08 October 2009

In Praise of the Polymath

Here at RPL, we're big fans of people who don't stick to their allocated lanes in life. We're in favor of having lots of crazy hobbies and wide-ranging interests. We think it's a good thing when people are not content to just be good at one thing, and instead branch out and make meaningful contributions in several areas.

Personally, I'm a fan of GK Chesterton. The guy wrote mysteries, histories, travel books, theology, fiction, essays - and had something intelligent to say on just about every topic you can imagine. I also really admire Will Smith, and the way he's done music, tv & movies - comedy & drama. Both guys went way outside the narrow bounds of specialization - and I think that's awesome.

And then there are those who go way beyond diverse writing or different forms of entertainment. Consider the beautiful and talented Hedy Lamarr, a film actress in the 30's and 40's (and beyond, actually), who also has a patent for spread-spectrum, frequency-hopping communication system (and it's quite a story how she came up with it, by the way).

And did you know that William Marston, the guy who came up with Wonder Woman, also invented the polygraph machine? How cool is that?

No doubt people asked Ms. Lamarr what business a movie actor has getting involved with communications technology for the Navy. No doubt people told Dr. Marston that serious scientists don't create comic books. And the world is richer for the fact that they did it anyway.

This is not about being a generalist or a specialist. It's about being a multi-specialist, doing a deep dive into several areas of activity.

How about you? Content to stay in your lane? Or ready to branch out...?

1 comment:

Phil said...

And for those who don't know Dan personally, he's an accomplished juggler and fire eater! Something about creativity and rogueness that go together ...