Are you a Universal Man, (or woman)? Life is full of clues that can point you toward the answer. Here are a few questions to think about that are generalized and presented with a little humor. Many people have a few of these traits. I believe a Universal Man has most, if not all of them.

1. Do you have many interests?

2. Do you have many talents?

3. Has having so many interests and talents made it difficult to achieve many of the stereotypical hallmarks of success?

4. Does the question “what do you do” make you squirm?

5. Do some people tend to view you as an underachiever?

6. Do most of the rest of the folks see you as an overachiever?

7. Do you have “issues” with people or activities that seem to waste time?

8. Do you suffer fools badly and have a real aversion to conflict? (See #7!)

9. Do you tend to be compassionate, understanding, and communicative…. when not dealing with #7 or 8?

10. Are you uncomfortable in some social situations? Are you sometimes lacking in skills to tactfully extract yourself from those situations?

11. Are you so comfortable in other social situations that you are sometimes unaware of when it is time to go?

12. Do people sometimes feel you are quiet, un-talkative and uninterested in them?

13. Do the rest of the people feel you are very talkative, energetic and interested in what they have to say?

14. Does the idea of being bored seem completely irresponsible to you?

15. Do many people see you as an “expert” in a particular area? Are there almost as many of these “areas” as there are people who think you are an expert. Is the truth more along the lines that although you are more capable than 90% of people at whatever you pursue, you suspect you will never be part of that top 10% and hence a true expert in any one area. This is because people who are the best at what they do, do what they do all the time and that is the opposite of the Universal Man.


I have been asked about the reference to ADD at the top of this blog.  This person wondered if it was written in jest, or if I really view the concept of the Universal Man as a burden in everyday life.  The answer is a little of both….  The reference is partially humor directed at myself and partially a nod to what I do indeed see as the difficulty of being born a Universal Man in the late 20th century.

The crux of the Universal Man is having an interest and curiosity about everything in existence.  This can create difficulty in the vast modern world we now live in.  The most successful people today usually specialize in one or two areas.  In earlier times, because the scope of the world was smaller, the Universal Man could be educated in many different areas of knowledge and evolve into what we refer to as a Renaissance Man.  As I pointed out in an earlier post, the Renaissance Man label is still applied to some contemporary individuals.  I believe this is done in error and that it is impossible for a true Renaissance Man to exist today.  The world of knowledge and ideas is now simply too vast to allow for the development of a modern day Renaissance Man.

I, and probably most others like myself, do not really have the classic characteristics of ADD.  In fact, I am actually able to concentrate quite intensely on the task at hand, seeing projects though to the end in a very efficient manner.  The difficulty arises when I finish one project and immediately feel compelled to move on to something completely unrelated.  I have an inborn need to do everything I do well, and an inborn trait of being interested in doing almost everything and anything.  This can be an impossible contradiction to resolve in the modern world.  I am fascinated by science, religion, politics, nature, business, teaching, writing, people, animals, plants, technology, simplicity, health, etc. etc. etc…..  I am also very competent at whatever my attention is focused on at the moment.   Unfortunately, I will never be an expert in any one of these areas because to do become so would require a narrow focus I am biologically incapable of.  This is the core difficulty of being a Universal Man today.

I have a feeling that all of this will cause this blog to be less focused on one area than many of the other blogs on the web.  Whether this will mean the content here will be of interest to more or fewer people, only time will tell.  Please feel free to add your thoughts and comments.  Writing is indeed rewarding for me, but two way interaction is also very important.


Universal Man is translated from the Latin “Homo universalis”. Historically, Universal Man is often thought to be analogous to the Renaissance Man label that has been applied to many well known figures of history. A few examples are: Aristotle, Da Vinci, and, more recently, the physicist Richard Feynman. I believe that although these people are thought of as Renaissance Men, they are most accurately described as Polymaths, and least accurately as Universal Men.

The term Renaissance Man originated as a description of individuals, mainly men, that helped humanity escape the dark ages by virtue of their open minds and dogged pursuit of new knowledge. Even though Polymath is often used interchangeably with Renaissance Man, I believe they differ in the follow way. A Polymath has vast knowledge in many areas and true expertise in one or a few. Although a Renaissance Man had great accomplishments and a knowledge and interest in many areas, they were not true experts in a specific area in the way a Polymath is. Additionally, neither Renaissance Man nor Polymath is synonymous with genius. Albert Einstein was a genius, but not a Polymath, or Renaissance Man, and most certainly not a Universal Man.

I believe Universal men are born with a biological or genetic interest and curiosity in perhaps every single subject imaginable. They are not Polymaths or Renaissance Men by default, but can be if blessed with sufficient intellect, education, and opportunity.

The renaissance ideal of “universal knowledge” led to the education of young men in a very lengthy and broad fashion. In fact, a true Renaissance Man was a student and teacher all of his life. This approach allowed a born Universal Man to develop into an educated Renaissance Man.

Today this development from being born a Universal Man and developing into a Renaissance Man has become pretty much impossible. The world now is simply too vast and complicated to allow the breadth of knowledge Renaissance men of the past possessed. Polymaths still exist today, particularly in academia, business and technology, and are critically important to society. Someone who is described as “a modern day Renaissance Man” usually falls into one of two categories. The first is the Polymath who also has many other interests. The second is the person who has accomplished highly in several different pursuits. However, I think the true Renaissance Man, who knew almost everything about almost anything, is now and forever only a figure of history.

This reality can lead to the notion that the modern day Universal Man is in a perpetual state of intellectual and accomplishment limbo. This view is, to a large extent, accurate but there are advantages also. I’ll talk about some of those in a future post. Next, I think I’ll try to list some humorous ways to decide if you are a Universal Man.


Welcome to the blog at The Universal Man web site. I choose the name of this blog and website somewhat out of the blue, but also because I have recently come to see myself defined by many of the characteristics burdening the modern day Universal Man. Also, historically they were men, but my definition of the Universal Man today can also be applied if you fit the description, but happen to have two X chromosomes!

Although the first several posts will focus on the concept of the Universal Man, generally the material here will encompass other areas. Rather than academic or journalistic in nature, most of the writing will be my opinions and experiences. When I put these forth, I do so with the best of intentions and a sincere desire to be reasonable, maybe even helpful. In discussing a specific subject, I will try to find links to other sites and people I view as more knowledgeable than myself. (This should be easy to do because I believe a Universal Man is very good at everything but a true expert at nothing!)

Entries here may be prolific at times, sporadic at other times. This is because I indeed fit the modern description of Universal Man and have too many interests and projects to effectively fit everything in! Anyone hear a plea for help here?

I do promise, however, to read and respond to comments and email.