The Qualities of a Renaissance Man

I’ve heard this phrase several times in my life. I never fully realized what it meant. Yet I think deep down I knew that this was a unique person who could move about in nearly any circle and be comfortable and successful. Now that I’m older, I want to discover more about such a man. After all, he is not that common in our society. He is there, but few take the time to become one.

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What is a Renaissance Man

So, what is a Renaissance Man? It is not a many from the 1600s, but it was those men who inspired the phrase. They were more than just men. They reached out to nearly every area of society and expanded their knowledge and experience. If they were scientists, they also dabbled in art. They could carry on conversations on nearly any topic. They were never at a loss for words because they knew enough for most things to ask the right questions or give information. Ignorance could never be a description of such a person.

Today, the person who is always learning and explores new avenues is a Renaissance Man or Woman. They push themselves to be exposed to new ideas and experiences. describes them as “cultured man of the Renaissance who was knowledgeable,educated, or proficient in a wide range of fields.”

Note: In this article I will refer to the person as Renaissance Man, but it can be a man or a woman. I will use the traditional term here, but in real life any of us can be one.


The Renaissance Man is an educated one. This does not mean he has multiple degrees though that will keep him in the running to be one. Most likely he does have at least one college degree, but his education goes beyond degrees on paper. His education is continuous and doesn’t have to be in a traditional classroom.

This education can come from reading, watching documentaries, going to museums or historical sites. He talks to experts and asks himself why and how while seeking the answers to those questions. Even if he is not fond of a specific area or topic, it will not stop him from looking deeper into it to achieve a level of proficiency in it.


This extends beyond education. Knowledge is able to apply what one has achieved via education. It is also being aware of things without knowing all the details. A Renaissance man knows about political events or cultural fads. Even if he doesn’t know a lot about a topic, he knows where to go to find it.


The Renaissance Man does more than just glance over a topic. He gets his hands dirty in it. When he reads an article on fly fishing, he will actually try fly fishing. He might not purchase the rod but rent it. The point is that he actually tries it a few times and can talk to others about fly fishing.

Proficiency comes from experiencing something multiple times and acquiring knowledge about how it works, the pros and cons, and if he enjoys it. He tries and tries again.


A Renaissance Man is defined by his exposure to culture. It is not the fact that he has to be crazy about the different areas within what we call culture, but he has to have been exposed to them and can converse on them.

What is culture? It includes a variety of things with these are as the most known: art, music, theater, books, entertainment. It also includes exposure to different cultures and foods. A cultured Renaissance Man can move in nearly any circle with proficiency.


Are there Renaissance Men in today’s world? Seems like a tall order for this day and age. Actually, there are. I went online and looked up today’s Renaissance Man. Here is who I found on that list of Rankers (and I’m including the Renaissance Woman here).

Story Musgrave

Ellen DeGeneres

Bill Gates

Mae Jemison

Neil deGrasse Tyson

Julie Andrews

Brian May


James Franco

Oprah Winfrey

Noam Chomsky

Angelina Jolie

Viggo Mortensen

Marilyn vos Savant

Clint Eastwood

Temple Grendin

Bruce Dickinson

Ellen Ochoa

Stephen Wolfram

Lucy Worsley

Steve Martin

Sheryl Sandberg

Jimmy Carter

Jane Fonda

Seth MacFarlane

Margrethe II of Denmark

It Can Be You

Yes, these are all famous people. Most of them you probably know of. Some you might have to look up. The all in common the fact that they are considered modern day Renaissance Men and Women. But you don’t have to be famous to be one. They just happen to have the media always watching them so their actions are displayed for us all. It can be you.

Who says you can’t be one? It just takes time. It took these people time and dedication. Pull out your adventurous spirit and get going.

Tips on Becoming a Renaissance Man

Take Opencourseware Classes — These are actual college courses that are presented online free for anyone who wants to take them. You don’t get college credit for them, but you get experience and knowledge. You can find these at MIT, Yale, and other universities.

Watch the News — Yes, it can be depressing and stressful most days, but what is on the news is usually the talk throughout society. Watch not just one news show but watch multiple. Get a conservative and a liberal view.

Read the Newspaper — Check out the local newspapers. Read the local events. Being a Renaissance Man doesn’t mean you only know the world news. Read local and national newspapers. Expand your knowledge and read beyond the front page. You’ll find fun articles and serious ones.

Learn a New Language — Too many Americans can only speak one language and even that not too well. Learning a new language allows you to interact with people around the world and aids you in any travels you may have. Some even find that they enjoy books and movies in other languages.

Read Books — I cannot express how important it is to read books. Between those pages, you can learn about new cultures, ancient societies, and human emotion. It doesn’t matter if it is fiction or non-fiction. Fiction reading exposes you to cultural movements. Non-fiction expands your knowledge and exposure to different sets of ideals.

Take a Pottery Class — Have you ever tried to make pottery? Try it. Experience it. You might not do it for more than a few months, but at least you are familiar with it and can appreciate pieces of pottery you find. Expand beyond this. Learn to scuba dive. Try something new and expand your experiences.

Travel — This is a great way to broaden your experiences. Traveling allows us to experience so much more than what is in our own little world. You can be exposed to new cultures, new foods, historical sites, and even meet great people. Your travel experiences are great conversation pieces with other people.

Visit Museums — These are great places to expand your cultural experiences. In fact, there are many different kinds of museums. There are the art museums we first think of. There are natural science museums where you can be exposed to animals and the world of science. There are even museums created from old homes which are dedicated to familys who have a place in history. There are historical museums to see how life was once lived.

Go Back to School — Have you always wished you had gotten a different degree? I originally got a business degree which helped me get good jobs and support my family. I loved history and literature. In my thirties, I went back to school and got a degree in them. In my forties, I got my masters in English. Why not go back to school? You don’t have to get a degree. You can audit classes and get the full benefits without the pressure of exams or papers unless you want to.

Watch Documentaries — I so enjoy this. With the Internet and specifically YouTube, you can watch so many documentaries on nearly any subject. There are short ones and long ones from experts in dozens of fields.

Try New Things — Have you tried sushi? Give it a try. Have you tried dinner theatre? Give something you’ve never done a try. Give it a few tries. Step outside your comfort zone.

Be Physical — Yes, even getting physical helps you in becoming a Renaissance Man/Woman. When you exercise or do something physical, you release the hormones that aid in your health, mental as well as physical. You will find that your memory improves as well as you ability to think clearly. All of this helps you become more cultured and knowledgeable.

Written by

Writer for ten years, lover of education, and degrees in business, history, and English. Striving to become a Renassiance woman.

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