So You Wanna be a Comprehensivist?

ComprehensivistLast time it was all about Specialists, and how that’s probably the best thing to do before one is under the age of 30.

The average person should choose a well-paid profession and specialize.

Now, let’s see how that compares to someone who’s a Comprehensivist.

We will examine some people who left an exceptional mark on mankind, by combining uncommon knowledge. Some of them also got rich.

What is a Comprehensivist?

Someone who’s great at several things, likely to make money in a way that’s inscrutable to the average person.

This happens by combining skills, one by one, over a long period of time.

Keep in mind that: Most people are mediocre at most things, great at one thing, good enough at many things. Few become great at many things.

It goes back to the matrix from my previous article.


The term Comprehensivist comes from Buckminster Fuller.

I sought to educate myself comprehensively regarding nature’s inventory of chemical elements, their weights, performance characteristics, relative abundances, geographical whereabouts, metallurgical interalloyabilities, chemical associabilities and disassociabilities.

I sought to comprehend the full gamut of production tool capabilities, energy resources, and all relevant geological, meteorological, demographic, and economic data, as well as to comprehend the logistics and vital statistics thus far methodically amassed by humanity as derived from its all-history experiences.

–Buckminster Fuller

Henry Ford, George Lucas and Aristotle were Comprehenvisists.

Musashi was a Hyperspecialist, who later learned tea ceremonies and Sumi-e.

A Comprehenvisist can:

  • Synthesize large amounts of information
  • Put a broad amount of knowledge into practice

There is no arguing that the specialist doctor is better paid (and preferred) to the generalist doctor. But the generalist doctor is not a comprehensivist. The doctor who runs the entire clinic is a comprehensivist.

Ancient rulers — like Filip of Macedon — were comprehensivists.

The people behind the East India Company were comprehensivists.

Was Kim Peek (The Rain Man) a comprehensivist?

No, he was not.

Because he couldn’t do any synthesis.

He couldn’t focus his knowledge towards a specific goal to solve problems. He could just ramble info, like a walking dictionary.

A man should have a multiple track mind for the accumulation of knowledge but a single track mind for the expression of that knowledge.

–Andrew Carnegie

Learn from multiple sources — create your own business.

Important Comprehensivists You Might Know About

In no particular order…

1: George Lucas

He came from nothing and became not only a great movie-guy, but also a businessman.

He combined his love for movies, new technology, and using the new business model of Franchising. It made him rich and powerful beyond belief.

His comprehensivist philosophy culminated in Star Wars, which is the most profitable movie project ever. Here’s a quote from Wikipedia:

Lucas was encouraged to renegotiate for a higher fee for writing and directing Star Wars than the $150,000 agreed. He declined to do so, instead negotiating for advantage in some of the as-yet-unspecified parts of his contract with Fox, in particular ownership of licensing and merchandising rights (for novelizations, T-shirts, toys, etc.) and contractual arrangements for sequels

George Lucas believed in his project and wouldn’t let the studio own it.

He took the risk and got the upside.

Did you know that the monetary success behind Star Wars is not in the films? It’s that the concept easily lent itself to merchandise. They created a ton of products. Clothes, music, design and art. . .

. . . Most of which were produced by other companies that licensed the Star Wars concept for a hefty price, putting a pretty penny in Lucas’s pocket.

Lucas started his own company, Lucasfilm, in 1971 when he was just 27 years old. It is now worth more than $4,7 billion.

What was the reason for George Lucas’s success?

The reason I was able to pull off this creative thing was because I was eclectic… and I brought it together into One Big Thing…… When I was younger, I had a collection of history books that I was addicted to, a whole series about famous people in history from Ancient Greece and Alexander the Great, up to the Civil War — the Monitor and the Merrimac. I think they were called “Landmark” books, and I collected a whole library of them. I used to love to read those books. It started me on a lifelong love of history.

–George Lucas

2: Napoleon.

He grew up a genius at math and geometry. Then he went into the military where there was a gap in strategy and he leaped into it.

