How To Be A Renaissance Man: 8 Traits For Epic Well-Roundedness

| Learning

Renaissance Man feature image of a statue of DanteAnyone can learn how to be a Renaissance Man.

No matter your gender, so long as you’re old enough to read and have the discipline to learn, becoming skilled and knowledge in multiple fields is more than doable.

That’s because information has never been easier to acquire.

The tenacity it takes to be an excellent critical thinker, multi-linguist and philosopher familiar with a wide range of ideas remains just as difficult, however.

In fact, it’s probably harder than ever before given all of the distractions in our time.

That’s why I think you’re going to love this list of easy-to-follow strategies.

As an author with multiple degrees, tons of entrepreneurial experience, musical skills and a long history in the performing arts, on this page I’m going to unpack everything I’ve learned.

I’ll also give you a number of examples of people living right now who fit the description of being polymathic.

Ready to master multiple topics and do it in style?

Let’s get started!

What Is A Renaissance Man?

Technically, terms like Renaissance Man and “well-rounded man” are dated. It doesn’t have to do with your gender. It’s all about attitude.

As Paul Valéry put it in his 1894 work, Introduction to the Method of Leonardo da Vinci, you have to have a system:

… a system which is the most honest there is: that of conceiving… a psychological model, more or less rude, but on which represents in some manner our own capacity of reconstructing the body of work which we have set ourselves the task of explaining. Success is very doubtful, but the task is not a thankless one. If it does not succeed in solving the insoluble problems of intellectual parthenogenesis, it at least raises them, and this in a light incomparably clear.

I’ve chosen this somewhat difficult passage. But it’s an important one because Valéry nails it. A Renaissance Man systematically pursues the goal of identifying the signs of genius.

He acknowledges that this goal of figuring out “intellectual parthenogenesis,” or self-made levels of high IQ is impossible. But we should try anyway. The attempt itself will raise our own levels of intelligence. Even if it fails.

In the world of mental strength, we say often that you need to let go of the outcome. This is a bit different than saying that “the journey is the outcome.” It’s saying that an essential element of being a well-rounded person involves living effortlessly. Rather than striving, you place a premium on focus, concentration and being as fully in the present moment as possible.

The question is… how?

How to Be A Renaissance Man: 8 Traits You Need To Succeed

Don’t worry if you aren’t born with the following list of traits. Each of them can be developed when you use deliberate practice to bring them into your life.

Exactly how quickly you can develop them isn’t knowable. We just know that the sooner you get started, the better.

Here are the key traits to either develop or improve if you’ve already got them.A graphic in a restaurant window reads "#becurious"

One: Insatiable Curiosity

Let’s face it. Many of us struggle to get interested in boring topics.

Unfortunately, you can’t expect to be truly well-rounded if you give up just because a book or video doesn’t immediately grip you.

Instead, I suggest you fashion a learning goal in writing. Get clear on why you want to add a particular area of expertise to your life.

Then, develop the best possible study habits and develop the tenacity needed to plow through difficult information.

Every well-rounded person I’ll share below had this ability. And you can rest assured they didn’t have to be fascinated with every textbook they encountered.

It was the learning goal that fascinated them. As Nietzsche reportedly put it:

He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.

Basically, I’m suggesting that you make sure that you’re curious enough about what life will be like for you after you accomplish the goal that you’ll be able to tolerate what it takes to achieve it.

In a way, this contradicts the idea of letting go of the outcome. To a certain extent it does. But as my good friend and memory champion Nelson Dellis once told me about how he climbs Mt. Everest, you know the peak is there. All you have to worry about is where you’re going to put your hand next.

Two: Commitment To Lifelong Learning With Relentless Application

It’s one thing to learn a skill or master a subject area.

But you’ve got to actually apply what you’ve learned.

This means that if you’re going to study a language, make sure to speak or write in it with ample reading. Dabbling in memorizing vocabulary and phrases can be a good in itself, but that’s not the depth we’re talking about when it comes to the systematic identification and implementation of developing your personal genius.Anthony Metivier Film Studies Lecture

Personally, I’ve done this by learning German well enough to lecture in it at the University of Saarland (pictured above). Frankly, I haven’t gone far enough. But I have plans one day to translate at least one of my own books into German so that I can follow up my efforts in learning German with one of the most detailed applications possible.

Music provides a similar example. My sitar teacher told me once that to be a true master, you need to spend twenty years learning an instrument, twenty performing it and twenty teaching it.

This is what I mean by matching commitment to learn with relentless application.

Three: Develop And Practice Radical Metacognition

Critical thinking is important if you’re going to enjoy a well-rounded mind. You need to be able to rapidly assess and evaluate ideas from several fields of knowledge.

There are multiple ways to improve your critical thinking abilities. These included completing critical thinking exercises and studying examples.

Basically, you want to think about your own thinking.

I covered some of my favorite self-inquiry questions that have helped me the most when it comes to thinking about how I think. I covered them in this TEDx Talk:

For more along these lines, check out The Victorious Mind and some of these concentration meditations. These resources will help you reflect deeply on the nature of your mind and make the most out of it.

