A polymath (Greek: πολυμαθής, polymathēs, “having learned much”) is a person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas. In less formal terms, a polymath (or polymathic person) may simply be someone who is very knowledgeable. Most ancient scientists were polymaths by today’s standards. The term was first used in the seventeenth century but the related term, polyhistor, is an ancient term with similar meaning.
Leonardo da Vinci is regarded as the poster child Polymathic individual, or as a more common term you may have heard, a Renaissance Man.
I believe, very simply, that one of the greatest lies society has spun since we were children is that you should choose only 1 subject area to focus on in your life. Whether that’s Math, Home Ec, English, Gym, or Typing, you can only choose 1.
But aren’t our lives experienced as all of those things combined? Through 1 set of eyes?
I think the goal is to get as broad and deep as possible in multiple areas. Alas, we have only 1 life to live and the clock, it is a tickin’.
But what if you started in 1 area that interested you. You went deep. Decided that that’s not exactly what you wanted to do, so you took that one little seed from that first plant, edited it slightly, and planted it in a different area close to the first. Then you grew deep roots in that area. Then you realized that even that soil wasn’t where you wanted to spend your life, so you took a seed of that, edited it and planted it in a new area that was closer to the sun. You began to feel warmer.
Do that enough times and you begin to circle around the mountain’s outer shell. But eventually, you reach the top. As close to the sun as you could get, and you plant your seed, and the flower grows straight towards the sun because it’s grown and changed it’s DNA to accommodate all different types of areas on that mountain.
Then the only way to get closer to the sun, is to start building new dirt underneath you so you can grow higher and higher.
That, to me, is how someone becomes a polymath. They don’t set out to do that. They end up there when they look back. And they realize there was no other way, because it’s just who they are, and they had to keep fighting. They couldn’t give up. Because they loved what they were doing.
So that 1 thing at the top is new and different, and the world had never imagined something like that before because it evolved organically into a brand new area. But it was good, because that plant felt warmer than it ever had before.