Saturday, April 23, 2016

How to be a polymath

One thing that might stump someone trying to be a polymath is how.  It's not like there are classes in it or you get to major in Polymathism. Although that would be awesomely cool. 

But yeah I've been wondering. Especially today. After watching music videos and Purple Rain(the movie) I came to the conclusion that Prince was also a polymath.

That got me thinking about the defining characteristics of a polymath. Is it creativity? I don't think so, not totally. But polymaths are creatively inclined. They are able to think outside the box. They expand the limits of knowledge, both their own and the world's. For instance, Prince played over 20 instruments and was a prolific songwriter. D'Arcy Thompson read several languages, was a biologist, and a pioneer in the field of bio-mathematics.

Another trait of a polymath is that they are also wildly curious. They involve themselves into new ventures because they like to learn. They have an almost obsessive desire to KNOW about something. That desire leads them to master the skill. Whether it's learning a language, or creating a museum, or learning how to play a new musical instrument a polymath will work to become an expert.

That often leads to another trait that I believe is part of polymathism. Sharing that skill. Passing on the knowledge and the expertise in order for others to rise and become greater. But there might be a little bit of ego involved. Polymaths know a lot and maybe like to show off that knowledge. 

Thompson was a teacher. He created two natural history museums. He wrote and published his work for others to share and build upon.
Prince wrote songs for other musicians and they rose to stardom on the those songs. Nothing Compares 2 U is one of the most famous. He brought in new musicians for his bands and to work in his studio.

Finally these traits lead to an attitude of independence and individualism. A polymath will get labelled as eccentric or an iconoclast. Those aren't bad labels. The world needs more free thinkers. Those who aren't afraid to say and do away from the crowd.

What a polymath learns during the discovery process is that hiding their light under a basket isn't worth it. They use their gifts. They accept the outrageousness, the breadth of their interests, and say in essence Fuck it. This is who I am. I lean into the weird and it makes me memorable. It makes me, me.

My take is that a polymath learns, shares, learns some more, creates, and is a free thinker and an individualist. In a nutshell? We're geeks.

So in respect to a fellow polymath here's his iconic Super Bowl performance. Great showmanship, great music.