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Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World PDF, ePub eBook What's the most effective path to success in any domain? It's not what you think. Plenty of experts argue that anyone who wants to develop a skill, play an instrument, or lead their field should start early, focus intensely, and rack up as many hours of deliberate practice as possible. If you dabble or delay, you'll never catch up to the people who got a head start. But a What's the most effective path to success in any domain? It's not what you think. Plenty of experts argue that anyone who wants to develop a skill, play an instrument, or lead their field should start early, focus intensely, and rack up as many hours of deliberate practice as possible. If you dabble or delay, you'll never catch up to the people who got a head start. But a closer look at research on the world's top performers, from professional athletes to Nobel laureates, shows that early specialization is the exception, not the rule. David Epstein examined the world's most successful athletes, artists, musicians, inventors, forecasters and scientists. He discovered that in most fields--especially those that are complex and unpredictable--generalists, not specialists, are primed to excel. Generalists often find their path late, and they juggle many interests rather than focusing on one. They're also more creative, more agile, and able to make connections their more specialized peers can't see. Provocative, rigorous, and engrossing, Range makes a compelling case for actively cultivating inefficiency. Failing a test is the best way to learn. Frequent quitters end up with the most fulfilling careers. The most impactful inventors cross domains rather than deepening their knowledge in a single area. As experts silo themselves further while computers master more of the skills once reserved for highly focused humans, people who think broadly and embrace diverse experiences and perspectives will increasingly thrive.

30 review for Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World

  1. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    Disclosure: I won this pre-release copy in a drawing from the publisher. The book wasn't badly written, but for me it was something of a slog. I've enjoyed similar books in this genre more, the sort of pop-psychology-self-help mashup including books like "Willpower" (Baumeister/Tierney), "The Upside of Down" (McArdle), "The Power of Habit" (Duhigg), among others. There was nothing distracting in the style of "Range" that failed to work for me. But the presentation often left me wanting more, argu Disclosure: I won this pre-release copy in a drawing from the publisher. The book wasn't badly written, but for me it was something of a slog. I've enjoyed similar books in this genre more, the sort of pop-psychology-self-help mashup including books like "Willpower" (Baumeister/Tierney), "The Upside of Down" (McArdle), "The Power of Habit" (Duhigg), among others. There was nothing distracting in the style of "Range" that failed to work for me. But the presentation often left me wanting more, arguing in my head against the point the author was making. It often felt like being led down a garden path, and asked to ignore things on the edge of the trail as meaningless distractions. Part of the challenge confronting the author was in tackling a deconstructed subject. In the opening chapter, Tiger Woods and Roger Federer are presented as juxtapositions in how to become the best in their respective sports. Woods is raised on golf obsessively from an early age, while Federer is allowed to explore all sports, until he settles on tennis much later. Woods exemplifies the narrow specialist, while Federer stands in for the generalist. As a reader, I kept complaining that they were both raised on sports generally, and that both were clearly encouraged to develop talents by sports-obsessive homes. And the reading went on in this spirit throughout, with quite impressive, accomplished individuals described in broad outlines, predominantly having achieved success as apparent outsiders rather than very, very narrow specialists who had rarely been permitted to pursue interests beyond the narrow confines. This often felt like an anecdote held up as a contrast to a caricature. The supporting research mentioned frequently felt more vague than persuasive. And as a result, for me the book was mostly frustrating. It was not all a loss, however, as the author certainly shows significant benefit of applying far-flung knowledge to unanticipated problems. He clearly demonstrates the tendency of narrow specialists in our increasingly specialized society to become blinkered by their own learning to the point that they can no longer step outside their fields for a fresh view from a different perspective. He also shows how institutions like NASA can succumb to a narrow-minded, specialist group-think. I can't say that I regret pushing myself to read all the way through. But I felt I didn't get any particular insights from it, much less suggestions for how to get greater range, or how to make better use of my own more generalist background. Yet it may well benefit readers who've come to believe that specialization is all there is or should be in life.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Michael Perkins

