Transcript for Episode 154 – Waqas Ahmed – Unlocking Human Potential, Awakening Creativity, The Polymath

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we’ve got an outstanding show planned

for you guys this is our first episode

of 2020 the year is 2020 one more

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we are in the live discussion channel we

are gonna be diving into the realm of

the polymath tonight unlocking hidden

human potential I mean it’s gonna be

phenomenal so whether you’re here with

us live right now or if you’re listening

to the podcast version of this thank you

so much for your presence it sincerely

appreciated either way

sit back grab a drink enjoy this

conversation the human experience is in

session my name is Xavier katana my

guest for today is mr. raucous ahmed’s

he is a world authority on

multidisciplinary thinking he is an

author scientist and journalist ruckus

has degrees in the history of

international relations and economics he

was appointed as chair of the

Commonwealth global citizenship

educational education panel walk us is

the founder of the da vinci network a

global movement that wants to achieve

the many cited potentials of humans


he’s the artistic director at the

khalili collections a diverse and

important private art collection he his

journal journalism work has seen him

occupy the position of global

correspondent at first magazine one that

saw him gain exclusive access and

interviews with various prime ministers

and presidents all across the world what

a resume Wakko’s is author of the

polymath a book in which he looks at

polymath people who have

multi-dimensional minds those that were

reject specialization in one area and

pursue multiple objectives in different

fields he looks at the rules these

people have played in history the roles

these people have played in history and

why this approach to life could be

important to us in the future what

causes work has been featured in Forbes

the Financial Times The Lancet he was

selected as Graham Hancock’s featured

author of the month wow what an amazing

resume will cost it’s such a pleasure

I’m so excited for this conversation

welcome to hxp Xavier thank you so much

for having me today I’m especially at

the beginning of the new decade where we

ought to be thinking a lot more about

human potential in general but our own

human potential in particular and that

human potential we’ve historically been

told ought to be one-dimensional but

today hopefully we’ll get into a bit

more about how and why human potential

every individual has a many-sided

potential a one that can be untapped

through a very particular system very

particular approach to life a very

particular mindset so thank you very

much for having me on this prestigious

show yes sir I mean I I really

appreciate your presence I know it’s a

bit late for you where you are in in

London I believe in the UK and you know

I let’s let’s dig in let’s this is your

first book correct yeah absolutely it’s

my first book it took about five years

ten thousand hours of research and a lot

of interviewing a lot of traveling

around the world it didn’t begin as a

book it began as a series of notes

actually personal notes a personal

intellectual journey which came as a

result of a lot of a lot of hours at

35,000 feet up high traveling the world

through my work some of which you’ve

described earlier on in your kind

introduction but but as a result of that

I started questioning a variety of

things related to the individual what

our potential might be what the role of

the human is in the modern world but

also systems why are certain systems and

institutions the way they currently are

and whether they ought to be that way so

that kind of intellectual exploration

that everyone I’m sure you and all of

your listeners are going on or have been

on it’s the same thing with me it’s just

in my case it

my notes down wrote my thoughts down and

thankfully it came together ultimately

in the form of a book and was published

by Wiley earlier this year yeah I mean

congratulations and yes that is the

essence of everything that we do on the

show is explore that that untapped human

potential I think that is you know I

have the tenant of everything we do here

so you know I almost think I made a joke

about this before in the in the pre

conversation before we started and I I

said you know are you up are you a

polymath you know but let’s what what is

a polymath well a polymath um is has is

a concept and a word that’s been thrown

around rather loosely over the past

decades and even centuries and it’s

means different things to different

people but in general it’s always meant

somebody who has had a lot and are

diverse kinds of knowledge and has often

used that knowledge for some creative

outcome so it could mean an individual

who’s excelled in many different fields

it could mean an individual who’s rather

encyclopedic in their knowledge and

doesn’t just know a lot about one thing

but a lot about many things the way I

describe it however is is through its

core competency that every polymath has

and more to have and that is through the

competency of versatility the ability to

to move seamlessly between different

fields and disciplines and the way that

usually manifests is that individual as

a result excelling at various seemingly

unrelated fields and I say seemingly

because if you speak to a polymath they

will often see connections between those

fields and I’m sure we’ll talk about

that in due course but but to to the

onlooker and to the so called specialist


to the modern thinker who’s trained to

think about accomplishment in a

one-dimensional way that you ought to be

a specialist at the expense of every

other field it was these fields might


sprut or different but to the polymath

they are very much connected so yeah

that’s the way I describe it is a

versatile and exceptionally versatile

individual who as a result excels in

multiple seemingly unrelated fields hmm

okay I mean the cover of the book which

people can see now you know it’s it’s it

features da Vinci and da Vinci seems to

be the core sort of tenant of tenant of

what you know you sort of surround your

your research by you’ve mounted the da

Vinci network so you know why da Vinci

well the Vinci’s is the given what I’ve

explained by way of definition of a

polymath just now Leonardo da Vinci is

the archetype of the polymath at least

in the Western mind and because we know

we’ve taught since school and most at

least European and American educational

establishments that Leonardo da Vinci

was not only an exceptional visual

artist painter but he was also an

exceptional engineer who would invent

various things he was a mechanical

engineer he was an architect to some

extent he was a scientist an anatomist

to some extent but there are many other

sighs – Leonardo da Vinci that if you go

deeper you go into the man he’s one of

the few men or humans in in history I

think that actually are very much live

up to the hype that they’re given at at

conventional schools and universities

because he he was he made significant

contributions he didn’t just explore for

the sake of exploring but at least from

the benefit of hindsight now we know

that many of his explorations were

groundbreaking and whether or not they

they came to fruition during his

lifetime is another matter but we know

that his thinking was about beyond

anything else during his lifetime at

least and the result I argue throughout

the book the result is the fact that he

had a multi-dimensional mind he was able

to look at each concept phenomenon field


as as part of a system so it’s a part of

a system meaning that he was somewhat of

a systems thinker which again we’ll go

into in a bit more detail but he was he

was now systems thinking has become

quite popular in various fields and

various spheres of life but he was

probably the original systems thinker at

least in Western history because if you

look at his notebooks for example of

which there are many and they’re

scattered through various collections

around the world if you look at his

notebooks they cover a variety of things

written and as well and drawn as well

and those things range from botanical

studies to anatomical studies to

zoological studies to mechanical

engineering designs to architectural

designs and and and so on and so forth

many of these sketches did inform his

paintings of which there weren’t many

actually but but the fact is that when

an any individual today were to look at

this vast corpus of of work in its

entirety they would look at it and they

would look they would see a seemingly

sporadic approach to exploration where

on one page for instance he will he will

talk about or he will either write about

or he will draw the motion of waves and

the movement of water and he would

explore that and you’d look at things

like thermodynamics on the next page and

then he’d look at actually how hair

falls on Iran a woman as opposed to a

man on the next page and so on and so

forth so one one thing if you look at it

from a systemic approach one thing or

one phenomenon often draws him to the

attention of another and so on and so

forth so he actually thought in a very

systematic manner as opposed to a

sporadic manner this is why he’s highly

interesting study as he’s a highly

interesting case study as a polymath and

which is why he inspired me from a very

young age because as growing up

at least in in in the UK education

system and I know it’s it’s very similar

in the US and indeed in many parts of

the world where you have a

specialization system where you you

start off rather broad and then you

narrow in as you get older and so if you

have multiple passions which most

children do it’s natural because as

human beings were multifaceted

individuals we really have we’re debt we

are bound to have multiple passions we

then are taught or encouraged or even

forced and compelled to to narrow this

down and to compromise our many

interests and talents and ideas at the

expense of ultimately one which is what

we’re applying to university for right

we apply for one degree and in the u.s.

