On Being a Polymath

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Looking Back

I feel under-represented when I say I’m a designer—not because I’m not, but because it’s not an accurate description of what I do. My upbringing was shaped by a white MacBook with round edges and an internet connection. Like many, I acquired a plethora of digital skills and emulated from worldly people who did many interesting things. I have, as a result, turned myself into a Minotaur of sorts: head of a polymath, hands of designer, heart of a hacker, torso of a communicator.

When I start a new job, no one can define what I do. Two months in, I'm deep in the company story, making company pitch decks, re-designing the product, and hacking the website from scratch. The magic seems to happen at the margins. I'm a better communicator when I design the messaging, a better entrepreneur when I hack the product, a better hacker if I’m making the pitch deck. I'm no exception, my most talented friends are in a similar predicament.

Job titles make us one dimensional, but when we explore what we’re curious about and, as a result, acquire new skills and sensibilities, we end up becoming something akin of an indescribable Minotaur. When I level with people and, to paraphrase Judd Appatow, tell them I'm figuring it out and patching it up to make it look like I have a clue, that's when I get the most interesting responses. Turns out there's a polymath inside most of us.