    The story of the new U.S. Open golf winner illustrates part of the thesis of this book. A range of experience is sometimes better than over-specialization. In the book, Roger Federer is another example. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/17/sp... ======================= This passage describes a key finding that is central to the book.... James Flynn, is a professor of political studies in New Zealand Flynn’s great disappointment is the degree to which society, and particularly higher education, has resp The story of the new U.S. Open golf winner illustrates part of the thesis of this book. A range of experience is sometimes better than over-specialization. In the book, Roger Federer is another example. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/17/sp... ======================= This passage describes a key finding that is central to the book.... James Flynn, is a professor of political studies in New Zealand Flynn’s great disappointment is the degree to which society, and particularly higher education, has responded to the broadening of the mind by pushing specialization, rather than focusing early training on conceptual, transferable knowledge. Flynn conducted a study in which he compared the grade point averages of seniors at one of America’s top state universities, from neuroscience to English majors, to their performance on a test of critical thinking. The test gauged students’ ability to apply fundamental abstract concepts from economics, social and physical sciences, and logic to common, real-world scenarios. Flynn was bemused to find that the correlation between the test of broad conceptual thinking and GPA was about zero. In Flynn’s words, “the traits that earn good grades at [the university] do not include critical ability of any broad significance.” “Even the best universities aren’t developing critical intelligence,” he said. “They aren’t giving students the tools to analyze the modern world, except in their area of specialization. Their education is too narrow.” As a patient, I see this in medicine. My father practiced medicine for 40 years. He used to say that medicine was as much an art as a science. The art is gone. No doctor I've encountered knows how to take a good patient history. Many times, as a result of my own research, I've asked my doctors "what about X?" "Oh, good idea!" Shouldn't they have the ability and knowledge to bring these issues up themselves? But this is true in many fields. I have a friend who has been teaching a Western Civ course (among others) for many years now. He tries to make it entertaining to keep the attention of the students. They learn factoids about Socrates and Napoleon (that are likely to be quickly forgotten after the final exam), but not how to think. Meanwhile, the longer he has been at this the more he has lost his own critical thinking capacity and been cut off from the real world. --------- in late 2014, a team of German scientists published a study showing that members of their national team, which had just won the World Cup, were typically late specializers who didn’t play more organized soccer than amateur-league players until age twenty-two or later. They spent more of their childhood and adolescence playing non-organized soccer and other sports. It's not about the mythical 10,000 hours. The reason that elite athletes seem to have superhuman reflexes is that they recognize patterns of ball or body movements that tell them what’s coming before it happens. As the greatest hockey player in history, Wayne Gretzky, said: “I skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been.” Same is true of Steph Curry, who views the basketball court as a rapidly moving chessboard. He sees several moves ahead. ---------- When we know the rules and answers, and they don’t change over time—chess, golf, playing classical music—an argument can be made for savant-like hyperspecialized practice from day one. But those are poor models of most things humans want to learn. Meanwhile, advances in artificial intelligence have already shown that rules-based human jobs will be the first to go the more A.I. is implemented. This reality was made shockingly obvious when a computer defeated the world champion Gary Kasparov in chess. Add poker to that list.... https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/11/sc... ---------- RE: parents, psychologist Adam Grant noted that creativity may be difficult to nurture, but it is easy to thwart. He pointed to a study that found an average of six household rules for typical children, compared to one in households with extremely creative children. Darwin's father was a doctor who wanted his son to become a doctor. Darwin lasted only half a semester in med school. He turned to the church. He was a Bible literalist at the time, and figured he would become a clergyman. He bounced around classes, including a botany course with a professor who subsequently recommended him for an unpaid position aboard the HMS Beagle. After convincing his father that he would not become a deadbeat if he took this one detour, he experienced perhaps the most impactful post-college gap year in history. Decades later, Darwin reflected on the process of self-discovery. “It seems ludicrous that I once intended to be a clergyman,” he wrote. ---------- A recent international Gallup survey of more than two hundred thousand workers in 150 countries reported that 85 percent were either “not engaged” with their work or “actively disengaged.” In that condition, according to Seth Godin, quitting takes a lot more guts than continuing to be carried along like debris on an ocean wave. The trouble, Godin noted, is that humans are bedeviled by the “sunk cost fallacy.” Having invested time or money in something, we are loath to leave it, because that would mean we had wasted our time or money, even though it is already gone. ---------- There is “perverse inverse relationship” between fame and accuracy. The more likely an expert was to have his or her predictions featured on op-ed pages and television, the more likely they were always wrong. Paul Ehrlich's "Population Bomb" is an infamous example. He appeared on Johnny Carson's "Tonight Show" (20x), gave congressional testimony, and his theory was heavily sold in a cover article in The New Republic. The end result of this crisis, Ehrlich asserted, would be global nuclear war. ---------- The hedgehogs, according to political scientist Philip Tetlock, “toil devotedly” within one tradition of their specialty, “and reach for formulaic solutions to ill-defined problems.” Outcomes did not matter; they were proven right by both successes and failures, and burrowed further into their ideas. It made them outstanding at predicting the past, but dart-throwing chimps at predicting the future. --------- the opposite of flexible intelligence is cognitive entrenchment..... Researchers in Canada and the United States began a 2017 study by asking a politically diverse and well-educated group of adults to read arguments confirming their beliefs about controversial issues. When participants were then given a chance to get paid if they read contrary arguments, two-thirds decided they would rather not even look at the counterarguments, never mind seriously entertain them. --------- I liked the first 10 chapters of this book. In chapters 11 & 12 the author turns it into a business book with some extremely tedious cases studies that they do in MBA programs. It reminded why I don't like and never read business books. So this a caveat for this book that removes one star from the rating.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    “Compare yourself to yourself yesterday, not to younger people who aren’t you.” An incredibly slow read for me but I enjoyed it a lot and felt like I was on information overload after finishing each chapter. Who knew that so many case studies and anecdotes could support having breadth vs. depth of knowledge? The author of course nods to the fact that it’s important to have both kinds of people (generalists and specialists), but his argument is against the prevalent thinking that we should pick an “Compare yourself to yourself yesterday, not to younger people who aren’t you.” An incredibly slow read for me but I enjoyed it a lot and felt like I was on information overload after finishing each chapter. Who knew that so many case studies and anecdotes could support having breadth vs. depth of knowledge? The author of course nods to the fact that it’s important to have both kinds of people (generalists and specialists), but his argument is against the prevalent thinking that we should pick an area of focus from a young age and keep at it. Some of the sections that spoke most to me involved communication across teams and disciplines. I honestly felt that I grew the most as a professional when working with and learning from colleagues who did very different things than me during their day-to-day; these relationships were especially rewarding when we could collaborate toward fixing a common problem. Epstein covers this a few different times, from a task as general as comparing your project against others within the company to get an understanding of how long it might take (and whether it will be worth it in the end), to the tradition of Monday Notes at NASA (notes submitted by engineers which were circulated so all divisions could see what problems others were facing). One of my favorite conclusions from Epstein was that teams need elements of both hierarchy and individualism to survive. Often, too much process focused on pandering to upper management leads to lower quality feedback from “lower ranking” employees (or in so many words, an erosion of trust). He calls this concept an “Allegiance to Hierarchy” and showcases how detrimental it can be, particularly through the examples of the Challenger disaster and the 2008 global financial crisis. As someone who enjoys working across teams, learning new things, and sees contextual information critical to doing my job, I appreciated Epstein’s argument that it’s important to have people who look across teams/projects to identify systemic issues. This is something I truly feel companies don’t value enough, and even though I’ve advocated for it myself, it’s not something I’ve often been encouraged to do. This is one of the few books I would actually recommend that everyone read! That being said, I can’t quite give it 5 stars because it really is a challenge to push through some of the research (I think the best approach is trying to read just one chapter per day so you have time to think about it.) Maybe it’s more of a 4.5 star read :) See more of my reviews: Blog // Instagram