at least you have a liberal arts degree

which is rather broad but here in the UK

and in many other parts of the world

it’s often a highly specialized degree

so you’re supposed to know your

specialized vocation when you’re 16 or

17 years old which is rather absurd

so that is that that is the kind of

education educational background I came

from so when I saw historical figures

like Leonardo da Vinci excelling in so

many other fields in addition to the

artwork that we know him for now that I

found that highly inspiring and ever

since then it’s the concept of the

polymath has been rather intriguing for

me so now when you look at the book over

these five years I’ve explored examples

of such individuals male and female from

different type of different parts of the

world as well as from different periods

in human history and I realized that

actually there are many Leonardo’s

scattered around history scattered

around the world the deeply look the

more you find them and Leonardo is

definitely still up there as one of the

greats but as you may have seen with the

book there are many many other examples

yeah it’s amazing I mean I I’ve never

told anyone this but you know I think

about Leonardo da Vinci quite a lot you

know I’ll be it’s really random and it’s

it’s it’s weird I guess but you know I

think about the way he connected to

the discoveries that he made and I think

about his relationship to our society

today and how he would probably in

clinical regards be diagnosed as ADHD

and you know prescribed some medication

and we would you know be erased from you

know humans and so you touched on my

next question you know how common is

this how you know how spread out are I

mean are there polymaths

in the world that don’t really realize

that they’re there polymaths in there

you know because of the mainstream

because of the way our system is set up

that yeah you know we’re forced into you

must study this you must pick this as a

career you must do this you know and

maybe they’re misdiagnosed yep and my

premise of the book actually is that

everyone originally was and therefore

has the potential to be a polymath so

what I mean by that is that as I

mentioned earlier on originally

everybody is a multi-faceted human being

we all have different dimensions to us

whether neurologically biologically

psychologically emotionally I mean we

have an intellectual side a physical

side a spiritual side and all the rest

so how then so if we’re born into this

world and we’re on this adventure which

is called life why then should we

constrain ourselves for the majority of

our lives doing one particular highly

specialized thing at the expense of

everything else that there is to

discover and I’m sure use it relates to

this given how the diversity of Spira of

of interviewees you’ve had on your

program I mean look at the world that’s

out there look at the ideas that there

are to explore to to develop further to

assimilate in one’s own life look that’s

just in terms of ideas look at places

there are look at the cultures there are

look at the languages there are and so

on and so forth so when you’ve got this

individual that’s inherently

multifaceted entering into a world that

is inherently diverse then enforcing

specialization and especially long life

long specialization on that individual

is not

counterintuitive but it’s also

counterproductive for the individual and

for society and so that said there are

polymaths there are individuals that

stay true to that parameter amor

yourself and continue continue on that

multi-dimensional journey even if it’s

going against the grain that is the

modern educational system and the modern

workplace and I’ve I’ve been trying to

dig them out through my research and

it’s been difficult because actually

there are many latent polymaths who who

kind of lived this life or have this

approach but are often not afraid but

reluctant to kind of wear that on their

sleeve so to speak because it’s not seen

favorably by many people right so you

have um let’s just say you had a you had

a job as I don’t know a banker or a taxi

driver or as a janitor or whatever it

might be whatever your job might be and

that job then actually serves to

ultimately define you as an individual

it’s an unfair an unfortunate reality of

human social affairs once you have once

you go through that system of of kind of

finding your place your profession

becomes your identity and then you

psychologically it seems that you ought

not to play with that identity you walk

to roll with it so to speak and so when

you when you try something different or

you do something or you engage in a

different project or or change your line

of work that is often seen reluctantly

skeptically sometimes cynically by your

peers by those around you because

they’re not used to doing that it’s not

the norm for them so that when they look

at you doing that they’ll look sometimes

deriving Lee at you for kind of

spreading yourself too thin or doing

something you don’t know much about and

and so on so this this kind of

exploration of another field or of

multiple fields is not

something that is encouraged so with

that in mind going back to your question

when individuals attend my talks or have

read my book I’ve had a lot of people

get in touch with me and say oh come and

speak to me after a talk and say hey man

thank you so much

finally I can come out and I say okay

nothing out really and he said and they

say yeah I mean we never knew what we

were we always lived this kind of life

or had this approach or had this desire

to live life in a particular way we were

always inclined a particular way but

we’d never had the validation we’ve

always had been been met with cynicism

or skepticism and so so for me I’m glad

to have after having written a book and

spoken at various places I’m glad that

actually people are coming forward and

saying you know what this is not only

something to be you know something to

keep on the side just to fulfill your

own personal fantasy no this is

something that actually has a tremendous

value to society and so we ought to wear

this pride proudly and so one of the

that’s reason that one of the main

thesis of the book actually you you you

may have noticed that the actually about

a third of the book focuses on history

and the reason that’s the case is that

it is to show and giving various

examples from different points in

history and different cultures is to

show that actually polymaths have been

the most influential individuals in

human history

question-it apologized to pause you I

mean you’re like a segue artist as well

you know so okay okay so let’s let’s

talk about that let’s talk about how

Homo sapiens in history because this is

as you said this is a big part of of the

book and what you cover and you know you

talk about you talk about how polymaths


quite essential in regards to the

survival of the human species and I find

this absolutely fascinating so please

please continue yeah this is this is um

