

"Study the science of art. Study the art of science. Develop your senses — especially learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else."

Famous polymaths

Polymaths have existed forever (they are often the ones who’ve advanced Western civilization more than any others )  but they’ve been called different things throughout history:

Philosopher king: Aristotle, Marcus Aurelius, Archimedes.

Renaissance person: Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Galileo Galilei.

Gentleman scholar: Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams.

Polymath: Marie Curie, Isaac Newton, Theodore Roosevelt.

Modern polymath: Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg.

Creating an atypical combination of 2+ skills

Even if you're merely competent in these skills, combining them can lead to a world-class skill set.

Example: Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, one of the most popular comic strips of all time, was not the funniest person,  not the best cartoonist, and not the most experienced employee. But by combining his humor and illustration skills while focusing on business culture, he became the best in the world in his niche.

Creative breakthroughs

Most creative breakthroughs come via making atypical combinations of skills.

Researcher Brian Uzzi, a professor at the Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management, analyzed more than 26 million scientific papers going back hundreds of years and found that the most impactful papers often have teams with atypical combinations of backgrounds.

Learning new skills

It’s easier and faster than ever to become competent in a new skill. The quality of knowledge in every domain is improving and there is an abundance of free or affordable content from the world’s top experts in every medium you can think of.

Example: 13-year-old Michael Sayman taught himself how to code via Google. One of his mobile games became one of the top 100 apps in the world, beating out Starbucks and Yelp.

It's easier than ever to be a polymath

It's easier than ever to pioneer a new field, industry, or skill set:
  • New skill sets, industries, and fields emerge is by combining them with old ones.
  • The number of new academic fields and business industries is increasing exponentially.
  • As the number of new skills increases, the number of possible combinations increases exponentially. Every new chunk of knowledge can theoretically be combined with every other knowledge chunk. Every new breakthrough creates the potential for exponentially more breakthroughs.

Being a Polymath Future-proofs Your career

A polymath can take the skills that she or he has learned and combine them in new ways quickly to master new fields. 

On the other hand, a specialist whose fields becomes obsolete would likely take much more time to adapt to the change and have to start back at the beginning.

Solving complex problems

Being a polymath sets you up to solve more complex problems. Many of the largest problems that face society and individuals benefit from solutions that integrate multiple disciplines.

Standing out in the global economy

The relevance of supply and demand to the job market, to goods and services, to the world of ideas, and to many other places means that you can have the most valuable skill set in the world, but if everyone also has that skill set, then you’re a commodity.

Self-made billionaire Peter Thiel, asks prospective candidates, “What’s the one thing you believe is true that no one else agrees with you on?” This simple question very quickly tells you whether or not you have rare and valuable ideas.

Make Yourself Anti-Fragile

Specialists build up a narrow skill set and reputation and become highly paid for it, but they become fragile as their professions disappear or evolve.

Changes to the environment make polymaths stronger. As new paradigms of business emerge or their passions grow, they can quickly combine their existing skill sets in a myriad of ways.

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Polymaths, geniuses with diverse skillsets and varied interests, are the source of some of history's greatest contributions.

Giants like Aristotle, Galileo, and Leonardo da Vinci were...

The Approach Of A Polymath

A polymath sees the world with a unique perspective, making connections that are not apparent to others.

Early polymaths had the advantage of a wide-open field, and went deep in their disciplines, yielding branches and sub-branches of specializations. Deep down, these different branches lead to the same trunk and roots.


Polymaths Vs Specialists

Polymaths differ from specialists, as they are on to a highway that is getting wider, and specialists are parked in a spot that is getting deeper.

Polymaths have the advantage of learning new fields of study, and forming new connections, while specialists start having a narrow vision by going deep, learning less. The learning ability of the polymath is the required skill-set of the future.

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Polymaths

A Polymath is defined as one who is specialized in at least two unrelated fields or domains while having a passive interest in other domains too. They are individualists that hold a holistic view o...

Qualities Of A Polymath

When polymaths become interested in something, they don't care which domain or sphere it leads them. Some qualities of a Polymath person:

  • Above-average intelligence
  • Open-mindedness
  • Curiosity
  • Self-reliance
  • Individualism
  • A desire for personal fulfillment
  • Desire to find connections.
Waqas Ahmed
Waqas Ahmed

“The polymath not only moves between different spheres or different fields and disciplines, but seeks fundamental connections between those fields, so as to give them a unique insight into each of them.”

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The real master has no tools

He/She has a endless power to improvise with what is to hand.

The more fields of knowledge he/she covers, the greater his/her resources for improvisation.

Alexis de Tocqueville
Alexis de Tocqueville

"Nothing tends to materialise man, and to deprive his work of the faintest trace of mind, more than extreme division of labour."

Invention fights specialization

To come up with new ideas, you need to know things outside your field.

The further afield your knowledge extends, the greater potential you have for innovation.

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