  4. 5 out of 5

    Katy

    I received my copy free through Goodreads Giveaways

  5. 4 out of 5

    Lou

    Some non-fiction can be boring and even useless, but this is a work of non-fiction that everyone should read; I certainly got a lot out of it and feel many others will too. Offering a wide-ranging wealth of information and research Epstein shares data, as well as his opinion, on how to become and stay successful in a constantly evolving world. What surprised me a lot was how compulsively readable it was and despite being a work of non-fiction Epstein can sure engage you in an almost mesmerising Some non-fiction can be boring and even useless, but this is a work of non-fiction that everyone should read; I certainly got a lot out of it and feel many others will too. Offering a wide-ranging wealth of information and research Epstein shares data, as well as his opinion, on how to become and stay successful in a constantly evolving world. What surprised me a lot was how compulsively readable it was and despite being a work of non-fiction Epstein can sure engage you in an almost mesmerising way with his narrative. For many years we have been told that specialisation in a certain area, whilst foregoing most or all others, is the key to success — theories such as the 10,000 hours rule prevail for now, but this book goes some way to rebutting and changing that view. Citing the latest research and referencing famous figures the author pens a thought-provoking and essential read for our times. It's an intensely engaging and fascinating book packed with accessible tidbits of knowledge and Epstein explains things in an understandable and eminently readable fashion. Range is a book I will remember for it's helpful, novel ideas and its important message that all is not lost should you not have spent those hours plugging away in a specialised field. Highly recommended. Many thanks to Macmillan for an ARC.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Peter Mcloughlin

    Covers the idea of having a wide range of knowledge outside one's specialty helps people succeed. Often new ideas come from thinking analogically about things unrelated to what one is looking at. Has lots of case studies that make the argument that having a wide range of experiences can help with one's endeavors.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Mehrsa

    This book is a useful mythbuster--grit, 10,000 hours, deliberate practice, tiger moms--this book says forget all of that (*sort of). Try lots of things, read broadly, and fail lots of times. I agree with this formula for success. Specialization is boring. *I think there is something to being obsessive once you are in the right track. Once you figure out the project or sport, you need to focus. This doesn't go against the thesis of the book, but he wasn't explicit about it

