Level Up Specialists to Polymaths

TL:DR | The path from specialist to polymath is a lot more closer than you'd think. All it takes is a tweak in the trajectory, a bit of curiosity, and a couple more areas of knowledge!


3 min read
Level Up Specialists to Polymaths

Some might say that you don't need to? Although as you'll learn from today's newsletter post. The path of specialist to polymathy is not that uncommon as you would think.

Specialists are the bread and butter of the corporate world, and they have been the societal mainstay for the last 100 years. However throughout the world's history, and even now during this "web renaissance"; There has always been generalists and people who are multidisciplinary. Generalists out number specialists by a great margin, and that is because a large number of so called "specialists" are actually quite more divergent than they realize.


How does Specialists compare to Generalists?

Honestly this is partly why I created the interview series for the Polymath PolyCast. A lot of people don't realize that they are multidisciplinary, instead viewing themselves as a singular specialist.

However you hobbies, work histories, and mindset all go into what makes someone polymathic.

While a Specialist might have one field with upwards of 70%/80% knowledge or more in an area. A Generalist would have 40/50% or more in many areas. Do note that the curve of learning for a specialty gets harder as you go narrower. So the difference between 50% and 70% is a lot more than 30% to 50%.

How does Specialists compare to Polymaths?

With Specialists coming in at one area of knowledge at 70% or more, then the Polymath is someone with THREE or more areas of knowledge at 70% or more.

Hence why they are farther along in the Multidisciplinary Spectrum.

There seems to be 2 or 3 paths to go. You are a specialist pursuing one field for a period of time, say a decade, then you move onto a new field. Serialized one and the other, and by the end of your life you have done many fields.

You can juggle like a jack of all trades or generalist, with multiple interests growing at the same time. Just more slowly.

Or you have a mixed approach, like the T-shaped person, where you build up smaller skills while focusing on your main one.


Why level up to Polymath?

It is just the next logical step really. As I said it either happens over the course of your life, whether you realize it or not. Alternatively, it happens because you choose to go down that path.

The sooner you choose, the then the sooner you'll level up.

Conversely, you could go down the route of the Hyper-Specialist. This is what I see as a Specialist, and I think is what a lot of people believe a Specialist is. Although in reality it is more rare than you think.

A specialist is top 20-30%, but a hyper specialist is top 10-15%. 99th percentile kind of thing. Although there is a need for people like that, the PHD people. The people who pursue so deeply that an innovation comes from that. If you are one of those, then go for it.


Serialized Specialties

Again, like I mentioned before. The serialized approach is that of doing one thing after the other. It seems to be on the macro scale at least, to be way more common than you would think.

What I like to do is plan out those "Phases" of areas of knowledge.

Journeys to Polymathy: Juggling vs Back to Back
Are you taking the jack of all trades approach, or the specialist? Why not try to do both, and become more of a T-Shaped person. Mastering your own life system to pursue all of your interests in a planned way.

There is a need for Specialists... but don't underestimate yourself

You don't have to stop at just one specialty, and the more you add. Then the more you become capable of finding new innovations in the fields of knowledge you have.

That is how the interdisciplinary web of knowledge, or forests of knowledge, grows.

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