“We come to believe that we can only learn when we are young, and that only ‘naturals’ can acquire certain skills. We imagine that we have a limited budget for learning, and that different skills absorb all the effort we plough into them, without giving us anything to spend on other pursuits” – Robert Twigger
One of the Entrepreneurial principles that we advocate as part of our concept of a “Business Family” is Lifelong Learning; that is, continuing to acquire new skills, new knowledge, and greater wisdom, regardless of age. This article by Robert Twigger defines and delves into a term for a person who devotes himself or herself to Lifelong Learning – “polymath”.
“We all have at least the potential to become polymaths. Once we have a word, we can see the world more clearly. And that’s when we notice a huge cognitive dissonance at the centre of Western culture: a huge confusion about how new ideas, new discoveries, and new art actually come about.”
Twigger describes how the physiology of learning is triggered by novel situations, shocks, and “intense focus, maintained through repetition and continuous application.” This last point is reminiscent of the 10,000 hour guideline made famous by Malcom Gladwell. Though often misinterpreted, this notion that it takes many hours of focused practice to become a master at a sophisticated skill or craft as opposed to the myth of the “natural” genius has become well-documented and generally accepted.
“The old Renaissance idea of mastering physical as well as intellectual skills appears to have real grounding in improving our general ability to learn new things. It is having the confidence that one can learn something new that opens the gates to polymathic activity.”
Becoming polymathic then becomes the key to personal growth, longevity, and innovation – all necessities in a world of disruption and change.
Our age reveres the specialist but humans are natural polymaths, at our best when we turn our minds to many things
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