  8. 5 out of 5

    Randall Wallace

    I’ve staked my entire adult life on following the generalist’s path instead of the specialist’s, so I hoped this book would answer my basic questions: What about the role Neuroplasticity plays with keeping the following people analytically extra-sharp: The Polymath, the Multi-Instrumentalist, and those like Noam Chomsky, composer Elliot Carter, Aristotle, Leonard da Vinci, or Bertrand Russell all deeply learned in multiple fields (range), yet known for changing how we understand, hear, or see th I’ve staked my entire adult life on following the generalist’s path instead of the specialist’s, so I hoped this book would answer my basic questions: What about the role Neuroplasticity plays with keeping the following people analytically extra-sharp: The Polymath, the Multi-Instrumentalist, and those like Noam Chomsky, composer Elliot Carter, Aristotle, Leonard da Vinci, or Bertrand Russell all deeply learned in multiple fields (range), yet known for changing how we understand, hear, or see things? Zero on Neuroplasticity. Ok, then what will David say about how generalists best can pull deep multi-disciplinary analogies through their multiple points of reference? Meh, nothing of note. How about this: Generalists can see the big picture. They can see the forest for the trees. They can tell us deeper stories of our times. They are more apt to see macro. Society is further atomized by specialists, while further integrated by the generalist. How do you make systemic change to avoid extinction without generalists? How do local areas survive economic collapse without generalists? How do you prioritize at the highest level of society without generalists? I’m just making stuff up fast that I wanted to hear but this book had none of it, so what did this book teach me? Some cool facts like: When you think your favorite Van Gogh’s paintings, you are thinking of only the last three years of his life. Wow. At his death, Michelangelo “left three-fifths of his sculptures unfinished”. Edison had over 1,000 patents, most were unimportant. “Sandwiched between King Lear and Macbeth, Shakespeare quilled Timon of Athens.” Jackson Pollack “was literally one of the least talented draftsmen at the Art Student’s League”. That led him to writing his own rules. Lots of stumped creative teams benefit from bring in outside knowledge like InnoCentive (google them). Iowa, not traditionally known as the hot bed of American music and culture, once had more than 1,000 opera houses! MRI scans of jazz musicians show that during improvising, their internal criticism was suspended, unlike during practice, when they identified errors and corrected them. “There is no entrenched interest fighting on the side of range.” – Well, that is because elites don’t want oppressed masses with “range” out-lobbying corporate lobbyists by sheer endless volume (as Ralph Nader discusses in depth with Chris Hedges on In Contact – RT). If you have true range, you are more likely to want to oppose corporate power, capitalism, militarism, and all undeserved power, because your outlook becomes bigger. Luckily for elites, even though everything from ancient pre-history to today is all at your fingertips, the average American can’t find Europe on a map of the world - there’s today’s range. A lot of this book is telling the reader that, when involving techniques of problem solving, there is no one answer, nor is there one place to look for answers. David uses “quitters never win” as an example. Many top minds quit what they were doing and changed jobs to finally succeed, and so for them, quitting made all the difference. With this mindset, you fail when you don’t have the courage to leave a dead-end situation. In other words, there are strong advantages if you don’t consider your path fixed. Although, some say Einstein was “destined for fame” as a Swiss patent clerk, others say he made a good call in switching. Premature optimization means, specializing in a field before you know yourself well-enough. For many Americans, their jobs didn’t exist when they were kids and so to reach them they took many paths. As David says, those many paths travelled gave us range. In conclusion, this book has no stories of activists with range, nor stories of progressive or radical change makers who affected great change by linking many disciplines: MLK linking racism, capitalism, and militarism, Noam Chomsky linking language, power structure analysis, foreign affairs, journalism, economics, and all social and economic and social justice initiatives, Cornel West and Chris Hedges linking Theology to Social Justice, Radical Prophets and Philosophy. David never even mentions Intersectionality once. So, if you are reading this book to learn how humans are right now solving the climate crisis, fending off extinction, or any kind of activism through the range of of generalists, sorry, you are out of luck. Instead, this book is about how generalists help innovation, capitalism, and even the military. In one of David’s stories, a U.S. military team is requested to gain a speed advantage over “the enemy” in Afghanistan. Not “the opponent” but “the enemy”. Let’s invade a sovereign nation and give it the longest war in American history and after refusing to leave, let’s label anyone actively resisting our invasion and never leaving as “the enemy”. One reviewer called this groundbreaking and other called it breathtaking - what nonsense – the subject of this book is so important and yet I see it as a massive opportunity squandered. Range is needed in hundreds of ways to save the planet, why not mention it once in your book? This is a great defanged book for US elites to exploit – by employing generalists, both the military and multi-nationals can better pry open business opportunities in countries that can’t defend themselves. Each chapter starts with an easy story and there’s some People Magazine worthy quotes inside about tennis players, musicians, chess players, Darwin, Girl Scouts, and the Challenger disaster to keep the average reader quite content. If I wasn’t so busy hugging my American Flag made in China, I be saluting this brave book which, after giving minor nods to art, sports and culture, will keep any conservative or centrist reader on the straight and narrow of focusing on business and military applications (where the money to pay generalists is), without any embarrassing talk about applications for social or economic justice.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Josh

    One of my favorite quotes by Albert Einstein is, “In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.” Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein is about the latter half of that quote. Range introduces the concept of wicked domains (or as I like to them, reality) where you are faced with imperfect information and erratic feedback yet must somehow still devine a solution, preferably a successful one. Furthermore, learning occurs mostly One of my favorite quotes by Albert Einstein is, “In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.” Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein is about the latter half of that quote. Range introduces the concept of wicked domains (or as I like to them, reality) where you are faced with imperfect information and erratic feedback yet must somehow still devine a solution, preferably a successful one. Furthermore, learning occurs mostly through a coherent yet completely inaccurate summary of events, the narrative fallacy. So how can we better ourselves? How do we solve the most pressing issues of our time when there is no evidence that our solutions are working? Range doesn’t provide any easy answers but suggests the solution is, at its heart, to follow evolution. Take opportunities to expose yourself to new thoughts and ideas to supplement deep and purposeful learning in a narrow course of study. Range is a thoughtful and well-researched book with examples spanning from athletics to academia to business to government. Range is further proof that sometimes the best ideas come from outside the box.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Bjoern Rochel

    A good read in the style of "Team of Teams" or "Barking up the wrong tree". Debunks the general applicability of the 10000h rule and deliberate practice for knowledge work (e.g. the wicked world) and shows with a lot of case studies that often top performers are the result of a larger broad experimentation phase, followed by late specialization. I pretty much enjoyed all of them from Roger Federer, Vincent Van Gogh, Gunpei Yokoi (the Gameboy inventor), Johannes Kepler (the father of modern astro A good read in the style of "Team of Teams" or "Barking up the wrong tree". Debunks the general applicability of the 10000h rule and deliberate practice for knowledge work (e.g. the wicked world) and shows with a lot of case studies that often top performers are the result of a larger broad experimentation phase, followed by late specialization. I pretty much enjoyed all of them from Roger Federer, Vincent Van Gogh, Gunpei Yokoi (the Gameboy inventor), Johannes Kepler (the father of modern astronomy), Frances Hesselbein (a CEO by accident who took over the Peter F. Drucker foundation) and others. Also follows Kahneman/Tversky (Thinking fast and slow) and Chip Heath (Decisive) regarding the quality of expert forecasts and predictions. One star less because the last third felt a bit low on insights to me (mostly because I've already knew them from other books). So take the 4 stars with a grain of salt. It's a great book :)

