Review: Epstein’s Range

Range: Why Generalists Triumph In A Specialized World

David Epstein

There is a certain kind of book I cannot resist and that book follows this basic format:

  1. Here is an ostensibly counter intuitive idea.
  2. Here are a series of chapters wherein the  following form to substantiate the idea
    1. An anecdote is presented
    2. A study or studies are cited to substantiate the lesson of the anecdote
    3. Analysis is done to show that the studies and the anecdote are correct

This is one of those books. Epstein shows (using the basic Gladwell method outlined above) that Gladwell’s most famous rule — the rule of 10,000 hours is wrong. To be successful (and happy) in the modern economy,  Epstein argues one shouldn’t focus on 10,000 hours of repetition at a specific skill set, but rather sample widely and change paths frequently. This experimentation and ability to learn new ideas and skills will serve you better in the long run than spending say your entire childhood getting good at soccer.

As someone who has held an enormously wide set of jobs, and has an even wider set of interests, I found this interesting and comforting. On first read, that’s all I thought it was, an interesting idea. But this book has stayed with me, and I think about it alot now when I make choices about what my kids do, what I do, and what I look for in employees.

Well worth a read if the Gladwell type books are your thing.


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