Hey John P. Weiss, here’s my take based on my experience as a polymath: a Renaissance Man is a master of some. To get there, you are correct that dabbling won’t work and focusing will.
Leonardo Da Vinci became a polymath by focusing. In his biography by Walter Isaacson, you see different phases of his life. He didn’t dabble. When he moved on to another topic, he put all his focus in it.
In Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outlier, he mentions that to become an expert in a highly competitive field, it takes on average 10,000 hours. That’s 7 years of deliberate practice. Over the course of our lifetime, we have many blocks of 7 years. Therefore becoming a polymath is quite easy.
But as Christopher noted below, this is almost the opposite of what Range by David Epstein says. I combine both approaches:
- I dabble in 3 new skills every month to see what sticks
- If something sticks, I start spending more doing it.
This is exactly how I became known as a writer and photographer.
So for me, it’s not about doing everything or having a single focus. It’s about doing a few things AND focusing at the same time.