  11. 4 out of 5

    Anmiryam

    Everyone--butcher, baker, candlestick maker; teacher, student, scientist, business analyst; parent, job hunter, retiree--will get something motivating and useful from this book. No matter where you are in life, you will see the world a bit differently after you read this energetic and energizing look at how we solve problems, how we learn and how we succeed, regardless of what field we are working in. Seriously, I haven't stopped recommending this since I finished it several weeks ago. I don't t Everyone--butcher, baker, candlestick maker; teacher, student, scientist, business analyst; parent, job hunter, retiree--will get something motivating and useful from this book. No matter where you are in life, you will see the world a bit differently after you read this energetic and energizing look at how we solve problems, how we learn and how we succeed, regardless of what field we are working in. Seriously, I haven't stopped recommending this since I finished it several weeks ago. I don't think I will stop recommending it for years.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Amine

    A very refreshing book on the limits of hyperspecialization.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Mike Arvela

    Loved this, with its numerous examples of how people have risen to shine in ways conventionally not considered possible. My only worry is that the reason I like it so much is because it validates what I already thought about how learning never is for nothing. In any case, recommend it already just for how it challenges many of our beliefs and intuitions.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

    After encountering the 10000 hours theory (Gladwell), the grit theory (Duckworth), and the Tiger Mom theory (Chua), it seemed obvious to many that we should specialize as much as possible and as early as possible. Because Tiger Woods was unusually athletic as an infant and his father had him golfing as a toddler, parents who didn't have their children excelling at, say, playing the obo by kindergarten were failures. And don't even get me started on those parents who failed to to raise chess gran After encountering the 10000 hours theory (Gladwell), the grit theory (Duckworth), and the Tiger Mom theory (Chua), it seemed obvious to many that we should specialize as much as possible and as early as possible. Because Tiger Woods was unusually athletic as an infant and his father had him golfing as a toddler, parents who didn't have their children excelling at, say, playing the obo by kindergarten were failures. And don't even get me started on those parents who failed to to raise chess grandmasters by college. Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World argues against a knee jerk enthusiasm for specialization, it highlights the accomplishments of generalists, and it attempts to sort out why generalists are sometimes able to produce insights that elude specialists. Although I enjoy teasing Gladwell, Duckworth, and Chua, Epstein's book suggests that each of these theories, alone, is too narrow. Taken together, however, they rise. In speaking against each other they offer readers nuance and they further remind us of the dangers of generalizing from a small sample size (how replicable is Tiger Woods' career, really?). The best response to Range is that it admirably nudges us all to have a bit more enthusiasm for generalists. It seems an easy order to think about both generalists and specialists as potentially successful categories, or that specialization should be followed by a healthy dose of general skill development, but I worry that our culture is incapable of discussing any issue without resorting to some form of "silver bullet" discourse. Well, it can make sense to expose children (or adults) to many interests, and it is also the case that many professionals (and children) do very well by specializing. Grit, commitment, and grinding away at a longterm goal are admired traits for good reason, as is a broad curiosity. When we attempt to optimize all paths, I wonder if we reduce life's journey to a cradle-to-career-to-coffin through line. By what age should people know what they want to do with their life--is 10 too late? Epstein considers cadets who joined the military, who seemed perfect for leadership, and who left. In fact, the ones who were highlighted as having the most potential to succeed in that program were most likely to leave. These cadets don't lack grit or ability, but they also don't regret the decision to leave. Epstein suggests that as people learn about themselves, they reassess their values and options. People can change quite a lot, and I note that they're often grateful for it. Even if we could match ability with a career when a child is 10, such a program would still struggle because people are capable of doing more than one thing well. Some other highlights... Epstein began as a sports writer, and he still has a bit to say about athletics. Successful athletes seem to generalize until their mid to late teens before specializing. There may be evidence that specialization can occur still later. He highlights a British Olympic program that targeted late bloomers. (I'm not sure this supports generalizing so much as it reveals how difficult it is to successfully realize one's strengths as a child, but I still enjoyed that section.) Epstein is convincing when he argues that many fields have become blinded within silos thanks to excessive specialization, and there is now an opportunity for professionals who eschew that path to produce unique insights. One man highlighted here uses computer searches to find areas of suggestive overlap between overly specialized fields. I'm not sure producing those insights will be easily replicated, but it does seem that specialization can blind us. Tetlock's famous foxes appear, and the most interesting takeaway from that oft told story, aside from the importance of branding, is that these foxes often excel at creating networks that successfully revise each other's predictions. Maybe the best strategy for success, regardless of whether one's a specialist or a generalist, is networking so that one's opinions are tested but also so that they are heard and amplified. Although there was much I appreciated in the book... Well, it is written with generous margins, liberal spacing, and a breezy “did you know!” style that I’ve come to find tiring. The writing is engaging, but I enjoy “and now you know the rest of the story” biographies about as much as I do exclamation points. There's also too much of a "how to succeed" ethos in this book for my taste. Finally, Range is designed to appeal to people who are already skeptical of specialization/ enthusiastic about generalized skillsets. I worry that some of the appreciation of this book is just a soothing exercise in confirmation bias for generalists. 3.5 stars.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Pete

