“Nunchuck skills, bowhunting skills, computer hacking skills… Girls only want boyfriends who have great skills.”
When Jon Heder’s fictional alter-ego Napoleon Dynamite uttered this now legendary phrase back in 2004, who knew that he would be onto something far more incisive than just complaining about finding a date to the prom?
In a comprehensive case study by public speaker, entrepreneur and author Michael Simmons, the successful columnist claims that the once-ridiculed prospect of becoming a Jack-of-all-trades does not in fact leave you a master of none, but rather, a master of something unique, which you can then monetise, in some cases, to a great deal. Examining the most successful businessmen and leaders of the past few decades, a consistent pattern can be found between their habits, one which renders them all, in some form or another, polymaths.
Simmons makes the argument that becoming a polymath is as simple as applying the “five-hour rule”, a rule by which Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Warren Buffett, Larry Page, and Jeff Bezos apparently swear. Essentially, the rule states that you must spend at least five hours a week educating yourself.
Barack Obama famously spent an hour a day reading, despite his incredibly busy schedule. Bill Gates reads at least a book a week, and takes annual holidays where he does nothing but read for a whole fortnight. Almost every major business icon today is known for their incredibly broad array of interests, which sees them trying to stuff as much knowledge across not just one, but many different topics, into their respective memory banks.
Great scientists throughout history, the “thought leaders” of their time, if you will, were largely qualified in many different fields–oft persecuted for it, but fondly remembered for their ability to draw information and experience from a vast pool of knowledge, rather than a single skills set (this was proved by a study, which found that of the 20 most influential scientists throughout history, 15–Newton, Galileo, Aristotle, Kepler, Descartes, Huygens, Laplace, Faraday, Pasteur, Ptolemy, Hooke, Leibniz, Euler, Darwin and Maxwell?–were polymaths).
It’s an intriguing read, and makes a very good case for putting down your phone, picking up a book, and making yourself the best learner you can possibly be. After all, a Jack-of-all-trades may have traditionally been a master of none, but in 2018, the masters are all far from idiot savants.