Am I the only one who is tired of reading articles about focusing on one specific thing you’re really good at to be successful?
If you ask me what I’m best at, I don’t think I can answer the question.
If you think you can answer that question, you’re probably wrong.
For those who don’t know, a polymath is a person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas.
I knew very early on that I wanted to build games growing up. I directed my life to reach that goal. In my teenage years, I built games using free software like RPG Maker and Game Maker. I later learned to program in college. As soon as I could get in the industry, I did. It was great. I was very good at it.
I shifted gears 5 or 6 years later and worked for a non-game company. It was great. I was very good at it.
I left 6 months later to travel around the world. I tried as many things as I could. Things I had no idea if I’d be good at it or not. But I tried. I surprised myself most of the time. I was very good at other non-programming related tasks.
“If you can dream it, you can do it” — Walt Disney
“Becoming” A Polymath
This realization put me in a year of self-doubt about the direction of my life after I came back from that trip a year later. Some people travel to find themselves, I was definitely more lost than I was when I left.
It’s then the I started experimenting on every new skill I could pick up. I became good at lots of things. I’ve since then developed this framework where I learn (at least) 3 new skills every month.
In a very short timespan, I:
- started getting contracts for taking professional photos;
- started writing semi-professionally;
- started an eCommerce selling Viking gear;
- built the (self-proclaimed) best yet-to-be-released Text-to-Speech app;
- started speaking other languages;
- gave talks on time management & productivity;
- gave English classes;
- and more.
And that’s only the professional skills I’ve learned. I tried many new sports, I did sleep experiments, food experiments and more.
You Are A Polymath, You Just Don’t Know It
I am certainly no genius. I know people much smarter than me. The only difference is I dare push myself into doing things out of my comfort zone. It’s not easy at first, but the first wins lead the way to more and more wins.
You work in tech? Dare try creative work. I did, I can draw using Photoshop now.
You are a creative person? Dare try programming. Follow tutorials. Start with games.
You do manual work? Try mental work.
You take photos? Try being the model.
You take videos? Try being the actor.
You work in healthcare? Try working in third-world countries with Doctors Without Borders or another NGO.
You speak only one language? Go to a country where the language is somewhat similar as a first step. Go to India or East Asia next.
“To know, is to know that you know nothing. That is the meaning of true knowledge.” — Socrates
How would you know what you can do if you don’t even try? How can you safely say what you’re best at if you haven’t tried anything else. Sure you might have success doing what you know how to do, but maybe there’s something else you could do better?
But then, who cares if you’re not doing what you’re best at.
I’m certainly not the best photographer.
I’m certainly not the best writer.
I’m certainly not the best programmer.
I do all those things at a level people qualify as very good. Probably just “good” for writing since it’s all new to me.
And I’m doing pretty well for myself. I may not be rich and famous, but I’m ridiculously happy.
I can relate to a lot of people on so many levels. I think that makes me a better person overall. Being a better person for other people, to me, is a better definition of success.
Screw one-trick-ponies; dare be good at many things. Get out of your comfort zone and do things you want, not things you can. Do things you don’t want to do to teach your brain that you can actually do it. Expand your horizons.
Become the polymath that’s hidden inside you.
You can do this!
Thanks for reading! :)
First published here: https://medium.com/swlh/you-are-a-polymath-you-just-dont-know-it-b501ffbf0601