this is one of them this is the the big

bold thesis of the book if there was one

and that is that if we knew if today in

this special highly hyper specialized

world if we knew that polymaths were the

most influential actors in human history

would we foster the production or the

encouragement of polymaths in our

education system and through our

workplaces or would we continue to sort

it as we currently do right so this is

why it’s very important to understand

that throughout human history those that

we would now call polymaths have had the

greatest influence in different spheres

of life so let’s take for example in the

sciences so insight in the history of

science or even in the history of

philosophy if you look at the main

thinkers that you would conventionally

regard as those that have made major

contributions I have transformed our

understanding of that particular science

or of science and philosophy in general

you would if you dig deeper into their

lives you will realize that they had

tremendously diverse backgrounds

intellectually professionally culturally

and so on and many of them you might say

if it was an exceptional case you might

think it’s an exception but from my

research it seems to be the rule that

those people like for example Nicholas

Copernicus we now all know about his

transformational heliocentric theory in

astronomy now if we’re if we are to look

at it from the perspective of a 21st

century scientific or academic

perspective then we would assume that

Copernicus would have spent a tremendous

amount of time in the lab focusing on


perhaps physics astrophysics or

cosmology and would have focused on that

for the majority of his life before

ultimately coming to his big grand

breakthrough the the reality is almost

the exact opposite the reality is that

he actually had an incredibly diverse

background prior to to making that

breakthrough in astronomy he many people

don’t know this but he had a background

in economics he was also an artist he

had a background in the law as well he

had a background in poetry as well and

actually a variety of other things

before he went on to focus his efforts

on understanding cosmology and therefore

making his grand breakthrough that’s

just one example but there are many many

others and actually going it’s a good

idea to lead on from that here’s a more

recent study done I say recent but it

was kind of Jura it was a study done of

Nobel prize-winning scientists okay that

was done over the over the past covering

the past century of the 20th century and

looking at actually again looking at

this assumption as to whether Nobel

prize-winning scientists those those

whom we would assume to be ultra

specialists in their field and assumed

to be eating sleeping drinking their

micro specialism were actually the

opposite the vast majority of them in

fact I think nearly all of them are

known to have at least one unrelated

hobby a variety of them most of them had

that hobby in the in the arts as opposed

to the sciences some of them had those

hobbies in or a vacations in the

humanities the majority of them were

much more likely to so for example they

were 25 times as likely as the average

scientist to sing dance or act 17 times

as likely to be a visual artist 12 times

more likely to write poetry and

literature eight times more likely to do

a woodworking or some other craft four

times more likely to be a musician and

twice as likely to be a

so imagine imagine that a company

completely throws the assumptions on

their head that that specialists that

were those that we consider to be

specialists the most influential

scientists in human history or at least

in recent human history are actually

more Polymathic than than ultra

specialists so it’s this these examples

that I find fascinating and the this is

just within the sciences if you look in

the history of leadership for example

whether the leadership be in business or

in politics we’ll look at some of the

great leaders or at least those I mean

it’s great is a rather subjective thing

isn’t it but at least those that are

considered in conventional terms to be

great leaders in in in in the likes of

business or politics

I mean Winston Churchill is universally

acclaimed at least here and I shouldn’t

say universally acclaimed but widely

acclaimed here at least in the UK and

also worldwide to be one of the great

leaders of the 20th century he he

actually started off as a journalist as

a soldier and then went on to be a

historian and then when he was even put

even when he became prime minister of

the United Kingdom he had a hobby of

watercolour painting and became highly

accomplished and actually a lot of

critics really lauded his his work as a

painter and so interesting thing is that

he he was constantly in pursuit of

diverse interests whether it be crafts

skills or knowledge his mantra was

always diversity that’s one example from

British history

there are many from all over the world

you have Akbar the Great in in Mughal

India and you have Suleiman the

Magnificent in Ottoman Turkey you have

and and so on and so forth and that’s

leadership in politics and you have

leadership in business Mormont

like let’s look at I think this would be

of great interest species especially so


graphic of listeners here today is

actually if you look at leadership in

business today and you look at some of

the greatest entrepreneurs and business

leaders that we all are inspired by or

that many at least those in in in the

world of business are inspired by the

most accomplished ie those at the top

those that are moving and shaking the

likes of the Branson’s or the Elon

Musk’s or previously Steve Jobs and and

so on if you look at Jeff Bezos all of

these individual Bill Gates

let’s let’s think about what what is

their mindset number one number two what

is the history of their professional

career if we look at if we look at these

two things what we will find with all of

the examples I’ve given and Beyond is

will find that many of these actually

had diversity as their approach because

they they realize that diversity was the

optimal path to creativity and so they I

mean like for example you know Bill

Gates Bill Gates now he always had very

diverse interest but now his reading

Club as you know his book club is is is

very very popular he likes to read far

and wide he always he always promotes

the need for lifelong learning at all

times Richard Branson very diverse not

only his business interests I think he

has about 200 business interests who

which are incredibly diverse in

different sectors some of which he plays

less overall some of which he plays more

rural but he has an individual is also

very a serial hobbyist as we know he’s

even broken records in in in golf and in

air ballooning and so many other things

and then you have you know Steve Jobs

previously who-who we know attributed

his breakthrough in business to his

combined interests in InDesign

in calligraphy in in in promotion and

marketing in science so he combined many