    Range : Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World (2019) by David Epstein is an interesting book about the value of not being overly specialised and focused on one thing. The book starts by pointing out how Tiger Woods took up golf at an early age and how this example is picked by many as an example of how mastery of a subject needs to be done. Epstein compares this to Roger Federer who played many sports before focusing on tennis. Epstein states, with some evidence, that stars like Federer Range : Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World (2019) by David Epstein is an interesting book about the value of not being overly specialised and focused on one thing. The book starts by pointing out how Tiger Woods took up golf at an early age and how this example is picked by many as an example of how mastery of a subject needs to be done. Epstein compares this to Roger Federer who played many sports before focusing on tennis. Epstein states, with some evidence, that stars like Federer are more common than stars like Woods. Range then looks at how some tasks like chess, that have great feedback and that are well defined can be suited to specialising and diving deep into one thing. However a lot of what we value highly, like creating new companies, scientific breakthroughs, writing interesting new books and management is more 'wicked' in nature with immediate feedback being poor and requiring synthesizing knowledge for a myriad of sources. There are interesting digressions into the world of music where it's shown that many top musicians played multiple instruments with great skill and moved skills from one area to another and found new insights doing so. Epstein also talks to a number of scientists, academics, managers and people in many other roles who have had careers that moved from one area to another and he points out that this often benefited them greatly. Range is a well written, interesting book that makes its points with style. Epstein makes a strong case for trying lots of things and deliberately trying to widen our horizons. The book is also filled with interesting stories about people in many different fields. Range is well worth a read.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Catriona

    Experience is never wasted I found this riveting in all the best ways non-fiction can be: extremely readable, endlessly fascinating, thought provoking, leaves a lasting impression and you see the world a little differently on the other side of it - things once in darkness are illuminated. Personally, Epstein made me feel comforted that all was not lost if i hadn't completed my 10,000 hours in a highly specified domain by now and that a gradual whittling of specialism, rather than a laser focus fr Experience is never wasted I found this riveting in all the best ways non-fiction can be: extremely readable, endlessly fascinating, thought provoking, leaves a lasting impression and you see the world a little differently on the other side of it - things once in darkness are illuminated. Personally, Epstein made me feel comforted that all was not lost if i hadn't completed my 10,000 hours in a highly specified domain by now and that a gradual whittling of specialism, rather than a laser focus from an early age, can be just as (if not more) likely to work to your benefit in the long run. Our world is more complicated than ever, full of ever changing and nuanced problems where analogies from other domains can help us tackle problems in novel ways (treating tumours with ancient military strategy anyone?) that can lead to greater, faster leaps in understanding and measurable progress. Epstein argues that those who haven't narrowed their experiences prematurely will provide the biggest benefit to the modern world around them, at least in terms of creative and complicated problem solving. Should the urban legend that is the 10,000 hours to greatness, finally be put to bed? Does rigid repetition of procedure make us less likely to be successful in a unfamiliar situation? I'm not sure who is right, or who is right for me - but i do know i am as inspired after reading Range as i was with Gladwell's Outliers and i reckon it deserves the same level of curiosity to be applied to it.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jennie

    3.5 stars. This ended up being very interesting and engaging. It definitely gave me a lot to think about, more than the typical pop psychology book. The author weirdly inserts himself in a few places and it wasn't really seamless in those areas, but he did do a good job of telling engaging stories. I think this book will change how I go about learning things in the future.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Mart

    Specialization. Expected by bosses, parents and university faculties. But does it work? There seems to be good scientific evidence to the contrary. Dabble in everything. Follow your curiosity. Leads to discoveries and is antifragile. Much recommended book by a great science journalist.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Erik Germani

    Like a Gladwell book, Range has a bunch of scientific anecdotes that would do well at a cocktail party. Which is perfect, because the warmly parental thesis statement is one that anyone will drink to. To wit: "don't worry if you aren't hyperspecialized, there's value in being a generalist." I found that advice timely, but the self-improvement monster in me didn't find a lot of red meat in here. Once I came to grips with that, I enjoyed the anecdotes for what they were. Here's a fun one: Finnish Like a Gladwell book, Range has a bunch of scientific anecdotes that would do well at a cocktail party. Which is perfect, because the warmly parental thesis statement is one that anyone will drink to. To wit: "don't worry if you aren't hyperspecialized, there's value in being a generalist." I found that advice timely, but the self-improvement monster in me didn't find a lot of red meat in here. Once I came to grips with that, I enjoyed the anecdotes for what they were. Here's a fun one: Finnish doctors gave people fake meniscus surgeries, to see if these trims were really helping patients. So they knocked them out, made incisions, did nothing to the meniscus, and sent these folks off to rehab. They had the same outcomes as people who actually got surgery! Here's one that drove me nuts. Chapter 6 is devoted to Vincent Van Gogh, but Epstein refuses to call him by his name for a full five pages, apparently to build suspense. "The boy from the Netherlands", as if that could be anyone but Van Gogh, is, to Epstein, "an example of match quality optimization, Robert Miller’s multi-armed bandit process come to life. He tested options with maniacal intensity and got the maximum information signal about his fit as quickly as possible, and then moved to something else and repeated, until he had zigzagged his way to a place no one else had ever been, and where he alone excelled. Van Gogh’s Grit Scale score, according to Naifeh’s assessment, was flush with hard work but low on sticking with every goal or project. He landed in the 40th percentile." So that should indicate there is some "TED talking" happening in this book, but it's much more tolerable when Epstein is on his home turf of sports & science.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Prashant Ghabak

