A Case for Modern Day Renaissance Men

The world is rapidly evolving. New technologies become obsolete within a matter of years and the long-standing career options are gradually being replaced by positions that did not exist ten years prior.

“Don’t worry about what your job is going to be—the interesting jobs are the ones you make up.”

–Chris Young, Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss

I remember starting college and the feeling of anticipation, the knowing that I could be anyone and do anything. Yet, all the hopeful young minds are put through the meat grinder, reshaped into the proper cog for their chosen machine. Maybe one person is flavored by a bit more science whereas another is composed primarily of fine arts, but we were all broken down and haphazardly pieced back together.

I switched majors and minors a few times throughout college, exposing myself to the deepest recesses of various intriguing topics, from neurobiology, organic Chemistry, and psychology to anthropology, English, and art. And it was here I came to despise the unnecessary complexity of philosophy.

I recall one particular day where the topics of three unrelated classes converged. Similar ideas were brought up in Anthropology, Organic Chemistry, and Abnormal Psychology and the idea first crossed my mind: everything is connected. I don’t recall exactly what the overlap was, but I vividly remember sitting on the grassy mall in the center of campus furiously journaling for two hours straight. As ideas poured out, I slowly began to realize the key to innovation: stacking old ideas in new and seemingly nonsensical ways. If everything is, in fact, interconnected than thousands of topics are simply waiting to be joined together.

Around that same time, I discovered Emilie Wapnik’s concept of multipotentialite, a person who has many interests and creative pursuits. It made perfect sense. A few months ago, I received an newsletter to my inbox with a fascinating thought on compensation.

“You get paid linearly for analyzing and solving problems. You get paid non-linearly for spotting and seizing opportunities.”

–Shane Parrish, Farnum Street Newsletter

Eight years ago, I noticed something that I couldn’t quite out my finger on. I think now that it’s the arbitrary categorization of career paths. You can be a MD or designer, but you can’t be doctor that explains complex medical diagnoses to patients pictorially. You can major in theater or engineering, but perhaps no one thought to design the stage practically, based on the unique concerns and desires of the actors.

I believe the age of arbitrary career categorization is coming to an end.

I recently read an article about how people who have “too many interests” are statistically more likely to be successful. Across the span of time there has been a persistent warning against being a generalist, yet many of the most impactful characters in both past and modern history have held a variety of interests.

These polymaths have become competent in at least three diverse domains and have integrates them into a top 1-percent skill set. While specialists focus on knowledge from their own field, polymaths bring together the best of what humanity has discovered across fields to excel in their unique niche.

“Study the science of art. Study the art of science. Develop your sense—especially learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.”

–Leonardo Da Vinci

It’s easier than ever to become competent in a multitude of diverse fields. With the advent and advancement of the internet, it is easier that ever to connect with like-minds and free learning materials. The resources are endless and our only true limitation to skill acquisition in the modern world is attention.

Some the fastest-emerging jobs did not exist just fifteen years ago, and it’s nearly impossible for us to predict which careers will be most relevant fifteen years from today. Thus, it is increasingly important to ask ourselves what investments we can make today that may pay off in the future? What books could we read, and which skills might we learn? Which experts should we connect with, and how might we connect our seemingly unrelated interests in a new way?

In this environment of accelerating change, the younger generations will almost surely have a dozen separate skills, each requiring new skills. Therefore, I believe it’s important that each of us identify, embrace, and bolster our unique skills in order to develop a personalized skill set and differentiate ourselves from the competition.

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