of these different facets of his

interests into creating a break

and there are many many other examples

Elon Musk we know he had his in business

interests well most of which been

successful have all been in markedly

different fields and again if you speak

to him I mean you should watch

interviews with these with these

individuals they they are I mean we’ll

give another example of a wealthy

entrepreneur Oprah Winfrey she has

credibly I’m we must give female

examples because it’s incredibly

important she has an incredibly diverse

background in in acting and directing in

in various forms of business in social

entrepreneurship and so on and so forth

so what I’m trying to say I guess is

that the real movers and shakers in

science and our we haven’t touched on

art but we can do but in science in art

in leadership business politics

humanitarianism or all spheres of life

if you look at the real top the 1% the

2% and this is something even Tim

Ferriss when I spoke with him affirmed

as you know he’s interviewed some of the

leaders in all kinds of fields true and

he affirms exactly the same thing that

actually if you look at the one or two

percent whatever field it might be as we

said those one or two percent have

incredibly diverse backgrounds and they

have a multi-dimensional approach to

their so-called specialism which is

allowed for that breakthrough so that

this is something that’s kind of this is

a thread that that goes through the

entire book Wow Wow you know I’m I’m

feeding off of this I love this so much

because you know I I study these

individuals you know I’ve bought their

biographies and I mean I want to sort of

dissect you know how they’re doing what

they’re doing I want to learn as much as

I can from them I connect with that and

you know that that old maxim that we

hear we heard growing up at least in

America you know jack of all trades

master of none you know stuff like that

it just it just sort of it makes me

uncomfortable you know and but there’s

you there’s someone that in your book

that you you mentioned and I mean I find

the story incredibly intriguing it’s


and apparently Imhotep was just a

commoner right and he he gained he

gained he somehow gained the the Kings

attention how did how did this happen

that’s right that’s right I mean it

motive is a fantastic example to be

sharing here on this platform because he

is the what you might regard as the

earliest known polymath or earliest

recorded polymath I’m just because we

know a lot or relatively quite a lot

about him given the fact that he was

from 20 27th century BC which is a long

time ago and we have limited records

then but um but he’s a great example of

a polymath because he’s actually

excelled in multiple fields during his

time as you as you correctly said he

rose from being a commoner which is very

highly uncommon during that time in

veronik Egypt where you had a highly

elitist class or even caste which held

on to power in many regards but there

were there was some form of a very

limited meritocracy in and and this

allowed someone like Imhotep who started

off really as a kind of an architect and

a physician to really excel and gave him

the platform to do so so when he he

started off as a physician and he many

many say before that he was a kind of

Aristotelian sort of learn a lifelong


rigorous learner who just wanted to

learn about absolutely everything and he

ultimately became a physician a highly

acclaimed and renowned physician at the

time caught the attention of King Djoser

at the time there is some dispute about

the history of this so I don’t want to

go into too much detail about that but

the long and short of it is that after

gaining that attention this gave him

access to a lot of resource material a

lot of knowledge at the time which he

then he didn’t use that knowledge to

think okay what can I now specialize in

he use that knowledge to say all right


maybe I can contribute to this that and

that so what he did was he was

interested in in in spirituality so he

became a high priest he he went we are

he underwent the training and and then

went under went and led various

ritualistic ceremonies at the time he

was interested in philosophy so he

learnt a lot about the philosophy of his

forefathers and then developed a kind of

thinking of his own he was also very

interested in cosmology and architecture

and back then as you may know speaking

with Graham and the likes architecture

and cosmology was pretty much seen as

one field because you had two celestial

guidance guidance was incredibly

important for the geometry when it came

to when it came to architectural design

so if you we know a lot about the

pyramids the grand the grand pyramids

arm or the grand pyramid of giza for

instance but not far from there you have

the pyramids the Step Pyramid at Saqqara

and those step pyramids are known to

have been designed by Imhotep himself

Wow and so so and then he also wrote a

lot of poetry he became and because of

this kind of multifarious accomplishment

at that time by a commoner he always

almost considered a sort of demigod at

the time how could somebody of human

form accomplish so much coming from his

background so he is not only the first

recorded polymath that we know of

he’s also and we must remember this he

was from the African continent and that

should inspire many and I should provoke

a lot of thought in a world today where

we we live where I’m we often derived

the accomplishments or the history of of

Africa in general so the first recorded

polymath was actually an African Wow I

mean there’s so much to unpack there I

don’t even know where to start there’s

so much that I want to ask you that I

have to reduce down into one question

right so I mean you know it’s it’s

amazing that it seems like

you know history could have bypassed so

many people and in current times even

you know we could be bypassing so many

people by you know this this sort of

regard that we have towards learning and

understanding things and the way Big

Pharma is you know for example you

mentioned this a bit earlier and I do

want to bring this back up do you I mean

do you see it as a genetic thing

I mean is there you know maybe a

chromosome or something I mean do you

see it split between men and and women

equally how does that work good question

I think I think they’re owed just like

any other attribute cognitive attribute

a personality attribute and an ability

it there’s got to be a genetic component

to it so the idea of exceptional

versatility there is a genetic component

to it so for example there is there are

genetic factors involved in personality

and personalities along a big driver of

of Palama the– right so for example we

know from from cognitive science and

psychology that you have the big five

sort of personality traits one of them

or at least one of them it seems to be

highly correlated with the idea of the

polymath or the personality of the

polymath that one is openness now