    A very counter-intuitive take on career and skills. The core argument of the book is that though humans are moving more and more towards hyper-specialization, a lot of advances and innovations happen at boundaries of fields and from outsiders who are non-specialists. Some really compelling examples.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Geoff

    Pop science / pop psych so take with a grain of salt, but it's a nice corrective to the current idea that early specialization is a must for success. I loved the idea as well that specialization and deep within-domain expertise works best in "kind worlds" where there are consistent rules, lots of repetitions, and lots of quick feedback. Thought provoking; I'll want to come back to this in a few years I think.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Stefan Bruun

    Interesting perspectives on the many roads to excellence and a break with the traditional view of hyper-specialization.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Shobhit

    This book resonated with me perfectly. In my profession (Software Development), there is an increasing demand for specialization. There are back end engineers, front end engineers, devops, data engineers, data scientists blah blah blah. I never felt comfortable with a label. The entire field of computer science is interesting for me. I also read a lot of books related to history, politics, biography, psychology, physics, philosophy and any well written book in general. I used to feel guilty for This book resonated with me perfectly. In my profession (Software Development), there is an increasing demand for specialization. There are back end engineers, front end engineers, devops, data engineers, data scientists blah blah blah. I never felt comfortable with a label. The entire field of computer science is interesting for me. I also read a lot of books related to history, politics, biography, psychology, physics, philosophy and any well written book in general. I used to feel guilty for spending time in unrelated fields but I had made peace with it. This book gives me a new hope. It convinces me that my broad ranging interest is not a weakness but a strength. This is a feel good book if you have a diverse range of interest. It says that having range makes you more innovative. I think the people who have a broad range of interest don't do it because they are trying to be more innovative. They do it because it is fun. This is my only complain from the book. It talks about people with diverse interests from a utility point of view. It didn't even mention once that people dabble in different things for fun.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Benjamin

    As eye and ear catching as a Malcolm Gladwell book, but better researched and far, far more conscientious than any Gladwell I've ever read. Epstein, who comes to this book from journalism, in particular sports journalism, writes a series of brilliant articles, loosely coupled into a book, with a common theme of the benefits of general knowledge, experimentation and persistence, and change.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Christian Sodergren

    Lots of great stories but unsatisfying when it comes to making a claim for the central thesis.

  26. 4 out of 5

    The Artisan Geek

    23/4/19 A someone who has always considered themselves a generalist through and through, I am really interested to have a read! Riverhead books was so nice to send me over a copy, so a sincere thank you to them! :D You can find me on Youtube | Instagram | Twitter | Tumblr | Website

  27. 5 out of 5

    Weixiang

    Like many books in this category of positive work research, the majority of the times it's applicable in the first world. Now the disclaimer aside, this book is great on the current timeline that we are living in right now, especially for the target audience of this book. We must reach out of comfort zone in the realms of learning! I cannot stress this enough, people in silicon valley has very little appreciation for philosophy and the humanities for example, like the author's said on Steve Job' Like many books in this category of positive work research, the majority of the times it's applicable in the first world. Now the disclaimer aside, this book is great on the current timeline that we are living in right now, especially for the target audience of this book. We must reach out of comfort zone in the realms of learning! I cannot stress this enough, people in silicon valley has very little appreciation for philosophy and the humanities for example, like the author's said on Steve Job's story for example. The simple calligraphy course helps Apple so much in terms of design and technology. Also the recent event where women USA's team won where Nike increased their sell of Women's jerseys. If only there's a feminist based market researcher in those teams. Being one isn't enough, acting out the use of the research is much needed. Since for most fields it's mostly male dominated. This book is great, I would heavily recommend anyone who's curious about expanding their kneowlve base, or if in the process of HR hiring. Also, it's more fun. In the social aspect, being able to communicate with people in different fields is just, fun. Notes Range * different domains benefits the cross over of skills. * psychological fields do not follow the method "repetition equals skill" unlike chess. * kind domains and wicked domains. * kind is when the rules are clarified. * Chunking require. * wicked is the opposite. * cognitive entrenchment, harder for someone who is an expert to change their habits. * the older a period is, the more it is required to untrained them. For example a dotted line can only be a map. However younger people comparatively, have more imaginative process. * premodern people miss the trees for the forest, modern people missed the forest for the trees. * knowledge sampling is super important or useful in faster and more complex learning. * interleaving or crossing over of knowledge is great for complex problem solving * analogy based thinking * the past is 20/20, is the correlation truly causation? * sometimes too much information isn't very good. It'll only validate previous assumptions * experienced groups becomes rigid. * the book should've been called "when to unlearn" * it's point on HIV was indirect, they were not ready for the virus at all, and that * it's not about efficiency, it's about thinking. Even following a tiger mother's book is a form of quick cheating.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

