Are Polymaths Born or Made?

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The question of whether or not a Polymath is born or made may seem trivial to many people. After all, it does not matter if you are born with a talent or if you acquire it through discipline and hard work, as long as you are deemed successful in life. For me, there is an important distinction. I think that being a Polymath comes from the core of a person, it is a natural consequence of the unique mixture of personality traits and life experiences. Just as any trait in humans occurs in a wide spectrum, so do the Polymath types. They can be quiet and introspective or talkative and extraverted. Their mix of interests can be varied as well.

Those that are not born Polymaths can be made into one. Through discipline and sheer will, they can learn to master different skills and careers so that they can apply them in a productive manner to whatever their occupation is at that moment. For example, an engineer may learn computer programming so that he or she may be more knowledgeable and productive in their respective work. A sales manager may also learn psychology, statistical analysis and other skills to better understand his or her client base. The wider the scope of skills they learn, the better they will be able to have a competitive advantage when compared to their peers. The Polymaths that are made may share this behavior with those that are born, but the Polymaths that are born have a set of unique characteristics:

  • They share an unsatiable thirst for knowledge, even at the expense of personal relationships or needs.
  • They tend to be generalists as opposed to specialists
  • They tend to think in systems instead of processes and rules.
  • They may not understand people well and be misunderstood by people, but they usually have mankind’s welfare in mind when they seek new ways of doing things.

From the previous list, it is easy to see that those who are born with a strong Polymath inclination usually have a burning passion to help humanity in general. Those that are made into Polymaths I think tend to usually be concerned about improving the products, processes and rules they happen to be working on at the moment.

This is just an overview on the differences I find between those that are born Polymaths and those that are made into Polymaths. I will elaborate on this topic more in subsequent posts.

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