openness is a kind of personality trait

that that means that you’re open to new

ideas new phenomena new new experiences

new people and new concepts and so on

and so forth so there are people that

are genetically predisposed I suppose to

be more open but we also know that with

as with almost all personality traits

there’s probably a 0.4 variance so our

40% influence of genetic factors which

means that there’s a 60% influence of


this and that is a general rule when it

comes to a certain general rule when it

comes to personality and that sort of

genetic versus environmental influence

proportion or ratio is is is different

for different abilities as well and

different cognitive abilities but by and

large by and large we must accept that

there is a genetic component however the

most in most cases the environmental

factors play the predominant role so

nurturing a particular personality trait

or a particular ability is highly

possible in each case so going back to

the idea of the polymath as I said

before everyone everyone I believe

everyone is predisposed to be Polymathic

now whether or not you Altima be or

display yourself as a polymath or

demonstrate yourself as a polymer is

determined by whether the environment

around you allows that so whether the

schooling system the economic system and

the the work system the employment

system encourages that or whether it

suppresses that and the suppressing of

that might be systemic and inadvertent

or it might be very highly purposeful so

for example in in the past we know that

we know the that power distribution in

society has been unequal for most if not

all of human history and that unequal


was more at some times than others but

it’s always been there so when you have

an unequal when you have power that’s

been monopolized or centralized amongst

a certain class or group of people

what’s often been the case is that

knowledge itself has often been confined

as opposed to shared and that knowledge

is often not been used to nurture the

masses so we know that there are various

reasons for this but basically going

back to your question

as to whether whether there is whether

it’s an eight or whether it can be I

think to a large large degree this is

something that can definitely be

nurtured everyone has the potential to

be a polymer I mean think about it

you the definition I give or the

criteria I give is that you need to

excel in at least three seemingly

unrelated fields now I’m sure if you ask

any child going back to primary school

if you ask every child what things

they’re interested in what you know what

intrigues them what interests them or

even if you look at the things that

they’re good at if you expose them to

various things they’re bound to be good

at multiple things it’s just that we

don’t expose them to multiple things

neither do we encourage them to pursue

multiple things going forward so I think

there’s a huge amount of untapped

potential here which which if if allowed

to to flourish could really lead to

tremendous results that are just

completely inconceivable for the modern

mind yeah I mean you know there’s

there’s so much to think about when we

think about you know where society could

be you know with figures such as Nikola

Tesla I’m sure many people that are

listening to the show understand know

his significance in history and Wow how

much you know what we understand as the

modern world would have changed if he

was allowed to continue continue doing

what he was doing but yeah which leads

me into sort of my next question which

is you call financially doomed polymath

I love this so you know okay so how what

it’s it seems like there is an aspect of

cultural baggage you know there is a

judgment that is happening when you know

someone is demonstrates this you know

versatility in injuries across you know

different spectrums and so you know why

why do you think that you know a

polymath would be financially doomed as

as you put it

well the idea is that the polymath that

that is the assumption there’s a

societal assumption that the polymath is

or is bound to be financially doomed I

of course throughout the book challenge

that that assumption because going back

to what you said earlier on this this

very well-known phrase of jack of all

trades master of none which actually has

many other variations in different

languages across the world it’s that I

mean that this idea of hey you’re if

you’re um if you’re doing many things

your frivolous your um you’re kind of

diluting your interest you’re not paying

attention you’re not focusing right and

therefore you’re not being productive

this idea and if you’re not productive

then you’re not going to be financially

secure so this this whole idea is very

common in different societies and it’s

become common because of the rise of

specialization as a culture at least

over the past century and a half to two

centuries at least in Western history

and that’s because it’s a myth

ultimately that’s been propagated by by

industrial capitalism as a system

because if you think about industrial

capitalism as a system at least

initially what happened was it relied on

a particular mode of productivity which

which treated human beings as cogs in a

machine as we know we often use that

term now but that literally used to be

the case at least in factories and in

many cases is still the case in many

modern corporations but the human beings

are treated as cogs that oats who just

focus on doing one thing and that one

thing is their financial security that

one thing is their identity that one

thing is something that should should

should should should not encourage them

to look beyond so when we’re looking

when when we look at that kind of system

of division of labor which is the way it

was phrased if we look at that system by

its very nature

it’s limiting human potential because

it’s already placing a stigma on every

individual and telling them that

actually this is your function and this

is your role in society and once you’re

told that and what you’re gaining your

financial income from it the more you

progress or the more you move forward in

your career as time goes on the more you

put you’ve kept that egg all your eggs

in that one basket and the more

difficult it is for you to diversify and

to to break out of that box so that

system has been in place for a very long

time and the education system the modern

education system is also based on a

system that serves that industrial

capitalist model so initially the reason

why mass education actually came into

being at least in the West is because a

variety of individuals were needed human

beings were needed to operate like

machines and they were needed to operate

machines but also operate like machines

and the only thing they needed to learn

was how to read instruction manuals so

they were taught language and they were

taught what to do in that particular

field and they were taught nothing else

and as time went on the education system

then took on the guys or took on the

