🌼The Da Vinci Principle — Habits of a Brilliant Polymath(MUST READ)
Learn to combine diverse curiosities
Leonardo da Vinci was a brilliant artist, inventor, and scientist. He’s also considered one of the most successful polymaths who ever lived. His notebooks are filled with examples of his curiosity and willingness to explore new ways of thinking.
While we think of da Vinci as the ultimate Renaissance man, his life and work were both highly focused. He was known for his intense study of anatomy and natural philosophy and his unusual personal practices such as an ascetic diet, meditation, and other rituals.
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These habits and his famous notebooks have led many historians to believe that da Vinci must have been a polymath with a far-reaching intellect.
Whether you’re at the early stage of your career, have found your true north or feel like you’ve hit a plateau in your career, it’s always helpful to make time to learn a thing or two from great minds.
The word “polymath” has existed for centuries. In fact, it was first used back in the 4th century to describe the ancient Greek philosopher Plato, who was known as a “multifaceted individual who had a broad knowledge of many disciplines.”
In the Renaissance period, a polymath was a scholar who excelled in many diverse fields of knowledge. Today, we would call this person a “Renaissance man” or a “T-shaped expert”: someone with deep expertise in one area and broad knowledge across many disciplines.
Create multiple knowledge bases
A modern-day polymath has the same breadth of knowledge as their Renaissance counterparts but specialises in only one subject and learns complimentary skills to become indispensable.
For example, a polymath could be someone who knows a lot about science, art, history, philosophy, and more. They may even be able to speak multiple languages! They can accomplish a lot because they have so much knowledge to draw from. They can also learn new things quickly because they are constantly learning new things.
The key to becoming a polymath is having a broad range of knowledge. For example, you can’t become a polymath if you only know one topic well or if you only know one language well. You have to have multiple knowledge bases.
By becoming a polymath and focusing your learning on one specific subject, you open up new career opportunities while also making yourself more marketable to employers.
For example, if you can deeply explain how artificial intelligence will impact society and its implications for multinationals, you will quickly become indispensable. The same principle applies to any subject — master the broad or core subject and learn sub-skills that can make you an expert over time.
In the modern world, it doesn’t take much to qualify as a polymath, especially if you have good internet access and like reading and researching new topics in your spare time.
Throughout history, famous polymaths have been revered for their ability to understand so much about the world around them. There are many great examples of polymaths: Aristotle, Galileo Galilei, Eratosthenes, Nicolaus Copernicus, Thomas Jefferson, Albert Einstein, and Marie Curie are a few brilliant minds with a wide breadth of knowledge in many different subjects — with insatiably curious minds.
These global icons understood that to succeed, they must master new skills and knowledge regularly. These recognised the value of diversifying their interests and dedicating time to developing them.
Imagine what you could achieve if you could tap into even a small amount of the genius residing within these people.
“Aristotle was an encyclopedic polymath, an all time intellect. Yet not only can you know more than him about the world. You also can have a deeper understanding of how everything works. Such is the privilege of living after Newton, Darwin, Einstein, Planck, Watson, Crick and their colleagues,” says Richard Dawkins.
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Focus on become a T-shaped expert
Anyone can learn to become a polymath, but it takes a special person to excel in multiple subjects. A successful polymath optimises their time and energy between their different interests and activities.
They can see connections between seemingly disparate subjects and dive deeper into their pursuits with conviction and commitment. They know how to capitalise on opportunities that come their way and identify the ones they need to create for themselves.
“There are three classes of people: those who see, those who see when they are shown, those who do not see,” says Leonardo da Vinci.
Polymaths tend to be more successful than those who are only good at one thing. One reason is that polymaths have more opportunities to learn and try new things. That way, they’re always keeping their skills and knowledge up-to-date.
They can learn from other people’s mistakes and successes, which helps them avoid making the same mistakes and doing the same thing over and over again. This leads to better results because they aren’t repeating the same old things.
Study the lives of polymaths
If you aspire to become a successful polymath, dig deeper into the life of Leonardo Da Vinci. I’m still reading Leonardo Da Vinci by Walter Isaacson. Leonardo was a mathematician, an engineer and a scientist. In fact, he was one of the most versatile men who ever lived.
He is considered the ultimate example of the “Renaissance man,” as his interests and knowledge were so vast. Even while still a young man, he produced masterful works in painting, sculpture and architecture.
Leonard was so good at many things that he is sometimes called “the human engine” or simply the “brain”. Da Vinci is known for his Mona Lisa smile and the flying machine he designed to lift off from the ground or water.
While Da Vinci did not invent most of the things he worked on during his career, he built upon prior knowledge to create groundbreaking advancements in many fields. As a result, he came to be seen as one of the great geniuses of history.
Becoming a polymath can help you work in various fields with different skills. You might also have more options for choosing a career path.
His notebooks reveal an inventor with such insights as advanced geometry and aerodynamics more than 400 years before their time. While Leonardo led a more obscure life than other Renaissance titans like Michelangelo or Titian, his legacy as one of history’s greatest minds remains undeniable.
“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, ” says Leonardo Da Vinci.
Many of Leonardo’s secrets can be found in his notebooks. One secret that stood out was his method of keeping track of ideas and projects. He wrote his ideas in his notebooks religiously.
Using this system, Leonardo could easily see which ideas were worth pursuing and which weren’t worth the effort.
Another of Leonardo’s secrets was his ability to prioritize tasks. In his notebooks, he would often write down the most important tasks at the top of the list and move them down as more urgent tasks came up.
By prioritising your time, you can make sure you spend your limited resources on the things that matter most.
Leonardo also kept a regular schedule to focus on getting things done during specific times of the day. This helped him avoid distractions and focus on the things that needed to be done at any given moment.
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Combine diverse curiosities
The polymath lifestyle is one of continuous learning and growth. It’s about following your curiosities and interests rather than conforming to or accepting conventional wisdom.
It’s about the desire to step out of your comfort zone and explore what could be. Polymaths have excellent self-discipline, an insatiable drive for knowledge, and a thirst for constant personal growth.
Like Da Vinci, you can learn from other fields and build upon your existing knowledge to become a modern-day polymath.
“Modern work demands knowledge transfer: the ability to apply knowledge to new situations and different domains,” argues David Epstein, author of Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World.
If you are interested in becoming a polymath, there are a few things you can do to get started: carefully consider what it is you want to learn about before investing time and energy into it and read as much as possible about your curiosities to gain a deeper understanding of them.
Embrace lifelong learning and persevere through setbacks to hone your broad and wide skills. Do more than read or think — practice and put your skill to work. And always remember what Leonardo da Vinci said, “Learning never exhausts the mind.”
Contributed by Thomas Oppong
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