What does it mean to be a Renaissance Man? First, I say man because I am a man and this is a question I pose to myself with an answer I reply to myself in an open format. Again, what does it mean to be a Renaissance Man? To begin, I say it means to be a man which embodies the Renaissance. So I must first know what is the Renaissance. Then, how to embody it both in an abstract and specific manner. Finally, I must understand how to apply that embodiment to my own life.
What is the Renaissance? It was a time of great intellectual and societal growth. It is regarded as the beginning of the modern age. Amazing artistic, sportsmanship, scientific, and philosophical progression was exemplary of this time period. Many relate it to the golden age of Greece in this fashion. It is fair to say that Aristotle embodies the Renaissance in the same way Leonardo da Vinci does if not to a higher degree regardless of his fourth dimensional separation from the Renaissance.
Art, sport, science, and philosophy are the key components of the time. More exactly, the deep interest in the expansion of these fields in both breadth and depth. The first archaeologists were developed in this time. Human anatomy was revolutionized. The masses played sports. Beautiful works of art that are famously displayed in the Louvre and which are most often equated to masterpieces were created. One man even developed a code for the entire universe…. Ok, I did not read the books or watch the movies, but I am going to assume they were not historically accurate. So maybe da Vinci did not have some Satan worshipping code, but Platonic, stoic, skeptic, and other philosophies were revisited, studied, and expanded.
These four broad fields of study are necessary criteria for the embodiment of the Renaissance. They are inseparable from the period. I believe another trait that is imperative to exude is being world class. The icons of the era were involved in many if not all of these fields to one degree or another, and they were always world class in at least two traits while remaining commendable in others. Michaelangelo is known for painting the Sistine Chapel, sculpting David, writing poetry, designing St Peter’s Basilica, and more. He was a painter, sculptor, poet, architect, and engineer. He is world renowned centuries later for his accomplishments in three of those fields. He is arguably the greatest artist of all-time. If the criterion at hand was to be the world’s best in history in at least one skill, then the task may be too great of an undertaking for those of us not named Ronnie Coleman or Michael Jordan. Then again, Leonardo da Vinci is the most famous person from the era, and he is not regarded as number one in a specific field. This is why I believe achieving a world class rating in multiple skills is what paves the way to this accomplishment.
How do we define world class? We? I thought this was internal dialogue. Yes, it is. “di”-alogue as in two of us in here, Ryan. Not “Mon”-ologue as in you are the one derailing this blog. Now, world class is not synonymous with being world known or world renowned. Rebecca Black is world known for her original musical debut “Friday.” She is far from renowned. The only chess player I can name is Josh Waitzkin, but there have been many whom have beaten him, matched him, or surpassed him. So although he is world renowned, and one of the handful of famous members of the sport, he is not the only one who is world class.
To be world class is to be in the top five percent of performers in that field. Why five percent? Why five stars? Why top five? A 95% or greater score in class is not an A but an A+, about five percent of American high school athletes play at the NCAA level, and I am pretty sure I heard Tim Ferriss use this same measure on one of his podcasts. Mostly I am using this metric because top five percent feels right, is attainable yet very demanding, and it is often measurable. When I research the top five percent of any field I am consistently noting the spectacularity of what I observe.
To be in the top five percent of polyglots an individual must speak four languages. To be in the top five percent of male powerlifters an individual must squat over 565lbs, bench over 450lbs, and deadlift over 700lbs. Being a New York Times best selling author separates an author’s book from at least 99.999 percent of the books published in a given year. These traits make the possessor world class, they are impressive, they show high commitment and success, and they are easily measured. These traits alone would be enough breadth and depth to make a Renaissance Man. They are a few of the many accomplishments I will obtain.
I am determined to recognize myself as a Renaissance Man. I will be successful in many fields and world class in more than one. Ryan Austin McAdams: American Marine, physician, novelist, musician, inventor, poet, sportsman, professor, reformer, Super Mario World speed runner, philosopher, and lover. A true Renaissance Man.