Are you someone who has many interests? Do you like to read and write, fix and invent, design projects and start businesses, and many other things all at once? If so, then you are a multiple-streams-of-passion person. “And” is your favorite word. You feel limited by the word “or,” uncomfortable when you need to narrow down choices, and absolutely revolted by the command, “Pick one.”
Multiple-streams-of-passion people love to do it all. They like choice. They like to follow their own direction. They like the flexibility and freedom of going from one thing to the next. The only problem is most multiple-streams-of-passion people don’t make any money this way. They flounder in careers and languish in their professional lives. That’s because they haven’t learned how to work with their passion.
Multiple-streams-of-passion people are labeled, none too kindly, as “jacks-of-all-trades, masters of none.” They are criticized for pursuing so many directions. They are misunderstood when they resist making decisions or choosing a direction. More often then not, they don’t choose anything at all and feel like complete failures.
Their resume is all over the place. They leave jobs frequently, change careers quickly, and have lots of extra training in seemingly unrelated disciplines. On the surface, they seem like dabblers who have little commitment to anything.
That’s because people with multiple streams of passion are generalists, not specialists. Though they are most likely very passionate about what they are doing at the time, being focused on just one thing will not sustain their passion. People with many passionate interests spend a lot of time scanning the horizon, wondering what’s on the other side of the fence, and thinking about their next move.
Of course, it is possible that you are still trying to make up your mind about what you are going to do when you grow up, or are truly depressed and unable to focus on any one thing for long, or have bona fide ADD and are easily distracted. Otherwise, consider that you might be someone with multiple streams of passion-possibly a budding polymath.
Seven Famous Polymaths
A polymath (poh’-lee-math) is someone with encyclopedic, broad, and varied knowledge or learning in several different fields of study. Being a polymath (a.k.a. a Renaissance man or woman, a universal man, a whiz kid, or a geek) is actually a tremendous attribute.
Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) is one of the most famous polymaths. He was a scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, painter, sculptor, architect, musician, and writer.
Before him was Claudius Ptolemy (90-168) who was a Greek mathematician, geographer, astronomer, and astrologer.
Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) was recognized as an artist, author, counselor, dramatist, linguist, natural historian, philosopher, physician, poet, political consultant, visionary, and composer.
Gottfried Leibniz (1646-1716) made significant contributions in physics, logic, history, librarianship, philosophy, and theology, while also working on ideal languages, mechanical clocks, and mining machinery.
Mary Somerville (1780-1872) wrote on astronomy, mathematics, physics, chemistry, mineralogy, and geology.
Andrei Sakharov (1921-1989) was a brilliant nuclear physicist, human rights campaigner, and fearless advocate for international understanding and world peace.
Umberto Eco (b. 1932) is a modern polymath. He is an Italian medievalist, semiotician, philosopher, expert in pop culture, and a novelist.
Top Five Things Multiple-Streams-of-Passion People (MSPPs) Can Learn From Polymaths
Although being a polymath is somewhat different from being a person with multiple streams of passion–somewhat akin to the difference between a genius and a very smart person–polymathy is a great model for multiple-streams-of-passion people to embrace.
1.Polymaths are terminally curious. That’s a fantastic quality to have as an MSPP.
2.Polymaths read widely in and move freely across the boundaries of divergent and not-always-complementary disciplines. The natural tendency to do so is often what brings about the formulation of brilliant discoveries, new applications, and luminous collaborations.
3.Polymaths have the ability to focus on a given topic for a long period-that is, as long as is necessary to learn what they need to know. Then they move on. This powerful focus is not to the exclusion of everything else. Rather, it is a stepping-stone to the next thing they will explore. This is a great perspective to keep in mind for MSPPs.
4.Polymaths are fantastic synthesizers. They can bring together seemingly disparate ideas and thoughts in remarkable ways.
5.Polymaths excel at generating ideas. They think conceptually first. This is good to keep in mind the next time your friend, boss, co-worker, or partner throws his or her hands up exasperatedly, saying, “I have no idea how you got from there to here.” Just smile and say, “Because I’m a polymath, of course!”
By learning from the polymaths, you can turn your multiple streams of passion into both financial success and personal fulfillment. If daVinci could do it, so can you.