Episode-2635- Developing as Polymath and Raising Polymath Children
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Michael Whisler grew up in the suburbs of Central Indiana. He discovered his passion for the outdoors at age 17, on his first backpacking trip in Colorado.
He then took his new passion to Indiana University, where he got his B.S. in Outdoor Recreation, Parks, and Human Ecology. As part of his studies, Whisler participated in the “Conservation and Outdoor Recreation Education Program” (C.O.R.E.) and was awarded Student of the Year in 2013, and hired back as an “Assistant Instructor” the following year. Whisler has held various other jobs during college, including:
- Outdoor Education and Gardening Program Leader” for the local Boys and Girls Club summer camp
- “Kid’s Wrangler” at Vista Verde Guest Ranch, in Northern Colorado
- “Assistant Trip Leader” leading kayaking and backpacking trips for Indiana University Outdoor Adventures (I.U.O.A.)
- Various restaurant and retail jobs.
After graduating in December of 2015, Whisler began working as the “Historic Orchard Management Intern” for 12 months at Capitol Reef National Park in South-Central Utah. During his free time, Michael volunteered with the Search and Rescue Team, fly-fished, backpacked, and tagged along on hunting trips.
He then moved back to Bloomington, Indiana and began working for Bread and Roses Nursery, an organic-certified nursery and edible landscaping company, where he lived for two years in an off-grid cabin. Working for Bread and Roses was Whisler’s “Permaculture apprenticeship”.
Michael has also subcontracted at various times for one of two companies: either Nifty Hoops, an Ann Arbor based Greenhouse Company or Streamworks, a San Antonio, TX based company that specializes in the installation of flash-flood monitoring and warning systems.
By his count, Michael has held 19 different jobs over the last 10 years, possibly more, each job change done with the intention of learning new skills, increasing income, or improving overall work-life balance.
In February of 2018, Whisler began EasyPeasy Garden Solutions, an edible landscaping company based in Indianapolis, Indiana. EasyPeasy installs and maintains raised bed vegetable gardens, berry patches, and various other landscaping elements. EasyPeasy’s mission is to facilitate positive human/nature connections by designing and creating spaces for the sacred acts of gardening and leisure.
Resources for today’s show…
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- Walking To Freedom
- Michael’s Web Site – Easy Peasy Gardens
- Michael on Facebook
- Michael on Instagram
- Shilo – Neil Diamond
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The bored thing is real, but it does get us into trouble, hardly ever did anything for money but everything made money on some level. I spent my life being angry that my parents never made me specialize, but after listening to this one maybe they tried. I know my grandmother was severely disappointed that I never became a famous painter, I painted signs instead but my signs were beautiful when I was inspired and challenged.
Lot’s of times I wish I could have followed through on things, some more than others. I kept a part of everything I’ve done but going back is painful, I need something new about every 3 to 6 months. Sometimes it might last a year or two depending on the schedule. Like graphic artist doing print ad’s for a twice monthly circular. Each publication would start slow and gently ramp up until the last five days when we would all be working 10 to 14 hour days then one 18 to 20 hour day at publication. Then bam a week to ten days off, to clear it all out, do my own thing, and enjoy my life. Yup you guessed it it was my favorite job, I would have stuck with that one more than the three years I spent, if they didn’t go to a more stable schedule.
I learned a lot from that job about print ad’s and desktop publishing, but mostly about myself. It spoiled me, I can’t find another job like that.
I tried to recreate it but success was short-lived, on two fronts, the boredom of getting the magazine out into the public and the obligation of taking care of family. Honestly I knew nothing about distribution, or ad sales. My sister was the salesman, she could sell anything, but she got a better offer. I had to let her go with that. That relationship was the fire in the business, she inspired me to work hard on the ad’s to make them the best they could be. I was good at it, but her inspiration made me flow. She propped me up as I was getting this thing started, I don’t know how far it would have gone without her. She wasn’t around for the next issue and though I got the magazine together I could never sell the ad’s to take it to print. I tried for months to get it out, to print the next issue, and to continue with the dream.
I finally let it go and got rid of the magazines I had left over and settled on taking care of my Dad and fell back on painting signs. Not full time but enough to give me spending money while I focused on him.
A little long winded, but I got it out, thank you for this episode, it is helpful to see I’m not weird. I was looking into another author along the same lines as this polymath thing you are talking about, Barbara Sher, she calls us “Scanners” and has a book called “Refuse to Choose” Where she tries to teach her readers how to do everything. I think you had another episode on this subject, and I mentioned Barbara Sher in the comments of that one too.
Okay I think I’m done.
For me “polymath” is basically an academic thing. I got into electronics as a teenager (first, as a hobby), and that is (or was) a great way to force yourself to learn a lot about a lot of different subjects and have to apply that knowledge. But I was studying widely way before that. It must have something to do with intellectual capacity combined with what other distractions a person decides to get involved with, particularly when they are young. It’s not for everyone, but seemed natural for me. I had big questions and I wanted big answers. The authors I read obviously knew a lot about a lot of things, so I tried to do that, too.
But it seems to me that any person who wants to be successful and take some responsibility for the future has to be widely knowledgeable. So I think more people would be “polymaths” if they had less barriers to doing it. I could study (read) pretty well, and that is something you absolutely need in order to study new subjects. Later in life I learned a study technology which made that even easier. Next, you need time to learn. I was a loner so I had that time. But even when I was working 60 hour weeks, I could find some time to study. Beyond that, you need a reason to do it. Mine wasn’t financial gain; I really wanted to understand my world better. But potential income could be a factor for some people.
Another aspect of my early study was to include practical work. I didn’t just study machines, I built machines. I didn’t just study art, I did art. I liked to learn by getting my hands dirty.
When I was facing the end of high school, my strategy was to learn a specialty skill so I could support myself. That’s what the electronics hobby was all about. But I had huge interests in the humanities and the arts. So after I started working, I studied those subjects on my time off.
I enjoy being knowledgeable and I think most people would prefer to be more knowledgeable. It improves your understanding of people and issues and situations, it helps you notice things that others miss, and I think it makes me more tolerant and “socially able.” But there are downsides. You can find yourself in an online or live conversation and realize the other person has no idea what you’re talking about. You can make an observation that makes sense to you, but another person can’t even see it. You can say something you think is funny, and the other person doesn’t get it. And of course you may fall into a conversation about something you know almost nothing about (pro sports?) and find yourself looking bored or clueless.
I skipped college, but I did go to community colleges. They are good places to learn skills, and when I was young they were very inexpensive. I didn’t put a lot of value in credentials, and that hurt my income potential perhaps, but that’s not what I was going for. I think a lot depends on what you really want and how much of your own choice is involved in what you decide to study.
Full disclosure: I am a Scientologist. I think anyone claiming to be a polymath owes it to himself or herself to study that subject. If you can say anything about it, you can say it is a subject created by a polymath for people who wanted to be polymaths. I highly recommend it as a study.
I don’t agree it is academic at all, as 90% of the skills are hands on and not really something you can translate to academia. But may be I am not fully getting your angle?
And full disclosure I consider scientiology is a fucking cult and you should run away now assuming you are not in far enough to have them destroy your life and family if you do, then run the fuck away anyway.