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Polymathics is what polymaths and polymathists do: learn lots of different things. It is not the depth of your learning that counts so much, but its breadth. There is a synergy in having multiple areas of competence, mastery and expertise- even if we can't agree exactly what constitutes each of these things- the more areas you cover the greater your ability to cross-fertilise knowledge to great effect.

This blog has 100s of articles covering a wide variety of subjects- polymathics, becoming smarter, the simple life, travel, self-help and writing being the main pillars of the project. 

I also give occasional talks and consulting converstions on polymathics and a few other things. 

Much of it spins off from the 10 books I have written, all available at Amazon among other places. The latest two being:

Click on the below to see it at amazon: 

Zenslacker- 101 things to bear in mind when you're doing nothing

This is available for kindles only. It's a very short book and is designed for people who need a few good ways to breakout of feeling time and spirit poor.

The other one is:

 

 

Click here to get to Amazon for my new book: RED NILE

Sunday Times (May 19 2013) say: "Robert Twigger's ambitious biography of the Nile is an unexpected triumph...a scintillatingly colourful account of a river and a region Twigger knows intimately...an elegiac moving book...hugely entertaining...probably the author's magnum opus"

For a different take on exploration and new expeditions go to theexplorerschool.com

"No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit." Helen Keller.

Wednesday
Mar122014

students get changing your identity to be more creative

A few days ago I gave a lecture to some students at Brookes University in Oxford. I was talking about being more polymathic as a way of becoming more creative. Being polymathic means having several areas of expertise you can dip into to get new ideas and solutions. But the start of being polymathic is very simple: change your self-image, change your identity.

Maybe because they were not yet set in their ways, I could sense I had made a point that went home. The room sort of opens out when everyone 'gets something'. All performers know this sensation (and the opposite, the feeling of being marooned at the wrong end of a telescope when you're 'dying' on stage). Anyway, they got the idea straightaway: think of yourself as a polymathist and not as a 'student', 'manager', 'scientist' and so on. This doesn't preclude being ANY of those things, after all being a manager doesn't mean you can't also be a husband, father or birdwatcher. What it DOES mean is that one should have other areas (which you might even keep quiet about) of expertise that you can draw on as a resource for new ideas, strategies, mental balance and happiness. But this doesn't mean be a generalist. It means have an active learning approach to these areas.

When you think of yourself as polymathic you suddenly have permission to be interested in everything. You are 'open', and that is the single best frame of mind to be in if you want to be creative.

Monday
Mar102014

the single easiest way to boost creativity

I meet whiners all the time who go on about their lack of creativity...and yet when a good idea comes up they are the first to be dismissive. They couldn't spot a good idea if it whacked them around the head with a wet kipper...and I always tell them the same thing. "I once knew someone who was so uncreative he was the living personification of uncreativity but he dreamed of working in TV, and sure enough by sheer hard work he got in and started working and hanging around creative people and after twenty years of that he came up with a string of hit TV programs- some of which have been exported all around the world. He became creative by learning to see good ideas when they came his way. People who lack creativity think the ideas are 'inside'. Wrong! They are all out there. Learn first to spot a good idea when someone else has one. Learn to spot the shape and dimensions and feel of a good idea- they're everywhere. Forget about what's inside your own head.

Friday
Mar072014

pirate efficiency v. robot efficiency

Uniform filing is boring and a too rigid system causes too many ambiguities; filing by date or subject is OK on a micro scale but that’s about it. Instead have a series of boxes and bags that are of varying importance to you. In the key bag you put everything you’d take if you had 30 seconds to leave, the next is if you have 30 minutes, then a day, then seven days, a month, a year, three years.

Things you use everyday in one box, things you use once a week in another, things you use once in a blue moon in another.

The boxes should all have character. Maybe like pirate sea chests or finely made cabinets; or maybe varying kinds of ammo box. The latest research into brain plasticity suggests the more senses we engage in any one action the more connections we grow in our brains. And if the brain isn't growing it's dying.

Being efficient doesn’t mean turning yourself into a bad robot. Being a good pirate is better.

Friday
Feb072014

squeezing the excluded middle

A basic rule of logic is that what isn't true is false and what isn't false is true. There is no in-between land. There is no 'middle'. Hence the 'law of the excluded middle' which states that things that aren't black are white and vice versa. Of course lots of people have opposed this and come up with various fuzzy and grey ways of having a 'not quite black or white' middle. The problem is these methods aren't as versatile or powerful, the 'middle' absorbs all the difficult to solve problems and there they sink as if in a marsh.

When you go with a system of black/white you create lots of nice paradoxes- one of the most common being the Cretan: All Cretans are liars, I am a Cretan (so I must be a liar, which means I'm not a Cretan etc).

But away from rigorous B+W systems there are varying degrees of 'middle' out there being used in explanations. The more you squeeze the middle, the more you emphasise contrast rather than varying shades, the more 'surprising' the results (ie. paradoxical) you can achieve. The more surprising the results the more attention you get.

It's been shown that 'experts' who are asked for their over view give more extreme answers than similar experts asked to provide varying scenarios and explanations of features. When you set a 'grey agenda' you tend to educate people in greyness. Which is a good thing. People start looking for subtle differences rather than gross and surprising ones. You evolve from an attention culture to a connoisseur culture.

Tuesday
Jan282014

surviving or thriving?

When you're surviving you have nothing good at days end except the not inconsiderable fact that you achieved your goals for the day. When you're thriving you have more to report as you took the time to cradle a few things and get a better look at them. Too much surviving and not enough thriving is bad for the brain, which needs feeding with new stuff, fiercely looked at and learned deeply.

Monday
Jan272014

status and attention

People confuse status with social standing. You can have dustmen who play high status (head high, never ask permission) and CEOs and lords who play low status (ask permission, apologise). Status is a just a way of playing a role- and the easiest way to fix the style in your mind is to ask what level of permission does the role play assume? Roughly speaking, the cluster of behaviours that seem to go with never asking permission means you are playing high status; what seems to go with asking permission is low status play.

People may instinctively like the idea of playing 'high status' (which is the way to think about it, rather than 'being' high status) yet not everyone does? Why?

Because we play the status level that gets us the most attention. The most meaning both quantity and quality. Playing low status may guarantee far more attention in many situations. On the other hand, a bit of lordly isolation may be a low price to pay for some damn good boot licking...

Tuesday
Jan212014

what's the point of jealousy?

Negative emotions exist for reason, like pain. When someone has the rare condition of not feeling pain they usually injure themselves all the time. Pain is the body's fairly dim but effective way of shouting at us: "Hey, fix this can't you?" Negative emotions have always seemed highly pointless to me, but then, they too have a necessary role. If you feel one- envy, jealousy, rage, then this is an emotional message that something is out of kilter. This was well known in the past but such knowledge easily transforms, through mass teaching, into merely a 'ban' on such thoughts. People pretend to themselves they don't have them. Or flagellate themselves for being evil. In fact, of course, we all have negative emotions. The Buddhist response- to simply observe the emotion and let it pass is only half the story. The other half is to realise what the appearance of that emotion means to your overall balance. Feeling envious? Let it pass and then examine whether your daily activity is aligned with your more general or higher goals. It is said that a weak man desires to hear only the failings of a strong man. Wishing others ill is another sign suggesting an internal reorganisation is required. Negative emotions are unpleasant for a good reason- there are there to help us shift our everyday operating procedure, nothing more.