What does it mean to be a polymath?
Did you know — a polymath refers to a person of wide knowledge and learning! Being a polymath means being a paragon of knowledge; a great thinker; a person who is a subject matter expert across multiple fields and is able to draw on his expertise to solve specific, complex problems. The founders of the five largest companies in the world are polymaths - Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Warren Buffett, Larry Page and Jeff Bezos.
Even the most significant scientists of all history were polymaths – Newton, Galileo, Aristotle, Kepler, Huygens, Laplace, Pasteur, Descartes, Faraday, Leibniz, Maxwell, Euler, Darwin, Ptolemy, Hooke. So, what exactly is a polymath? We describe five key qualities of a polymath below.
Polymaths are great problem solvers. Some people navigate challenges better than others and have an advantage in the path to success. When life hits a polymath with a challenge, he is able to identify the objectives, potential issues, opportunities and available means, get help from others, turn plans into actions and remain focused on the end-goal. A polymath garners respect and often becomes the leader among his peers by virtue of his exceptional capabilities and skills.
Broad and deep knowledge base
In acquiring skills and knowledge, we often face the dilemma of specializing in a particular field of knowledge or obtaining broad knowledge of the field in general. A polymath is able to pursue both breadth and depth. A polymath pushes the constraints of time and opportunity cost by being adept at extracting useful information from the vast amount of available knowledge and combining it with his own knowledge in a manner that allows him to become even more efficient in further building knowledge.
Having a broad and deep knowledge base allows a polymath to combine knowledge across fields to solve practical problems, learn a complex skill or pioneer a new industry. Take Steve Jobs for instance, who combined design with computing hardware and software to create a cultural following for Apple that goes beyond a typical phone company. In a study by Professor Brian Uzzi at the Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management across more than 26 million scientific papers, it was discovered that the papers with the highest impact and influence typically had research teams that came from diverse backgrounds. In another study, Professor Brian also found that the best studies usually cited a diverse combination of other studies!
Analyzer and pattern finder
A polymath has strong analytical and pattern-finding skills – the ability to perceive, extract, organize and assimilate information. Polymaths tackle problems by using a logical approach to explore ideas, information and solutions. These skills are developed through practice and habit. Once acquired, they are highly useful, generalizable skills that are valued across all industries. Polymaths are able to extract useful patterns, creative solutions and alternative approaches to problems from disparate sources of information. This makes a polymath an invaluable asset to his team.
A polymath is an intelligent, well-rounded and relatable individual. A polymath is not an elitist who is disconnected from societies and communities. Rather, he develops a character that is socially, morally, mentally, and intellectually balanced. A polymath keeps his life, mind and body in order. He maintains healthy relationships with those around him, while also nurturing a wide range of interests in multiple domains. He is open to new experiences and challenges, and is adept in communicating his ideas and passions. A polymath is not only proficient in knowledge and skills, he is proficient in life.
A polymath’s accomplishments are a natural outcome of his interests, demeanour. Polymaths get things done and push the limits of their talent. A polymath does not settle for mediocrity; his standards and expectations for himself naturally push him to do things better. A polymath is accomplished not only by societal standards; he is also accomplished by his own standards. By virtue of his vision, goals, demeanour, interests, pursuits and efforts, a polymath shapes his life towards a direction set by his choices, not by his circumstances. He is accomplished in a way of his choosing, be it a grand goal such as changing society, or a simple one such as having a meaningful journey with his family.
A closing note
Do you want your child to have the above qualities - to be a problem solver, have an extensive knowledge base, adept at analysing and understanding patterns, be well-rounded, and accomplished? It sounds like a lot of work, and yes, it is a tall order, but not an unreachable one. At Polymath Learning Centre, we strongly believe that children are born with the necessary curiosity and energy to become exceptional, and they only require appropriate guidance to do so. We believe that children are capable of embracing knowledge and being intrinsically interested in learning and developing their skills to the fullest possible extent. We aspire for every child to be a polymath. Curious about how we do it? Contact us for a free trial lesson today!
p.s. So no, we do not teach mathematics to Polytechnic students 😊