Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World
The #1 New York Times bestseller that has all America talking: as seen/heard on CNN's Fareed Zakaria GPS, Morning Joe, CBS This Morning, The Bill Simmons Podcast, Rich Roll, and more.
“The most important business—and parenting—book of the year.” —Forbes
“Urgent and important. . . an essential read for bosses, parents, coaches, and anyone who cares about improving performance.” —Daniel H. Pink
Shortlisted for the Financial Times/McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award
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.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Is it better to be great at one thing, or pretty good at lots of things? Where investigative reporter David Epstein lands on that question may surprise fans of the “10,000 hours” theory of genius that Malcolm Gladwell popularized in Outliers. Epstein details examples from sports, science, and the arts to argue that people who embrace a wide-ranging approach to learning have an edge over specialists. Being able to make unexpected connections leads to creative problem-solving and being a generalist also gives us more opportunity to fail and learn from those failures. After reading these counter-intuitive ideas about success, we’re ready to experience as much as we can—no matter where that journey might take us.
Journalist and self-identified generalist Epstein (The Sports Gene) delivers an enjoyable if not wholly convincing work of Gladwellian pop-psychology aimed at showing that specialization is not the only path to success. His survey finds no shortage of notable athletes, artists, inventors, and businesspeople who followed atypically circuitous paths. Some are household names, such as J.K. Rowling, who by her own admission "failed on an epic scale" before deciding to pursue writing, and Duke Ellington, who briefly studied music as a child before becoming more interested in basketball and drawing, only returning to music after a chance encounter with ragtime. Others are more obscure, such as Nintendo's Gunpei Yokoi, who turned his limitations as an electronics engineer to his advantage when he created the cheap-to-produce, durable Game Boy, and Jack Cecchini, "one of the rare musicians who is world class in both jazz and classical." Epstein's narrative case studies are fascinating, but the rapid-fire movement from one sketch to the next can create the impression of evidence in search of a thesis. While this well-crafted book does not entirely disprove the argument for expertise, Epstein does show that, for anyone without 10,000 hours to devote to mastering a single skill, there is hope yet.
Jack of all Trades
The saying a “jack of all trades is a master of none,” is regularly used out of context. The full saying is a “jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one.” This book gets to the heart of that concept. More specifically, David Epstein goes on an exploration into the merits and failings of specialists and generalists alike.
To the surprise of many, the “successful” are often people who weave their way to the final expression of their potential. They go about picking up skills and experiences along the way that congeal into an alchemy of ability, insight, and drive. Conversely, we learn about the dangers of specialization. Specifically, the hyper silos we create that result in tunnel vision and the concurrent systemic issues.
Epstein dismantles the idea of tiger parenting and pathways to expertise from the first page. He shows how flexibility and range in experiences lead to greater potential for success. Using a wide ranging collection of anecdotal stories, study based findings, and personal reflections we get an argument for perhaps the most important perspective shift for education in decades.
Educational & Interesting
This was a very well written book. The ideas and opinions were backed by facts or research. The first half is super interesting, keeps your attention well. The last few chapters can be hard to follow with all the tech and engineering stuff. Again, I really enjoyed it and I’m glad I read it.
I’m defense of a broad based education
Epstein does a great job of making the case for why we should try to build broad humans with diverse experiences vs automotons. Filled with lots of great anecdotes and examples I found myself frequently highlighting it throughout.