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How to Become a Polymath: 8 Steps to Follow

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    Did you know that the most successful individuals in business are people with many interests?

    Research shows that you’re more likely to enjoy success if you have “too many” interests. Many people have one passion that they follow to become a master in their craft, but being competent at many different skills might be more helpful here.

    "Knowledge Is Power."

    No one is born with inherent talent or knowledge. Every aspect of our experience is influenced by what we’ve learned. As you grew up, you were interested in a variety of different topics and activities.


    So no one is born a polymath. No one is more likely to have wide-ranging knowledge than anyone else. The method of how to become a polymath is by actively studying many topics.

    What Is a Polymath?

     Broken down to its roots, the word “polymath” just means “a person who has learned much.” But it has a different application in the modern world.

     A polymath is a person who has skills in several different industries, topics, or activity types. They then integrate these skills to come up with unique problem-solving solutions that draw on knowledge from multiple areas.

     Elon Musk knows how to become a polymath. To create his companies, the inventor combined his knowledge of programming, engineering, and physics with his knowledge of manufacturing and business.

     Without his business understanding, he wouldn’t have been able to market his products as well. But without his scientific background, he wouldn’t have created the products in the first place.

     An example of a more historical polymath would be Charles Darwin. Darwin proposed the theory of evolution. But to come up with the method, he needed to have a background in many different types of science. These fields hadn’t been combined before, but Darwin put them together to draw his theory’s conclusion.

     A polymath is someone who can think complexly and come up with unique solutions. They have a flexible way of problem-solving thanks to their expertise in many different areas.

    Why You Should Become a Modern Polymath

    How to Become A Polymath

    1. Connecting at least two skills can give you a broader skillset in your niche.

    This is an important thing to keep in mind if you’re wondering how to become a polymath. You can combine two skills from different backgrounds and come up with a unique skillset for your niche.

     Think about it. Many creative development teams have multiple team members that all specialize in one thing. Maybe they’re experts in graphic design, coding, or marketing. But if you learn how to become a polymath, you can combine skills so you don’t need a full team.

     Let’s take the example of web development. If you know basics about graphic design, you might be able to choose branding colors and design a simple logo. But if you know about marketing, you’ll know how to test those designs to see which is most effective.

     That means that you can carry the design from conception to testing and tweaking without needing anyone else’s input. If you didn’t have the design background, you’d have to have someone else create the visuals. If you didn’t have a marketing background, you wouldn’t know how to connect with your target audience.

     Learning how to become a polymath means being able to do more on your own and having more to offer.

    2. Becoming competent in new skills is faster and easier than it's ever been.

    In the past, you might not know how to become a polymath unless you enrolled in college, attended expensive seminars, and fought for corporate resources within your company. But the internet has streamlined the entire process for how to become a polymath.

    With basically any skill you want to learn, there are tutorials on the internet. Some courses are offered in extremely specific niches like using Excel for business or designing three-dimensional prints. You don’t need a college degree, and you don’t have to waste time with any information you don’t want.

    One method for becoming a polymath is simply looking up free tutorial videos on Youtube. Nearly every skill you can imagine has a variety of tutorials from different experts in the field. You can spend just a weekend becoming competent in these areas.

    In the past, you might not know how to become a polymath unless you enrolled in college, attended expensive seminars, and fought for corporate resources within your company. But the internet has streamlined the entire process for how to become a polymath.

    With basically any skill you want to learn, there are tutorials on the internet. Some courses are offered in extremely specific niches like using Excel for business or designing three-dimensional prints. You don’t need a college degree, and you don’t have to waste time with any information you don’t want.

    One method for becoming a polymath is simply looking up free tutorial videos on Youtube. Nearly every skill you can imagine has a variety of tutorials from different experts in the field. You can spend just a weekend becoming competent in these areas.

    3. Your career becomes protected against the uncertain future.

    The workplace is constantly evolving. Part of how to become a polymath is learning how to pick up skills that make you useful. When you learn how to become a polymath, you’re not just learning skills. You’re learning how to learn.

