Eclectic Learning – Absorbing knowledge like a sponge

Have you ever wondered why some people learn things faster than others? It has to do with your brain power and also the amount of body of knowledge one can use to relate to new concepts. Maybe you can’t control the amount of brain power you were born with, but you can definitely work on the amount of concepts you know. As you become an eclectic investor you should strive to acquire knowledge and wisdom from multiple sources. You should be like a learning sponge, constantly absorbing useful knowledge from many places.

The investment world always changes, and you need to be able to understand it. For example, how would you explain a company like Twitter. In order to do so you must be able to draw analogies from your current knowledge base. Let’s see, it is a messaging system that allows you to send messages that are up to 140 characters long, like the old text paging systems. But they can be broadcasted to multiple people at the same time, like e-mail to multiple recipients. How do they make money? Do they charge for this service like the old paging companies? Do they have advertising revenues like Google? The point is that the larger your pool of knowledge the easier it is to build analogies and the easier it is to learn new things.

When I started college I was studying computer science the idea that I was going to program computer games. I was somewhat put off by the amount of classes that didn’t have anything to do with programming. I had to take classes in Texas Government (I studied in U. Texas and it was compulsory), English composition, history and other liberal arts classes. I was able to take a class named “The History of Rock and Roll” as an elective though, it was a blast. Were all these classes valuable to me? At the time I didn’t think so, but know I am glad that I was exposed to so many different bodies of knowledge. It has helped me assimilate new things very quickly. I learned how to learn. I learned to not be afraid of learning new things, no matter the subject area. The ability to quickly learn has been a skill I’ve used throughout my entire career as a computer scientist, a business consultant, a small business owner, publisher, author and money manager.

Just recently, I stumbled across the word “polymath” while watching TV. It hadn’t heard this word since I took the SAT. I now realize that ever since college, I’ve been trying to become a polymath. Here’s the definition of polymath taken form Wikipedia:

A polymath (Greek: πολυμαθής, polymathēs, "having learned much"), is a person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas; such a person is known to draw on complex bodies of knowledge to solve specific problems.

I’d suggest you read the biography of one of my favorite polymaths, Benjamin Franklin. He was one of the founding fathers of the USA and the founder of my alma matter, The University of Pennsylvania. He was also a leading author, printer, business man, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, musician, inventor, satirist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat. You can learn a lot of about money management from him.

I strongly believe that being a polymath would help you become a better investor. Seek constantly to add to your body of knowledge. Absorb knowledge like a sponge. Be eclectic in your learning and in time you will convert that knowledge into wisdom.

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