Expertise pays; polymathy pays exponentially. Build a world-class skillset that will make you unique and irreplaceable.
Polymath: a person of wide knowledge and learning. The art of becoming a polymath is really about maximizing your opportunities in life. Don’t be the person with the hammer – be the person with an entire woodshop at their disposal.
Learn to think outside the box and adopt a flexible mindset. Become multi-faceted.
Benjamin Franklin is one of American
history’s most successful and influential
figures. What exactly was he famous for? At
this point he’s mostly relegated to political
theory, but during his own time, he was
known for just about everything.
Franklin was an accomplished inventor,
respected politician and leading scientist.
He engaged with current affairs, wrote
prolifically on many topics, and acted as a
diplomat, statesman, and passionate
activist. He was a businessman who
founded many organizations, such as the
University of Pennsylvania and the first
ever fire department in Philadelphia.
Franklin was a postmaster and political
satirist. He invented a more efficient
freestanding stove, a musical instrument
(the armonica, if you’re interested) and
bifocals to deal with his own failing vision.
He dabbled in electricity and conducted the
famous lightning, metal key, and kite
experiment. Oh, and he was one of the five
key people who put together the American
Declaration of Independence and the
His immense contributions to a wide range
of fields make people wonder where the United States of American would even be
without Benjamin Franklin. Many
schoolchildren accidentally believe he was a
president at some point—it’s not true, but it
isn’t hard to imagine the man finding time
to run a country on the side of the countless
other projects, inventions, and enterprises
So, what is Benjamin Franklin famous for?
We could say that this sheer breadth of
knowledge distinguishes him—i.e. that he’s
a “polymath.” This term from the Greek
means, “having learnt much” and was
seemingly made for men like Franklin.
Polymaths have knowledge in a wide range
of subjects and fields, rather than
specializing in just one. They are
accomplished in multiple disciplines,
seemingly thriving in the field of human
enquiry itself, beyond the boundaries we
draw between categories of study. The
world’s most famous polymaths blend
academic fields or create new ones from
scratch. They are the quintessential
“Renaissance men” who can do a little (or a
lot) of everything and inspire us to imagine
what the limits of human understanding
and learning really is. It seems like they
possess superpowers considering their
prowess in multiple realms of knowledge.
Other famous polymaths are also people
you know by name and reputation—
Leonardo da Vinci, Rene Descartes, Elon
Musk, Plato, Isaac Newton, Galileo,
Michelangelo, Archimedes, and so on. It
may not be possible to reach the levels of
these people, but the quest of polymathism
is something that could very well boost
your life to new heights. Rather than being
an inherent quality, it can be learned and
cultivated by anyone—including you.
This book is about what it means to become
a polymath, a Renaissance man, and a
versatile autodidact (someone who
“teaches themselves”). In our complex
modern world of increasingly narrow
specialization, we can instead choose to
develop ourselves holistically—becoming
our best in the sciences, the arts, politics,
academics, engineering, social affairs,
literature, sports, and spiritual matters.
Our goal as aspiring polymaths is therefore
to become the kind of well-rounded and
multiply accomplished human beings who
can do all of these things with a degree of
expertise. The name of the game is
development, learning, and mastery—the
particular fields we develop ourselves in
are almost beside the point.