Four: Make Your Body A Topic of Study

One of my favorite, classic Renaissance Men is Robert Fludd. Although most of his medical ideas are no longer considered correct (or even useful), he is important in the history of medicine nonetheless.

Da Vinci and Michelangelo also studied the body intensively, ranging from dental concerns to expressing the relationship between a healthy body and soul.

And that’s what we all need to do. From focusing on foods that improve memory to getting enough sleep, in order to study effectively, you need to take care of yourself.

Personally, just by memorizing a small amount of medical terminology, I have raised my level of self-care substantially. Focusing on what you want to improve tends to lead results.

Anthony Metivier with Tony Buzan Books on Mind Mapping In Beijing

I was delighted to find an entire shelf of my mentor’s book in Chinese translation in Beijing!

Five: Avoid The Myth of Being Self-Taught

A lot of people think that well-rounded learners are autodidacts.

Frankly, I don’t believe in any such thing. If you’re going to learn, you have to lean upon the efforts of other people.

And books simply aren’t enough. You need to take courses, talk with peers and spend personal time with mentors.

Alexander the Great had Aristotle, after all. And even if he hadn’t, I’m glad I’ve regularly sought the help of many mentors, interviewed the authors of my favorite books and taken multiple courses with fantastic teachers.

The whole notion of the Renaissance revolves around an explosion of ideas shared by multiple people. Both Justin Sledge and Matthias Castle have been on my podcast and discussed how learning really took place during this era.

No one who amounted to anything learned on their own.

Six: Give Back

They say that you have to teach to learn. I’ve always found this to be true and that’s why I admire people who take time to instruct others.

Not only are they giving back through the highest form of social contribution. They’re also developing more expertise for themselves.

You learn more about topics when you teach them because you consider them from different angles. You have to think about them from the perspective of the learner.

Indeed, you have to think about multiple kinds of learners who will be coming to your teaching with varying levels of experience.

This is one reason why so many of the classic Renaissance Men were authors, or at least kept detailed journals.journal during morning walks

Seven: Learn Languages

I’ve already discussed the power of bilingualism. My ability to function in German has opened so many doors for me.

But you can’t stop there. It’s very difficult to learn philosophy to any significant degree without at least some understanding of Latin and Greek terminology.

Likewise when you study Eastern philosophy, you’ll want at least a passing familiarity with Chinese. Or if you want to seriously understand the Bible, prepare to spend some time on Hebrew and other languages.Anthony Metivier passing Mandarin Level III

It will not only give you fantastic brain exercise. You’ll also learn more about what the texts really mean. No translation is perfect, but as you learn more about the original languages, you’ll come to understand why different translators make their choices. And you’ll be able to participate in the discourse around the texts from the foundations of earned experience in these languages, not mere opinion.

Eight: The Ultimate Secret

We can talk for a long time about other ways to become well-rounded.

But there’s one commonality amongst so many top achievers. It involves a certain level of financial freedom.

Whether it’s through grants and scholarships, like I enjoyed during my many years at university, or mind mapping your way to business success, learning at scale requires multiple resources.

You need the time, funding and space for learning.

Although you don’t have to become an entrepreneur, it certainly helps. You can also start investing early or seek a tenure-track position where they are still available. One way or another, you have to earn the ability to work on yourself and I highly recommend you start with developing time and financial freedom so you can.

How? Learn to delay gratification after setting well-formed goals. It’s really that simple.

22 Examples of Ancient And Modern Renaissance Men And Women

Keeping the memory theme of this blog in mind, I’m going to share the people who I think best exemplify the Renaissance Man traits.

I don’t think anyone should model any of them directly. Rather, take inspiration from how they lived their lives and how they dedicated their time.

It’s little use trying to be like someone else. I’m sharing these examples so you can think about how their careers and personal achievements can positively influence the choices you make in your personal development.

Of course, there are many more. But each of the individuals listed above have demonstrated that they use systems to explore and develop their personal intelligence, ability to contribute and have the discipline to learn even the toughest of topics. They are wonderfully interdisciplinary and have shown problem-solving abilities in a variety of fields.

Integrating the Renaissance Ethos In Today’s World

In a nutshell, people during the the Renaissance valued humanity and individuality. They sought to balance each person with society as a whole.

To do this, they favored skepticism, developed what we now call secularism and expressed their values through a variety of mediums.

Above all, they preserved and studied history. In other words, they did not allow themselves to forget their roots. In our time, people aren’t quite as protective and even seem to enjoy digital amnesia.

If you want to be a well-rounded person, you simply cannot afford to forget.

If you’d like to ensure that you can remember the things you learn and hold onto them so you can apply the ideas, sign up for my free memory improvement course:

Free Memory Improvement Course

It will take you through four video lessons and worksheets to help you develop a Memory Palace.

This mnemonic device is a core tool many Renaissance people used to learn faster and remember more.

Sign up and I’ll send you many more memory techniques you can explore as well.

As I mentioned, a true Renaissance person always cherishes the past above all. And for that, you need the best possible memory skills.

I’m sure glad I focused on developing them for myself. It’s helped open many doors. I’m confident that mastering your memory will do the same for you.

To your personal Renaissance!

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