The world would have been better if Napoleon had conquered Russia and Britain.

Then we would have had a better–fully functioning, effective–version of the European Union. And the United States would probably not have been the superpower. But who cares — let’s leave that idea in the alternative history pile.

Perhaps Talleyrand put it best:

“Napoleon accomplished a lot, but he failed to consider that his lieutenants and their children would rather relax with their money, power, and property, than join him and risk their life in the next war.”

Napoleon became too successful.

It was all due to inventing the Corps System, revolutionizing logistics, creating a new nobility, and using artillery better than anyone else. But what’s more important than any of that is that …

… Napoleon put all the best ideas of his time together into one neat package, which could be used to transform a country from barbarism into the burgeoning age of Enlightenment….

  1. Introducing the meter-system,
  2. using the opposite street system,
  3. simplifying the judicial system,
  4. building canals,
  5. removing the guild system,
  6. and removing religious practices.

Napoleon had a great idea and he pushed it.

Or rather: He knew what to eliminate.

If he hadn’t, we would’ve had more stupid ideas in the Western World.

Napoleon simplified the Enlightenment, but it took several wars.

The United States have tried to do the same, but failed.

3: Voltaire

Voltaire was pseudonym. His real name was François-Marie Arouet.

He wrote great things with his pen.

Voltaire is known as the foremost propagator of the Enlightenment .

Framing freedom of thought, freedom of the press, and Atheism.

Voltaire had the ideas, put them into words, wrote letters, and sent them to Frederic the Great.

Frederic the Great then implemented the ideas and became powerful.

It’s like a triple-punch: Voltaire, Frederic, and Napoleon.

It only took 50 years!

  • Voltaire has the idea,
  • Frederic implements it,
  • Napoleon copies it later, better.

Even later, some of the best of those ideas–like the Montesqiue separation–traveled across the ocean and got embedded into the United States Constitution, by the Founding Fathers.

The Founding Fathers, like Napoleon, combined the best ideas.

In my opinion, there will be a New America within my lifetime, and it will have its own constitution, but I’ll leave that for another day.

4: Frederic the Great

Frederic built the first and most sophisticated state bureaucracy. Back in the days when that was a good thing.

It worked so well that Prussia became the most powerful country in Europe.

It helped that Frederic was a genius warlord.

Who kept track of the menstruation of every woman inside his empire.

Before Frederic, no country had a complete filing system.

Frederic created the School System. It was a great invention at the time, but it’s not so good now.

As with Napoleon, it’s extremely unusual to have someone who is at a genius level at the two most important things during a historical period. For them, it was War and Administration. Frederic invented most of it by himself, with some help from Voltaire, then Napoleon copied him and did it better. The school system of today is largely based on Napoleon’s idea of what a school should be. That hasn’t much in the last 190 years. Only in the last 10 years has it changed, somewhat. I predict it will change a lot more in the coming years.

5: Francis Bacon

He came up with what is now known as the scientific method.

Something the world is now based on–from ideation to production.

He didn’t do it alone, nor did he live to see it grow to its current extent.

But make no mistake, Francis Bacon belongs in the top 10-20 of anyone’s list of who’s who.

By the way, Francis Bacon was also a leading “Alchemist” at the time when that was a big thing. Before the scientific system existed, when the smartest and most engaged people of the world, worked on organizing these difficult and chaotic things (physical laws) from nature into an organized system. It’s not a far-fetched guess to assume that Isaac Newton took a page from Bacon’s book.

But when it comes to Science, if Bacon woke up from his grave, I don’t think he would be happy to see how doctrinal much of the scientific system has become.

Take note:

There is a scientific method, but that doesn’t mean everything that’s scientifically proven is true.

Can you understand the difference? It just means you can prove something with a degree of certainty.

Many people in the past 100 years have taken science as a religion.

Science is not a religion, and should be kept separate.

6: Otto von Bismarck

He was the ultimate opportunist with a sixth sense of timing.