model of the factory so you have

subjects or fields as we today know them

maths English history physics and so on

and so forth

art and so on they’re all split from one

another as if there are chunks of

productive output and they they are

split from one another and taught to

students in isolation from one another

and when they’re taught an isolation

from one another that student is not

going to understand what the purpose of

that nugget of information is to their

lives but more importantly what the what

is the importance of that nugget of

knowledge to the next nugget of

knowledge that seems completely

unrelated to me so what you have is when

you have as so you have children still

going through that system of Jadhav

knowledge disparate knowledge kind of

thrown into different segments and

chunks and then thrown at them with no

context no perspective how do we expect

them to internalize this so that’s the

education system but it doesn’t that

doesn’t relate as much to your question

with your question it’s about financial

security right so with financial

security where as a result of the

education and the employment model we

are then sold this myth that hey guys

stick in your lane and don’t and yeah

otherwise you’d be a jack of all trades

master of none meanwhile you have the

most influential actors in society the

leader the entrepreneurs that are

running that Factory and the

entrepreneurs that are running factories

in multiple sectors and business leaders

that are engaged that are contributing

to many fields and scientists that

understood that this is a myth and

therefore diversified their interests

those are the individuals that 1% 2% are

the ones that are making the grand

breakthroughs where while the rest of

our rest of us are left to believe the

grand myth of the jack of all trades

master of none right so I think that’s

that’s the the grand lie that we need to

dispel yeah I mean I think I think we’re

doing that I think you know your book is

is really you know cutting the edge on

on this and you know opening this up so

that people can see you know it’s it’s

not so bad to really explore the multi

dimensions of your creativity you know

who you are

and your interests you know what

inspires you what what are you you know

really inspired by I mean there’s

there’s so many people that I encounter

all the time that tell me you know

they’re they’re stuck in their

nine-to-five jobs and their apps they’re

they have money but they’re miserable

they hate it well you know it’s oh so

you know I kind of want to I want to get

into I know that you are do it you’re

completing your graduate studies as a

neurologist in your eulogy and so you

know the I mean this is a big interest

for me

the human brain so it’s something that

I’ve been thinking about when

encountering your work is you know is it

a left brain thing is it a right brain

thing is there some sort of crosstalk

happening are the left and right

hemisphere I was working together what’s

what’s going on there in the brain with

of a polymath that is a fantastic

question actually before before I

address that and even related to that

actually is is just a point you

mentioned just before which was about

how people are feeling unfulfilled and

and that’s an important point because up

until now we’ve talked about the

importance of the polymath to society

that they’re that they’re making the big

contributions and able to do so because

of their diverse backgrounds but what we

must also be how very mindful of is the

importance of being a polymath or

pursuing polymath II to the individual

and that’s highly important because it

speaks to the idea of self-actualization

and self-actualization is something that

people that you’re speaking of when you

say that these people are making money

but they’re not feeling fulfilled it’s

because it’s because they haven’t

reached that self-actualization in the

way that Maslow actually described which

many people forget actually the way that

it wasn’t originally described is that

self-actualization is the point at which

the individual pursues and is able to be

all they can be right so not one

particular thing not one specialism no

just because you made a fantastic

contribution in the sciences or the arts

or in film or and whatever it might be

no you’re still going to remain

unfulfilled because there are many sides

to you and they all need to be expressed

in one way or another or at least many

of them need to be expressed in one way

or another so true self-actualization is

when you staying true to your prime mode

yourself which is diverse right so that

that that talks to the the initial point

you made and then going moving forward

to the neurological underpinnings of

polymath II now this is

highly interesting because there’s still

a lot of work being done in this area

for example I’ll mention just very

briefly some of the research that’s

being done I’m not sure if you had have

you had dr. Ian McGilchrist on your

program the health show before I highly

recommend it because he he wrote this

internationally acclaimed book called

the divided brain in the master and his

a misery okay and it was a few years ago

published but it’s just a phenomenal

book because he looks at how how

actually the human brain and the focus

on a particular hemisphere of the human

brain shaped society or civilization and

vice versa and how this this how this

has how this has actually caused or led

to the trajectory of hume of of at least

Western history as we know it and so

this is very interesting because he

himself is a psychiatrist and he’s

looking at it from that perspective but

he’s also he’s also highly accomplished

in the field of English literature and

other fields too so it’s not surprising

that a Polymathic mind like his would

identify such an issue and what he

identifies really is that firstly for

optimal brain performance where you can

unleash the polymath within you for

optimal brain performance you need an

effective synchronicity between the

right and left hemispheres and and that

is something we’d need to we need to

work more on trying to discover how to

attain that because it’s it’s at times

and and and and today what he argues is

that and justice justice justice

summarize and paraphrase today we we

live in a world that is has a high focus

or individuals or humans have a high

focus on left brain thinking and left

brain thinking has resulted in

phenomenal feats of technological

advance and and many other things but

what that does also is that it

left brain thinking also corresponds

with the kind of philosophical worldview

that we promote in society and therefore

what kind of systems and structures we

build in societies and right now they

seem to be highly segmented highly

reductive and with lacking real

perspective and holistic analysis and so

the the the mark of the right hemisphere

is actually exactly the opposite which

is to have a more bigger picture view of

any given situation not just the world