    Think about some of the most valuable positions in engineering and software. Tons of them have to do with the internet. The majority of them also didn’t exist about twenty years ago. The people who are part of those industries are either young enough to have grown up with the tech, or they knew how to become a polymath.

    That is to say, they knew how they could take their current skills and apply them to the new face of technology. The marketers, designers, and coders who are successful today are those who were able to adapt to a non-print world.

    4. Having multiple skills makes you more capable of solving complex problems.

    One benefit of learning how to become a polymath is that you gain a more flexible mindset. It’s easier for you to understand the world and approach problems from multiple angles. Also, many of today’s modern problems require solutions that pull from various backgrounds.

    For example, maybe you want to solve a marketing issue in your field. Customers aren’t responding to emails the way they should. With just a marketing background, you might send out several test emails to see which perform best.

    But it takes a background in writing to know what to say, a background in psychology to know how to reach the target audience, and a background in graphic design to format the email in a way that’s pleasing to the eye.

    If you work from a marketing background alone, you’ll just be taking shots in the dark. Having a more complex background means that you can offer much more comprehensive, well-thought-out solutions.

    How to Become a Polymath

    So people with varied backgrounds are more likely to be successful. But that doesn’t tell you how to become a polymath. When you’re wondering how to become a polymath, I’ve found that these are the most important steps to follow:

    1. Lay Out Your Goals
    2. Gather Your Resources
    3. Practice, Practice, Practice
    4. Reaching Mastery
    5. Learn Speed Reading
    6. Don't just read. Use your senses.
    7. Improve Your Ability to Remember and Solve Problems
    8. Take vitamins and minerals and maintain proper nutrition

    1. Lay Out Your Goals

    One danger in learning how to become a polymath is not setting specific enough goals. You might start picking up skills in courses without having a clear idea of what you want to get out of the knowledge.

    So you should have the exact goals that you want to reach. “I want to learn to knit,” is fine, but it doesn’t have a defined end-stage. “I want to learn to knit gloves, sweaters, and scarves,” is a goal where you can measure your ongoing progress.

    Sit down with a pen and paper. Write down five or six interests that you have. Then write a specific goal you have for each of these subjects. When you meet those goals, come up with new ones for the subjects so that you become a master before you die.

    To get the most diverse results, you should choose goals that work across several realms. Maybe you pick a creative pursuit, scientific pursuit, business-related pursuit, and discipline related to social skills. Whatever choices you make, a more diverse portfolio will give you more varied solutions.

    2. Gather Your Resources

    Now you have your list of goals. You know precisely what you’re trying to learn and what you want to achieve. The next step is getting the resources to achieve it.

    This is where some people get stuck. You basically have to design your curriculum by finding the right learning materials. It’s best to use materials that complement your learning style, but first, you should gather all available resources.

    There are three steps to the “resource gathering” endeavor. The first is gathering up all of the free, easily-accessed resources in your life. The second is figuring out where the gaps in your knowledge base are. The third is investing in resources that cover the gaps.

    Gathering Your Existing Resources

     Take a look at each of the disciplines and goals on your list. You can look up freely accessible tools on the internet and in your local library. If your workplace or school has resources, utilize those as well. And don’t underestimate the knowledge of people around you.

     Go through this list when gathering your resources:

    • Books on the subject available online or through your library
    • Video tutorials
    • Free online courses
    • Other educational websites
    • Forums for beginning learners
    • Experts in your life
    • Any office, company, or school resources available to you

    Finding Gaps

    Gathering all of these resources should give you a pretty solid base to start. But chances are, you’ll also find some gaps in the knowledge. You don’t have to address these right away, but you can if you want.

    What’s most likely is that as you use your free resources, you’ll stumble upon a question or problem that you can’t find answers to in your tutorial. At that point, you’ll probably need to look for outside guidance.