    An enjoyable book - plenty of fascinating stories/studies and Epstein demonstrates plenty of range of his own (I enjoyed his earlier Sports Gene, but this book goes far beyond the world of sports, even if it starts there). I think there are two different books packed in here - one provides examples of people who have developed breadth thriving in different fields and explores some of the contours of what that looks like, and the sorts of "wicked" world (disordered, unpredictable) where that rang An enjoyable book - plenty of fascinating stories/studies and Epstein demonstrates plenty of range of his own (I enjoyed his earlier Sports Gene, but this book goes far beyond the world of sports, even if it starts there). I think there are two different books packed in here - one provides examples of people who have developed breadth thriving in different fields and explores some of the contours of what that looks like, and the sorts of "wicked" world (disordered, unpredictable) where that range is put to good use (as opposed to orderly, predictable "kind" worlds). As a counter to the 10000 hours/Tiger Woods narrative that Epstein describes, I think this is pretty good. In many ways, it's a both/and narrative, just pointing out that there are places where range is valuable, and narrow specialization is less so (and how we often mistakenly prize specialization at the expense of breadth). The second book that sits somewhat uneasily with this first book is a sort of pseudo-self-help book that describes how developing range may improve performance in different areas. I didn't find this aspect of the argument convincing. Epstein points out, for example, that many elite athletes played multiple sports when they were young (in contrast to the practice of some parents pressuring children to specialize early in a particular sport in hopes of elite success). But, I think there's some sort of causation/correlation confusion here. Aren't world class athletes the very ones one might expect to excel at all sorts of different sports? I had a friend who was an elite volleyball player who seemed, with very little effort, able to excel at almost any sport he tried. This included basketball, a sport that I, a poor athlete (I was, in technical terms, slow, small and uncoordinated) spent countless hours practicing (because I enjoyed it). For every three hours I spent shooting jump shots in my driveway, my friend probably only needed to spend a half hour to achieve a similar success in a game. Epstein did explore some of these talent/nature/nurture sorts of questions in the The Sports Gene (if I am remembering it correctly), and so I was slightly disappointed that these sorts of questions seemed to drop out of view a little bit in this book in favor of the range vs. specialization dichotomy. To put it another way: it could be that people with more "talent" in a particular domain are better able to express that talent across a wider range of disciplines with less effort than the less gifted person who must expend significant effort in a single area to try and achieve competency (let alone excellence). I do think "range" is often worth pursuing, by the way, just not as some sort of life hack - it's a good in itself, one that needs to be weighed alongside the good of digging deep into a particular area - and probably we all end up leaning one way or another, at different times and given different circumstances, and to the extent that Epstein brings the goods of range/breadth/generalization into view, it's a good book.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Rhys

    I enjoyed this book, advocating for more generalism in education, science, and other bastions of silo-ism and reductionism. It is a good antidote to Nichol's The Death of Expertise. "Beneath complexity, hedgehogs tend to see simple, deterministic rules of cause and effect framed by their area of expertise, like repeating patterns on a chessboard. Foxes see complexity in what others mistake for simple cause and effect. They understand that most cause-and-effect relationships are probabilistic, not I enjoyed this book, advocating for more generalism in education, science, and other bastions of silo-ism and reductionism. It is a good antidote to Nichol's The Death of Expertise. "Beneath complexity, hedgehogs tend to see simple, deterministic rules of cause and effect framed by their area of expertise, like repeating patterns on a chessboard. Foxes see complexity in what others mistake for simple cause and effect. They understand that most cause-and-effect relationships are probabilistic, not deterministic. There are unknowns, and luck, and even when history apparently repeats, it does not do so precisely. They recognize that Foxes see complexity in what others mistake for simple cause and effect. They understand that most cause-and-effect relationships are probabilistic, not deterministic. There are unknowns, and luck, and even when history apparently repeats, it does not do so precisely. They recognize that they are operating in the very definition of a wicked learning environment, where it can be very hard to learn, from either wins or losses" (p.229).

  30. 4 out of 5

    Annie

    I give this book 3.5 stars. The point of this book is that specialists do well in a "kind" world, where rules are clear and feedback is immediate (like playing golf or chess). Generalists do well in a "wicked" world, where rules are unclear or unknown and feedback is not immediate (like practicing medicine). Therefore, a cardiologist with a wider range of knowledge (like nutrition and physiology) would make a better doctor than one who is focused only on acquiring more technical knowledge about I give this book 3.5 stars. The point of this book is that specialists do well in a "kind" world, where rules are clear and feedback is immediate (like playing golf or chess). Generalists do well in a "wicked" world, where rules are unclear or unknown and feedback is not immediate (like practicing medicine). Therefore, a cardiologist with a wider range of knowledge (like nutrition and physiology) would make a better doctor than one who is focused only on acquiring more technical knowledge about the heart. Unfortunately, the author does a poor job of supporting this premise. The stories and studies in the book really support the idea of being exposed to a wide range of activities and experiences instead of any specialization at a young age. This would give a person a better foundation so that later in life, that person can find an area of expertise that is a fit and can draw on that varied, past experiences for innovative solutions in their area of expertise (instead of a myopic view of the world through the perspective of their specialization).

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