at large any given situation and also to

be more open-minded to be to seek

connections between different things so

if your systems thinker you’re more

likely to be more than a right

hemisphere think thinker and so on and

so forth well there is work being done

around the whole area of versatility

adaptability and interdisciplinarity

which all of which is related to the

idea of the polymath but we’re still in

very very early stages so we can’t I’m

very reluctant as somebody who has

studied neuroscience I’m very reluctant

to to make any such connections with any

great authority at this stage it’s

really truly fascinating you know it’s

been a puzzle for me as well I have been

thinking about this for a long time I’m

curious to know if you’ve if you’ve

discovered Robert Monroe’s work and

hemispheric synchronization binaural

audio binaural beats yet you know yeah

hemispheric synchronization Robert

Monroe you have so so I mean I mean

here’s here’s a guy I mean for the

people that are listening that don’t

know who he is and he he wrote a series

of books called journeys his first book

was called journeys out of the body he

discovered that he you know had this

ability I guess to project his mind

outside of his body

and he goes through this this whole

series of it’s truly remarkable because

he was able to describe this journey in

the most objective way whereas people I

think tend to color things he did he

purposefully very in a very calculated

way he did his best to remain objective

and through these journeys near the end

of the series he is given this tool like

he is contacted by this higher

intelligence and he’s given what he

patented as hemi-sync hemispheric

synchronization so i mean why don’t you

tell us what that is and and how it

works please yeah okay if you don’t mind

can you can you repeat the first part of

your first part of your question I

didn’t get that I

okay so so okay so hemi-sync is just

this this process of playing your brain

is is picking up on these tonal

vibrations in the air that that vibrate

your eardrums and it’s pulling a

frequency out of that and it turns out

if if you play you know a frequency in

one year like seven Hertz in one ear and

and another frequency like 11 Hertz your

brain will automatically take the

average of those two numbers and when it

does that

you’re the left and right brain

hemispheres in your in your head start

to communicate they start to talk to

each other so yep I mean is there any I

mean it could we harness this tool could

we could we somehow you know use this to

engineer polymaths yes and and actually

many polymaths that are engaging in

different fields so for example if there

is a one one person who’s who’s who’s

engaging in a scientific pursuit as well

as an artistic pursuit simultaneously

they will actually be able to feel these

the synchronicity that results from

these vibrations or the different Bible

admitted through different experiences

and when that when that happens it

affects the conscious as well as the

subconscious and and and something

ferments within the brain and again the

neuroscience of creativity is something

that’s being explored a lot these days

we still are very very in the infant

stages of that journey but but one thing

is for sure that when you have when you

have diversity of input and whether that

input B or frequency that results from a

particular activity or something else a

different mode of thinking a different

kind of hemispheric focus whatever that

might be that diversity will will

inevitably create something new when you

have two separate ideas phenomenas

inputs whatever all factors whatever

they might be when they when they

converge they synthesize to make

something new and that’s something new

is an act of creativity so we know that

that happens anyway how we can engineer

that how we can manufacture that is

something that that educational

institutions and research organizations

need to spend more time on Wow I mean

because we are absolutely crushing this

man everyone in the audience today is is

just loving this conversation and saying

hear me too

so you know I have to bring this up

let’s talk about drugs because you know

psychedelics are experiencing this in

re-emergence I mean there’s this you

know it seems like Silicon Valley is

picking up on micro dosing this year

more and more common you know in it’s it

seems like people are you know

harnessing the tool of that

yep what happens in those states as a

way to invent new things I mean as you

know in Albert Crick he visualizing DNA

it’s talked about you know it’s

theorized that he does micro sing or

under the influence with Steve Jobs so

it goes on and so the list goes on

absolutely so how

I mean let’s talk about that I mean

what’s your position on psychedelics and

and their you know impact on society and

and then also polymaths yeah this

actually this question is inevitable

when we talk about polymaths because

when you’re talking about polymath

you’re talking about different modes of

thinking knowing and being right when

you’re when you’re when you’re coming

when you take off your lab coat and then

you pick up the guitar you are entering

a different mode of being and it

requires different cognitive skills it

requires a different emotional

connection it requires a different kind

of thinking in general it also the

output itself is also very different so

with this in mind we have to look at

psychedelics as as we all know it’s

indisputable that you’d enter alternate

modes of consciousness with different

into different levels and in different

ways depending on what it is you’re

experiencing but but we know that

actually an alternative mode of

consciousness actually comes about and

that that alternate mode is actually

something that is either familiar or

unfamiliar it’s something that’s that’s

kind of something that’s completely new

or something that’s semi new we don’t

know but the sheer fact I think and

without knowing – or having too much

experience of my of my own what I will

say is that the fact that there is a lot

of scientific information available

about the benefits attached or or at

least the effects of psychedelic

experience on the human mind and it’s

altering impact number one and number

two the amounts of anecdotal knowledge

we have about certain individuals some

of whom you’ve named there many many

others that have attributed their

creative breakthroughs in

music arts sciences and so on to some

form of psychedelic experience the fact

that those Anik so many of those

anecdotes exist

amongst the most creative people in the

world together with the emerging science

of psychedelics means that we must take

this seriously when it comes to

cognitive enhancement and cognitive

exploration we must take it seriously

and its relation to the polymath again

the idea of the polymath is something

relatively new in people’s minds now

people are starting to think think about

it but its relation to to the polymath

