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  • Writer's picturecarolineswiftholden

"Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World" Book Review

This is where I read the first chapter of David Epstein's "Range." (Until I started noticing the bees. Then I went back inside!)

David Epstein’s Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World critiques the idea that there is only one specialized route to success. Range examines how diverse experiences and earnest experimentation can help people develop unique connections. Epstein suggests that a generalized and multi-faceted approach may ultimately prove more rewarding than the limiting oneself to the straight and narrow.

Bottom Line: I loved Range because it hit home for me. Anyone who struggles with embracing a complex and unpredictable life will find Range a rewarding, validating, and engaging read.

Growing up, I was interested in absolutely everything. I played over ten sports, dabbled in all of the arts, enjoyed basically every school subject (besides math), and eventually did my best to try to find a way to major in four to five different subjects. I’ve had about eight jobs in several different fields, and I have dozens of hobbies that seemingly have nothing in common with each other.

Though I wouldn’t trade any of those experiences or skills for the world, I still feel on occasion a little “less than” since I haven’t found my “Thing” yet. I grew up with a lot of classmates/friends who specialized early and have benefited from it. One of my super star science and math friends started work at NASA straight out of college! With social media allowing people to highlight their successes, it's no wonder one can feel overwhelmed, discouraged, or out of sync with the seemingly endless achievements of those around us.

Range is all about taking the idea of being a 'jack of all trades and master of none' and spinning it on its head. Its thesis is that while Specialists may go very far in their fields and may get a lot of success, Generalists will often find successes by connecting the dots between ideas that Specialists may never have the opportunity to find.

Epstein explores the power of being a Generalist via several stories of individuals who defied the odds and changed the game. Highlights include Gunpei Yokoi's transformation of Nintendo, Roger Federer’s story of dabbling in dozens of sports before choosing tennis, and the fascinating history of figlie del coro. Epstein argues that we should not only try new experiences, but embrace quitting jobs or experiences that we dislike and move on to whatever interests us most.

Range is both inspiring and comforting, providing solace to both those who dabble and encouragement those who have are exploring new things or striking out on their own. Failure is even encouraged, (or at least respected), because from what else does one truly learn?! One's goal, Epstein argues, shouldn't necessarily be to force 'perfection' by working 10,000 hours. Instead, he suggests to:

"Approach your own personal voyage and projects like Michelangelo approached a block of marble, willing to learn and adjust as you go, and even to abandon a previous goal and change directions entirely should the need arise."

The stories and studies in the book are absolutely fascinating and I think this book is game changing for anyone who wants to live a successful and interesting life.

Caro’s Book Club Rating: 9/10

What’s next on my reading list?

“The 2am Principle: Discover the Science of Adventure” by Jon Levy.

Wondering why the paperback copy is so expensive? It is filled with fun, color, and a cool spinny cover design which make the whole experience worth it. I’ve read the first couple chapters and I’m already LOVING it so do check it out!

I'm still laughing at the warning the book provides at the opening:

"The Warning I Need to Give: You are going to have a lot of fun reading this book and learning how easy it is to live a more adventurous life. You will be inspired to have new experiences and participate in outlandish activities. The good news is that most of the adventures you want to have will be great. The bad news is that some of the ideas you come up with will be disastrously terrible."

Want to see my thoughts on "The 2am Principle"? Check back in with me on Tuesday September 10th!

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