    That might mean investing in a paid course, buying a tutorial book, or paying for a consultation with an expert. Whatever the solution, make sure that it offers something new. It should answer the question you have instead of just rehashing everything you can learn for free.

    3. Practice, Practice, Practice

    To become an expert in anything, you have to practice. Playing an instrument, drawing, designing, and even marketing are all disciplines that take practice. Nobody became an expert in their field without putting hard work into it.

    One thing that holds people back is the fear of failure. You have to stop being afraid to fail. Every time you fail, you gain new information about what to do differently in the future. Failure is an opportunity to improve.

    In fact, you don’t want to do everything perfectly on the first try! If you do, that means you don’t have any room for improvement. When you fail and try again, you’re strengthening your brain. You end up having measurable progress because you can look back and see how far you’ve come since you started.

    Don’t give up. If you need to take a break from a skill for a day or two, that’s fine. It’s fair to struggle with frustration and feelings of being overwhelmed. But perseverance is the most important aspect of how to become a polymath.

    Let yourself slow down when you need to. Maybe you’re having trouble remembering a long sequence or getting your brain to solve a complex problem. Go through the steps slowly and accurately, then increase your speed as you become more comfortable.

    4. Reaching Mastery

    One big question is, “What is mastery?” How do you know when you’ve become a master of a skill? And what’s the difference between being competent versus being a master?

    Competency in a skill means that you can execute it with reasonable expertise. You understand the concept behind the skill. You know the basics, and you can use the basics for problem-solving. Becoming competent in a skill doesn’t often take long. In fact, some people try to become competent in a new skill every weekend.

    Mastery, on the other hand, means that you have a deep understanding of the skill. Mastery is a combination of competence plus practice. It can only be achieved after taking time to continue learning, rather than being something you can do in a weekend.

    To become a master, you’ll learn the basics and then build on them. You’ll continue learning more advanced aspects of the skill or topic until you can apply them to more intensive problem-solving needs.

    5. Learn Speed Reading

    Research shows that speed-reading is a difficult skill to develop. Reading faster than usual makes it harder to retain what you’ve learned. If you read important info really fast, you might not remember the important words.

    But there’s a specific kind of speed-reading that is helpful. Before you read an article, book, or lesson, it helps to skim it. Look for the highlights and the key terms. This lets you know what you should pay attention to when you do the full reading.

    And if you don’t have time to read an entire text, skimming for key points is better than doing no reading at all.

    6. Don't just read. Use your senses.

    Different people have different learning styles. Whether you’re a visual, audio, text, or hands-on learner, research shows that using the information in multiple ways helps increase your recall.

    That means that you shouldn’t just read about how to do something. You should also watch videos, try it yourself, and consult experts for opinions.

    On another note, it’s vital that you be present in your day-to-day life. Pay attention to what’s happening around you and what other people have to offer. Let yourself absorb information even when you’re not actively trying to learn.

    Some people believe that the only way to learn out of books. That’s not true. With every new experience you have, you’re learning.

    7. Improve Your Ability to Remember and Solve Problems

    Learning to learn is the biggest takeaway. As you practice disciplines in a number of backgrounds, you help to build up your mind. In the same way that learning other languages is easier than learning a second one, learning other skillsets is easier after you learn how to retain information.

    Doing exercises and playing games that help you solve problems helps to improve your cognitive function.

    8. Take vitamins and minerals and maintain proper nutrition

    This is a pretty basic note, but it’s also essential. Your body and brain depend on a variety of essential nutrients. If you don’t have a balanced diet, you’ll be fatigued, struggling to concentrate, and frustrated.

    In Conclusion

    The most successful people in today’s world are polymaths. These people have a range of experience in a variety of different subjects. For example, they might combine a background in marketing with a knowledge of engineering and manufacturing.

    Maybe you’re a master in one subject, but it’s not hard to become competent in others.

    Don’t sell yourself short regarding how to become a polymath. Start learning about your interests; you don’t have anything to lose.

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