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The Autodidact Polymath (How To Become An Unstoppable Creator in 5 Steps)

Updated on January 11, 2024


2 words you probably never heard of.

Autodidact. Polymath.

  • Autodidact: A person who has learned a subject or developed a skill on their own rather than through formal instruction or training.
  • Polymath: A person who is skilled in multiple fields or areas of study.

Fusing the 2, makes you unstoppable in business and life.

And after being in the system for over 20+ years…

From getting a degree to slaving away in corporate roles, I’ve realized that becoming an autodidact polymath is essential for true freedom.

There’s no negotiation.

Let me explain.

Why Should You Be an Autodidact Polymath?

I’ve always found it ridiculous that we had to go through years in the traditional education system, focusing narrowly on a single skill.

(assuming you go to college)

This system demands a significant investment of time and money, often leading to a loss of control over what, when, and how we learn.

The result? Many end up confined in a cubicle, their skills and potential underutilized.

No thanks.

Instead, my goal is to be a successful solopreneur, creator, and writer. Chances are, if you’re reading this, you share similar aspirations.

The traditional path of specialized education rarely aligns with such multifaceted goals. That’s where the concept of being an autodidact polymath comes in.

Some notable names you may know are:

  • Leonardo da Vinci
  • Albert Einstein
  • Benjamin Franklin
  • Nikola Tesla
  • Elon Musk

These individuals took charge of their education, dove into diverse fields, and integrated varied skills and knowledge to innovate and create.

This broader and self-incentivized way of education is the path to becoming a “specialized generalist” (yes, an Oxymoron). It may sound counterintuitive to conventional wisdom, but in the digital creator economy, being a generalist (someone versatile and adaptable) is an asset.

Your mission is to:

  • Make connections
  • Become self-sufficient
  • Synthesize new information

Big-picture thinking is what’s lacking from the majority of people indoctrinated into the system. They’ve been accustomed to receiving knowledge, not acquiring it for themselves.

Without a holistic understanding, it’s impossible to compress the collective wisdom of the world, share new perspectives, and create unique value.

How To Become an Autodidact Polymath?

Step 1: Make Learning a Habit

You must have a never-ending thirst for knowledge.

I know for a fact you have interests, curiosities, and desires. But you either found it too intimidating to dive deeper or left it up to schools for “specific knowledge”.

“Learning never exhausts the mind.”

– Leonardo da Vinci

Cultivate learning habits like:

  • Reading books
  • Listening to podcasts
  • Watching YouTube videos
  • Consuming online courses

The internet and creator economy have made self-education extremely accessible.

You have no excuses.

And don’t just stick to one field, think of topics that excite you.

The broader your knowledge base, the more dots you can connect and the more unique perspectives you can offer as a creator.

Step 2: Start Writing

Learning isn’t good enough. Everyone can learn.

But can you teach?

As you acquire new knowledge and skills, you must be able to articulate your learnings simply. Not just for others, but for yourself.

And the best way is to start writing on a public stage.

I recommend starting on X or LinkedIn.

More importantly, start a newsletter to collect emails. Send thought-provoking articles to demonstrate authority. Then extract bite-size snippets for redistribution on social media.

Create content that blends your newfound insights with your personal experiences while solving problems.

This not only reinforces your learning but also documents your growth.

Trust me, you’ll thank me down the road.

Step 3: Apply Your Learnings

You need mini goals or projects.

Many get stuck in what is known as “Beginner Hell.” They learn and distill information but never make any practical applications with that knowledge.

True depth comes from pushing the boundaries and making iterations while applying those skills collectively to a project.

In the context of business, this can include:

  • Starting a SaaS company
  • Building a personal brand
  • Selling digital products

“But Brendan, it takes too long to master a skill.”

You’re right.

In fact, In Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “Outliers: The Story of Success“, he claims it takes 10,000 hours.

“Ten thousand hours is the magic number of greatness.”

– Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers: The Story of Success

Yes, this is the path to becoming a great employee. But that’s not our goal.

Being great at one thing will make you great at well…

One thing.

This is also largely the reason why I’ve failed at multiple business ventures in the past. I didn’t have a holistic skill stack.

It’s like being the best fisherman in the world, but not having the capabilities to sell the fish.

Things would be been much different if I spent less time fishing and more time on “spreading myself thinly” by learning how to:

  • Set up a shop
  • Market my business
  • Network with other fishermen

Step 4: Find Mentors

I’m not telling you to spend money. That’s an option.

While the pursuit of self-education is what I’m preaching, you can’t learn everything yourself.

Instead, find passionate people in the field of study you are interested in and network with them. These can be:

  • Friends
  • Other creators
  • Colleagues (assuming you have a job)

They have already paved the path. You’re just picking their brain.

This is also how seemingly “less experienced “creators manage to acquire a wealth of knowledge at insane speeds. They form masterminds or groups to exchange knowledge which accelerates their learning exponentially.

Step 5: Start Journaling

You need a feedback loop.

Reflect on your accomplishments and areas for improvement by keeping a journal or log.

It can be daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly. It’s up to you. But I recommend omitting daily unless you want to.

Ask yourself questions like:

  • How did this [time period] go?
  • Can I improve anything for the next [time period]?
  • What obstacles did I face during this [time period] that prevented me from reaching my goals?
  • What were my distractions and how should I manage them?
  • Which task(s) contributed to the least growth this [time period]

You can come up with more as you go through this audit process.

Being an autodidact polymath is not just about accumulating knowledge, but about meaningful, continuous personal growth.

But you’ll never know if you’re headed in the right direction without keeping track.

To Sum Up

If you don’t take charge of your learning, someone will. You won’t cultivate the habit of questioning and seeking the truth in life. And you’ll just accept the world as it is.

I don’t want to sound too philosophical, but that’s a fact.

So use these tips to become an Autodidact Polymath and you’ll stand out from the sea of copy-paste creators.

That’s all I have this week.

I’ll see you in the next issue.

brendan aw black pic

About Brendan Aw

I’m an ex-marketing executive for 6 & 7-figures high-growth startups turned writer, creator & entrepreneur. I share my learnings on digital entrepreneurship, personal finance, and remote working while helping run my family’s crystal chandelier business.

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