If there had been a global stock market in his time, he would’ve been the guy who bought at the bottom and sold at the top.

He was a Junker, and had strong ties to other aristocrats.

Bismarck’s great achievements were at least twofold: (1) To unite Germany and (2) to create the Pension System.

The pension system was one of the best inventions of the 20th-century.

However, the best ideas are almost always taken too far, and the Pension System will need a revamp in our lifetime.

Bismarck did more than the entire European Union.

…so far.

What is now needed is a new version of the Bismarck Pension System. Adjusted to inflation.

7: George Bernard Shaw

Shaw is the best rags-to-riches success story you can find.

Maybe not rags-to-riches, but jumping into a completely new field without experience, being willing to lose everything you got, hoping you will make it out on top, and having no guarantees.

He was maybe 30, with an education (a big thing those days), and he left it all to become a writer, failing for five years straight.

Somehow he got in his stride and started writing best-selling plays and books, all the time, consistently.

Failing for more than 5 years straight, in a weird area, when no one paid attention….. Could you do that?

That–if anything–is the secret of success.

Most famous writers start writing earlier. And most of them gain their first acclaim earlier. Shaw might have been a horrible writer, who just kept at it.

Practicing, practicing, practicing, until he became great.

But I don’t think so.

I think he was a smart guy from the beginning, who struggled to put his thoughts into words (and it was harder at that time than it is now) and I think that he had an unusually broad set of experiences to draw on.

For anyone who wants to become a writer, I would suggest you read everything you can about George Bernard Shaw and Somerset Maugham. They were the undisputed kings of their day.

8: Alexander Hamilton

ComprehensivistHe created the backbone of the United States Federal System.

That includes the FED – the Federal Reserve – the world’s most powerful financial institution.

When Hamilton created the U.S Banking System, it was not only a necessity, it was perhaps the most genius invention ever. And he didn’t even get paid for it. He died poor, leaving his children in a nuisance. Talleyrand felt sorry for such a hard-working man, not being paid a commensurate sum whilst looking out for his people.

It’s the opposite of today, where many politicians choose politics only as a career, without caring for their people…. prostituting their roles as representative electives. That’s what’s wrong with Democracy.

Hamilton built the heart of a country and did not get rewarded.

He came from nothing, made something out of himself, had an enormous impact, never claimed credit, helped everyone around him, and died in vain.

9: Lee Kuan Yew

ComprehensivistLee Kuan Yew, Hong Sui Sen, Goh Keng Swee, the Singapore team — these guys were UNSTOPPABLE.

They won a political battle, a civil war, and BUILT A COUNTRY.

Best bunch since the U.S Constitution.

All politicians need to copy this:

Singapore was the best country in the world for 20 years, going by GDP. Until South Korea and Poland overtook its place.

Going from nowhere into something–which is what Singapore did–is worthy of note.

There are many countries equal in size of Singapore that haven’t done a thing for decades.

10: Norman Borlaug

Borlaug combined genetics, plant breeding, plant diseases and agronomic practices to feed over 1 billion people.

How about that?

Borlaug did more than all of the environmentalist activists–put together.

If he were alive, he would be one of the most important people in the world.

Unfortunately, not too many people know about Norman Borlaug, and that is a pity.


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Could you replicate Norman Borlaugs’s skills?

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As for the rest, I leave you with this quote from the website Achievement.Org:

Interviewer: What advice would you give to young people just starting out in their careers?

Norman Borlaug: Study broadly. Don’t specialize too early. Read history. Sooner or later, you’re going to have to specialize, but within the limits that you have to take obligatory courses to get a degree, keep your general education as broad as you can, because you never know what doors are going to open to new opportunities — ten, 15, 20 years down the road — because of changes in science and technology.

Interviewer:  What do you think will be the big challenges for the world in the next quarter century?

Norman Borlaug: We’ve got to do something about energy, because the way it’s going now, energy and food.

Energy and food.

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