3 Easy Steps to Start Your Polymath Journey

This is a strange fork in the road where we find ourselves now. Years are in the past where you have learned much, and possibly forgotten an equal share. Now ahead of us lays an uncertain path that few have tread. No one sets out purposely to find this path, rather they find themselves here after much searching.

So where do we begin? Apart from the life stories of previous polymaths and Renaissance Men(and Women), there are no guides on how to become one. After much searching myself I have settled on three key steps that help prepare you body and mind for the life of the polymath.

  • Work on your habits
  • Control your schedule
  • Upgrade your diet

How do you become a polymath with these three steps? Well, overnight, you won’t. These three key steps though form the basics and the foundation for your polymathic journey.

Step 1: Work on Your Habits

I’ve been looking into self-help and improvement books for the last 15 years, and perhaps the best books I’ve come across concern habit formation. Books like “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg, and “Atomic Habits” by James Clear have been a great help and inspiration to me. Between these two books they lay out a comprehensive path towards creating new habits, strengthening existing habits, and deprogramming unhelpful ones.

So, why habits? Well, habits are the background programs that free up your brain to perform higher thinking. If you had to think about flipping a switch to turn on a light every time you walked in a room it would be a problem. Get more mental energy for the work you want to do by automating your behavior through habits.

How do habits work? Both authors outline the habit cycle much better than I can, so I’ll only be giving an overview here. First you are presented with a cue. The cue triggers a craving which elicits a response. The response results in a reward. James Clear uses the example of walking into a dark room. The cue is the dark room, the craving is to have light, the response is to flip the light switch, and the reward is having light.

To set a new habit you need to hit every one of the four areas of the habit cycle. James Clear has set out four laws to create good habits (and bad ones if you’re not careful) and four inverse laws to break unhelpful ones. For a full run down on habits I high suggest “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg and “Atomic Habits” by James Clear.

Step 2: Control Your Schedule

Schedules seem to control every aspect of our lives. Building and maintaining good scheduling habits and exercising control are essential to your abilities as a polymath.

The first step in controlling your schedule is avoiding the headache and stress of “schedule and forget”. We all have the best of intentions when we plan out our days or weeks, and before you know it we’re ignoring the phone when the scheduling app dings to let you know that another block of time is about to begin. So, how do you avoid Schedule & Forget?

  • Schedule only important events
  • Don’t overload
  • Turn on alerts only when needed

The only items on your schedule should be the important ones. Do I need a scheduled block for breakfast, lunch, second lunch and dinner? Or a reminder to take my supplements before hand? No, many items on your schedule can be controlled through the disciplined use of good habits.

Your schedule can be a great asset, or a dumping ground for every action you want to take. Overloading your schedule looks messy, buries meetings and tasks, and lacks efficiency.

When you’ve cleaned up your schedule it’s time to decide on alerts. My basic rule is that meetings and sudden task changes after a long period of time require alerts. Neat, simple, and easy to set up.

The next step in controlling your schedule is to find a system that works with your natural tendencies. Do you like google calendar with the integrated Keep Notes and Task List? Perhaps you fall more under the GTD model and like to use your collection bucket to “Do it”, “Delegate it”, or “Defer it”. Maybe you’re more old school and like your analog Franklin Covey planner and dividing your tasks into the four quadrants. The list goes on and on. Don’t like any of them, then make your own to suit your style. Personally I use a combination of google, Toggl, and a computer notepad to get myself through the day.

Full disclosure, I have done all of those plans above and more!

Finally, when exerting control over your schedule I suggest keeping a notepad handy. Throughout the day you will be bombarded with requests, questions, and even stray thoughts that threaten to take you away from the tasks and projects you’re working on. Write down the request or thought on the pad with the knowledge you’ll get back to it later. This small practice can keep you from getting sucked down the rabbit hole of distraction that destroys your schedule. Suggestion: Keep a tiny Moleskine or Field Notes notebook with you at all times. They’re cheap, handsome comfortable in your pocket, and can easily be found at Barnes & Noble or Amazon.

Step 3: Upgrade Your Diet

What does diet have to do with being a polymath? Everything! It’s no mystery that food has a great effect on us. We can literally eat anything if we go by the definition of chewing as swallowing. The problem is, the nutrition your brain receives (or doesn’t) from eating. Upgrading your diet, moving away from the junk foods, high sugar, high fat Standard American Diet will have a great impact on the way you think. The greatest asset a polymath has is his mind, and his greatest tool his body. How do you ensure a quick mind and a strong body?

  1. Assess your diet
  2. Make a plan to get healthy
  3. Supplement for brain health

Assessing your diet has taken many forms over the years, the most popular of which is the food log. There’s a problem with that approach though; the universe and therefore your actions, change based on observation. If you know you’re tracking your food, then your choices will be more thought out. So, we’re tossing that method. Instead, go to the pantry and take and inventory of what’s there. It can be written down, or mental, or hell, you can even take pictures. The current state of your pantry will give you a good idea as to the health of your diet. Here’s a snapshot of mine.

My Pantry
Maybe I should get some more shopping done…

After assessing your diet it’s time to get healthy. But what does that mean? Well, you want to get your BMI down to a healthy range, your triglycerides should be low, you should be at your optimal weight… blah, blah, blah. Leave all this garbage on the diet websites. Healthy is a personal feeling. If you want to lose weight, then that’s your health goal. You want to be more active, then that’s your goal. The point is to find your plan. It is my personal belief, driven by years of experiments, successes, failures, and strange occurrences, that no one diet works. It will work for a group of believers, and fail for another group. There are so many diets out there with conflicting data it’s small wonder the industry is barely regulated. Your job is to do your research, find a plan that makes you giddy, and go after it with all your heart, mind, and faith. For me, the Four Hour Body slow carb diet and supplementation has always worked wonders.

Finally, supplement for brain health. This step is not for the faint of heart, but promises vast returns when done correctly. The area of nootropics has been personal fascination of mine for the last 6 years, and I’ve built up an impressive library of learning and samples. Nootropics are a class of drugs and natural supplements that work on brain chemistry. Perhaps you’ve heard of NZT-48, the fictional Limitless pill popularized by the movie and tv series of the same name. The idea here is the same, though less pronounced than Hollywood portrays. There are many different supplements that can be combined into stacks that synergistically work to improve memory, recall, and focus. My morning stack for focus, energy, creativity, and motivation consists of Bacopa Monnieri, Vinpocetine, Alpha GPC, Acetyl L-Carnitine, and Aniracetam. For more information I suggest braintropic.com

Putting it All Together

These are only the first steps one can take on the path to becoming a polymath, and together we’ll be exploring many more. After nearly 1500 words I’ll leave you with these three quick thoughts.

  • Your habits will make you or break you. Determine those that serve you, those that can be ditched, and those that you need to build.
  • Your schedule is your daily map on how to expand your knowledge and utilize what you already know. Protect and control it.
  • Your brain and body are the captain and vessel to carry you to your goals. Know how to feed and care for both and your progress will accelerate.

What steps would you work on? Have you already been through these steps in your exploration? Or maybe you’ve found more steps you would like to share. I would love to hear your thoughts below.

One thought on “3 Easy Steps to Start Your Polymath Journey

  1. I like the habits of the polymaths, I don’t know if I am, but I will take those that I consider will help me to improve the achievement of my goals … I am curious to feed the brain in a careful way, my diet is different from the from the USA and the best in the world, maybe I would change the carbohydrate dose 🙂 but if the organization and cleaning are habits that take you far, thank you !!! Will I be on the road? 🤔

    Like

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