I think we’re already by being a

polymath you’re already kind of altering

your mode of consciousness in a more

subtler or in a more different way and

we know the benefits of that

so of course using psychedelics is

taking it to a completely different

level and something that we must

continue to research absolutely

absolutely because I know that it’s

getting late for you there and we’re

already over time is you know is there a

question that I should have asked you

that that I didn’t or something that you

know I should have brought up that that

we didn’t we didn’t bring up tonight um

no I think you’ve you’ve managed to

cover a lot of the important facets of

this highly fascinating phenomena I

think one thing that we must reiterate

is that is that many people might look

at this idea today skeptically but if we

understand the history on evolution of

that skepticism as we’ve touched on

briefly today and which is which I go

into in much more depth in the book will

understand that we have been conditioned

to think about the polymath in this way

so it’s very natural for us to have this

initial skepticism surrounding the

concept but I believe many people

including the listeners of this some of

the show will connect to this idea in

some way shape or form

and if any of them if it if it inspires

any of them to kind of explore or

actually pursue something they’ve always

wanted to pursue or explore something in

new it’s as you said it’s a new decade

let’s try something new it doesn’t have

to come they come at the expense of the

old in fact you you we talk about the

journey the journey is all about

evolution our own journeys through life

is an evolutionary journey so when we’ve

when we think that we’re secure and that

we’ve accomplished in one field we can

always bring new insights to that field

through external stimuli and this is a

very very important point yeah I

conclude my book with a very important

point which is that actually the true

specialist is indeed a polymath the true

specialist is indeed a polymath and the

reason for that is because now in in an

age of automation super intelligence and

all the many other futuristic scenarios

I’m sure you’ve covered through through

other episodes too with this age looming

we cannot afford to try to confine

ourselves and stay comfortable in one

field and one job alone we can’t do that

this is not an effective survival

strategy because that job or that field

will either be automated computerized at

some stage in the near future after

which you will have to reinvent yourself

so reinvention should be seen as an

opportunity but we also pre-and preempt

that that time and that scenario and we

should cultivate the competency of

versatility and adaptability and we

should cultivate the personality trait

that we all have within us which is

openness so we can explore new things or

at least have the propensity and

potential to explore new things as and

when the time comes so that when a new

opportunity arises we have some

knowledge we have some skill in it or at

least we have the enthusiasm and dry

to acquire that knowledge and skill and

and I think we’re talking about sapiens

and Yuval Harare who wrote the book

sapiens and he also wrote as you know

the homo Deus and the twenty first

twenty one lessons for the 21st century

now this is interesting because when

he’s often asked in interviews and you

may have acknowledged this when he when

he’s asked interviews what is the big

core skill what what do we need to know

how do we need to equip ourselves from

all your lessons that year that you’d

learned from reading and writing about

history in the future his his his common

answer is reinvention reinvention is the

most important skill to nurture it is

the most inevitable thing that we need

to undergo in the future and that is

directly correlated with the idea of the

polymath because whether you’re doing

things simultaneously there are in

different fields or whether you’re

having a serial career changes in

different fields that doesn’t matter the

idea is that on that journey you have

diversity that diversity can come at

once or it can come in due course it

doesn’t matter but that is something

that is a mindset that allows you to be

more open to be more flexible and to be

more indispensable in the age of the

machine this poetry will cost I mean

what a what an absolutely classic

instant classic episode I know many many

people are gonna hear this this show and

I think it’s I think the work that

you’re doing is remarkable I mean it’s

it’s so so important because you know as

we you know as we move into parental

roles and you know we have children and

we’re teaching them and we’re we’re

nurturing them I think it’s so important

to recognize that you know having this

this level of interest and you know

wanting to explore different avenues of

thought and expression that’s okay it’s

okay to do that absolutely you don’t

have to try to fit you know a circle and

a square together it just doesn’t

worked out like that so you know I’m

just I’m just elated at this episode so

I highly highly recommend the book to

anyone where can people you know get in

in your the book a copy of the book or

your website where would you like to

direct them yeah so so the the website

is the – polymath com

the book is available on all major

online outlets of course Amazon Amazon

in different countries and also the

forthcoming I should mention this that

there is a growth coming ideas festival

focused on the idea of the polymath and

interdisciplinarity which is forthcoming

in London in spring 2020 this is

something that’s really gonna take the

book to them to the next level ie take

Leah the the thought of the polymath or

the thinking behind the polymath to

action and to foster cross-disciplinary

collaborations and more information on

that will be available through social

media social medium namely Twitter the

polymath book and Twitter at the DaVinci


okay okay what’s the what’s the exact

URL for the website that that you have

its WWWE – and that’s the – polymath com

perfect guys you heard it here I mean

what an amazing episode absolutely

remarkable the work that what cos is

doing is just it’s truly remarkable so I

highly highly recommend you support his

work go pick up a copy of the polymath

you will love it if you enjoyed this

episode you will love

the book so you can hear how hyped up I

am about this love this I’m so

passionate about these types of things

because it’s important that we know

train the the people coming after us are

our children and their children you know

how to think in how to look at the world

right I think you would agree with that

so it’s a new decade

it’s 2020 welcome to it thank you guys

so much for listening if you enjoyed

this show leave us a review get on

iTunes thank you guys so much be back

next week really appreciate the presence

of every single one of you that are

listening happy new decade

[Music] [Music]
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