Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein (2019)

download-1To quote a Goodreads reviewer, “After encountering the 10000 hours theory (Gladwell), the grit theory (Duckworth), and the Tiger Mom theory (Chua),” we’ve come to believe that specializing is the only road to success. While that may be true in some fields (and for some people), Epstein’s research shows that it’s not the case in so many others, including performers and athletes, to name a few. Generalists often excel in their fields later, they balance many interests along the way, and they fail and falter–all of which lead to later success, and often to the greatest success. One section of the book that I particularly liked discusses US education, in which too often, we “bolster immediate performance” which “undermines progress in the long run” (85). Instead, students need “obstacles that make learning more challenging, slower, and more frustrating in the short term,” (85) but lead to better understanding and depth in the long term.  Unfortunately in our high stakes environment of college admissions and helicopter parents, many of us are guilty of offering too many hints/too much help along the way. We have to remember that setbacks lead to learning and invention usually comes from cross-domain knowledge. We need broad thinkers who know where and when to dive deep. I worry about a world in which students are encouraged to study one speciality (usually in a STEM field), master one skill for a job, or play one sport year-round.

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