You can’t be everything, but you can be what you choose to be, perhaps more than one thing, a polymath.
The problem is a mere matter of choice.
What is your one thing, the right one thing you want to do for life?
Wheater you are interested in writing as well, sports or some specific profession we are mostly addressed by others with our job. It sounds a bit as if the way we pay our bills defines us who we are.
There is a reason to say one thing only, after all, we are devoting most of our time doing the one thing – your job title.
Frankly, otherwise, we would be skilled enough to do the work that matters.
Skill builds over time and to getting paid of practicing your skill often requires to be efficient as well.
Choosing the Right One Thing
Living in my twenties I want to try as much of life as possible before I commit to that one thing. However, I have already committed to writing in the meantime, which for me is essential for my good night sleep.
Conversely, I can’t deny there is this self-doubt if you will that prevents me to fully dive in and call it a profession.
Is fear real I am asking myself every now and then?
I am not scared of trying new things, but I like listening to my healthy skepticism even though I am overly excited about adventures most of the time.
But what is this right one thing?
Who doesn’t want to get a free ticket for a world tour?
“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.”
~ Richard Feynman ~
At the moment I am immensely grateful to have plenty of time to do all the things I want – to write, edit videos, record podcasts, write Erasmus Plus projects doing my internship and to facilitate on a weekly basis. It has been almost a year on the road with my friends.
But Alex where are those things going to lead you?
Juggling so many balls is distractive and also interesting and compelling enough not to forfeit. You never know where you are going, like me sometimes waiting for something unusual to pop up.
Jack of All Trades
Shuffle the deck first and draw a card. Look to remember it.
You guessed it – it is a Jack, all trades.
Here is where this figurative speech plays a role to help me explain how doing many things at once doesn’t make you better in any of them. You might see progress in the beginning, but you won’t reach the highest level in your niche if you keep your same tempo.
I should admit that if I don’t apply the proportion – 70/20/10. This I have learned from Tim Ferri’s podcast with Eric Schmidt and he suggests to distribute your time by allocating 70 % of it for the most important priority you have, 20 % for your sidekick, and last 10% for making lunar shots – your most ambitions aiming high from your current horizon.
It is naive to ask for all when someone is asking you “Which gift would you select for your birthday?”
“Choose one asshole, you can’t have it all.”
The same is with life, you can be world-class balls juggler, but not world-class juggling a lot of projects. My father always says, there are a time and place for everything. He simply implies to conduct my own priority analyses – the more accurate the better. To be self-aware in other words to do what matters better, and most importantly to do the right thing.
How Polymaths Came to Be Polymaths?
Listening to Tim’s podcast is one place where I learn a lot from. It is just so much there to grasp for free which automatically makes it priceless. He interviewed a lot of people who have been recognized as polymaths.
What is a polymath though?
A polymath clearly isn’t a Jack of all Trades.
Is it a polyglot?
Unless he is working in a five-star restaurant as a server or barista, nope. Just kidding, but it’s true.
The way I understand it polymaths are people focusing their attention on a single goal at a time. They are quick learners and very methodical in their approaches to adopt new skills. Their ability to deconstruct complex skills into attainable bits of skill is insane. But everything looks crazy from an afar.
Getting your hands dirty makes it easier to create meaningful experiences.
One thing is connecting with experts to understand where they are coming from, what is their background or how they set themselves for latter success.
Tim Ferris also recommends to ask them a few questions:
“What are the biggest mistakes newbies make in … (whatever you want to learn)?”
“What are the biggest challenges in different stages of a learner in this field?”
“How to overcome those challenges or what approach should one have towards resolution?”
Answering those in the beginning, consistency, and proactivity would take you where you are aiming at. I am walking my path as well. Step by step towards becoming ever more skilled in expressing myself both in writing and in speaking.
“People on a path to purpose don’t have time for drama.”
~ Confucious ~
Start a Project, Set a Time
Everything else you can substitute and earn back, except time. Call it love, youth, experiences, opportunities that don’t wait are happening in a split second sometimes. You don’t want to miss them, yet I sometimes do.
Do you remember the last time you were late for a date?
Being just a casual walk in the park with friends. Whatever it may be, how much do you care is the answer. People often pay with their time, working a job they dislike or doesn’t help them in any way to chase their dreams.
In contrast, you can set up a time for the skills you want. I am writing every day, although I don’t publish it right away I tend to spend more time on my writings lately.
I want to be sure it is the right progression, material, details, everything, in general, contributing to the blog in the end.
A good practice is to devote most of your time on one project than to start working on it by executing the hardest tasks first. After that you can plan another project, before you finish this one and be left without work, searching for another project. That wastes time so much. Just recollect your focus and lean forward the direction you want to go.
That means that you will have to say “No!” to distractions.
“People on a path to purpose don’t have time for drama.”
~ Brendon Burchard ~
Sometimes it is necessary to say no, it is to be respectful and very hostile places. Polymaths had learned the ability to resist temptation and have a sharp focus. Otherwise, it means to withhold the things you want to say.
A good practice is to set time for every project to create urgency if you are working on it alone. If you are working within a group, perhaps at your main job, you might already have a limited time frame, aka pressure to deliver, instilled already.
In case you are a top performer creating often or simply planning trips or starting projects often, have a planned project before you finish the one you are working on. This way you won’t fall into the void in between projects losing time to contemplate. Resting too much might brake your productive momentum.
This is true for every little initiation you could call project in life, planning your day to writing books.
Decide to Master Learning
If you want to become a polymath you have to master learning first.
But who am I to say that?
That’s why I want to introduce The Art of Learning Foundation, founded by Josh Waitzskin. He is the subject of the infamous movie “Searching for Bobby Fischer”, author of the book “The Art of Learning” itself.
I learned about Josh again from Tim Ferris’s podcast, I probably am listening to it too often.
In The Art of Learning Foundation, you can find helpful guides for students, teachers and the entire learning approach explained. It is all about meta-learning.
Applying this you could really speed up your student’s engagement in class if you are a teacher.
This I am currently witnessing teaching entrepreneurship to a class from about twenty African teenage girls aspiring to become self-employed. The girls are also either in hairdressing or tailoring class, which basically is their vocational training instead of continuation in higher education.
Unlike the African girls, you probably don’t have a deficit of core education.
That is why you have all the potential to learn anything you set your mind to.
We are all well versed to become what we had sought out for ourselves.
This, however, possible it takes time and grit to achieve a likable level of success. Like every other field of mastery and skill, being polymath needs first and foremost to master the art of learning itself.
By learning you can apply how to assimilate new concepts easily and effectively. Thus enhancing your skills and abilities you can potentially even change your identity. From bank clerk to artist our job title is we identify with.
To become a polymath we just had to have many jobs, different, and simply to be good at all of them.