“The noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding” ~~Leonardo Da Vinci~~
The dawn of the Renaissance Person
“Renaissance man: the ideal person who is skilled in many fields of interest.”
A good way to explore what it means to be a renaissance (wo)man is by looking at the historical pioneers who coined the phrase, and then comparing to 5 modern-day renaissance people and how they measure up to the standard.
Is this ancient idea actually the key to learning more, making and future-proofing your life?
The Thirst for Knowledge in the Dark Ages
When the Western Roman Empire fell in the 5th century, a new era began in Europe – the Middle Ages. This period lasted for nearly 1000 years, until the Italian Renaissance began in the 14th century. Despite the many scientific discoveries and technological advancements that happened throughout this time, Italian scholars in the 14th century started referring to the era before them as “the Dark Ages.” These scholars claimed that the medieval period marked a complete lack of culture and that they were leading Europe out of the darkness.
The period between the 14-17 centuries is widely known as “the Renaissance.” The term renaissance comes from French and means born again, or re-birth. During this time lived such cultural, political, and scientific juggernauts as Michelangelo, Raphael, Niccolo Machiavelli, Nicholaus Copernicus, Galileo, and more.
These individuals changed the way we regard knowledge and are generally considered the gold standard for great people we should all aspire to be like.
Many of them were accomplished in a number of different academic fields and managed to incorporate this diverse knowledge in their work.
A “Universal Man” is one that “can do all things if he will,” says the 15th-century Italian scholar, Leon Battista Alberti. Alberti himself embodied this notion and was an author, artist, architect, poet, priest, linguist, philosopher, and cryptographer.
Today, people use the term “Renaissance Man” to describe someone who is good at several different things, but it goes much deeper than a “jack of all trades.”
Leonardo Da Vinci is considered by many to be the archetype of a Renaissance man. Besides being considered by many to be the greatest painter of all time, Da Vinci was an accomplished engineer and inventor centuries ahead of his peers.
More and more, the world is recognizing the importance of aspiring to be a true Renaissance Woman or Man because when you have an understanding in many areas, it brings a wider perspective that is priceless in business. Having multiple tools will makes a more versatile person, which essentially supercharges your problem-solving ability.
Steve Jobs is known for saying, “technology alone is not enough. It’s technology married with the liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the results that make our hearts sing.”
Modern-Day Renaissance People
While the world may never see another mind to rival that of Da Vinci, quite a few modern-day individuals do live up to his legacy. Here are five examples of modern-day Renaissance people, and their accomplishments serve in showing us what we are all capable of.
1) Brian May – The lead guitarist of the British band, “Queen”, is responsible for some of the best-known rock anthems in history. Before achieving global success as a musician, May had begun studying for a PhD in astrophysics. He eventually finished his PhD in 2007 and has co-authored a number of books on the subject. In addition to all this, May is also a devoted activist for animal welfare.
2) Dexter Holland – Another musician with a PhD is Dexter Holland. Holland is the lead singer of the punk-rock band “The Offspring.” The band, which is still active today, has sold over 40 million albums and is considered one of the best selling punk rock bands of all time. Throughout all this, Holland has found time to pursue a scientific career and received his PhD in molecular biology, focusing on HIV research, in 2017.
3) Oprah Winfrey – Oprah Winfrey overcame a troubled childhood to become one of the better-known television personalities in the world. In addition to her work on television, Winfrey is an accomplished actress, and she has founded a highly influential book club, a number of successful magazines, and her own television network. Winfrey is regarded by many as one of the most powerful women in the world.
4) Mae Jemison – Best known for being the first African-American woman in space, Jemison holds degrees from Stanford in chemical engineering, and African & African-American studies. She also has a doctorate in medicine and speaks four languages. Today Jemison is focusing her efforts on advancing the development of interstellar travel and encouraging children to study agricultural sciences.
5) Mayim Bialik – Mayim Bialik started her career as a child actress in the 80’s and stared in the show “Blossom” when she was just 15. She was also one of the stars of the hit show “The Big Bang Theory” playing the role of a neurobiologist. In reality, Bialik has a bachelor's degree in neuroscience, Hebrew and Jewish studies, and a PhD in neuroscience. In addition to this, she has written a number of books on parenting and adolescence.
Becoming a Renaissance Person: The Old Key to Modern Success
Being knowledgeable in a number of different areas can drastically improve your life. For example, studies have shown that a diverse academic background produces more productive scientists and inventors. This way of life can also benefit us in our day to day lives.
When continuously striving to learn new things, you will broaden your base skill set, allowing you to be more self-reliant and helpful to your family and community.
The Number One Attribute Of the Modern-Day Renaissance person
The central attribute of a Renaissance person, no matter where or when they live, is that they never stop learning. Be it obtaining a new skill such as household repairs or cooking a new dish, or studying the complete works of Shakespeare, the important thing is to continuously strive to learn new things.
A true modern-day Renaissance person will consistently challenge themselves. Staying in your “comfort zone” is not an option. A modern day Renaissance person must let their curiosity lead them. Only by living this way can we truly walk the path of greatness.
How to Take Advantage of Online Resources
The boom of the internet has turned knowledge into something accessible by almost everyone. OER (open educational resources) about anything we can dream of are just a google search away, free and open to anyone with an internet connection.
Though most of us do not have the time or ability to gain multiple academic degrees, luckily that is no longer a barrier to learning every day, thanks to the multiple resources on the web.
For example, we, at Knowsome, are using micro-learning approaches to help learners broaden their horizons. Our app can give you a well-rounded understanding of any chosen subject, whenever you have time, and even if you don’t have time at all. This allows you to advance your learning no matter where you are. Even a 2-minute wait before a doctor’s appointment can turn into a learning opportunity.
Once an individual realizes the endless learning opportunities available, and starts to take advantage of these opportunities, they are well on their way to becoming a modern-day Renaissance person!
Remember: You do not necessarily need to have an abnormally high IQ in order to be a Renaissance person. What you need is the drive to constantly learn new things and the willpower to always give your maximum effort.
Let us know in the comments what you have recently learned and what you are focusing your efforts on now.