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I am a generalist and this book is a pleasant difference from the 'jack of all trades...' thinking that many people see. It's a well written and thorough view of why having a breadth of skills, knowledge and experience can be valuable. It was a very encouraging and enjoyable read for me.
I bought this on the strength of Epstein's previous book, 'The Sports Gene" which I enjoyed. The thesis of "Range' is that some people are specialists from an early age while others come to their specialisms later.Sampling and experience of others professions or activities can be beneficial rather than harmful. And that really is it. There are passages on how much groups/ people make decisions which has been covered by other authors in recent years. There are a series of case studies, some more interesting than others, which all illustrate the main point repeatedly.
It's not a bad book, but in the end I felt there was nothing really new here, and that the main thesis is so obvious that it doesn't need to be argued or proved.
When Range hit the bookshelves in 2019, I couldn't wait to read it. Working with a self-avowed generalist from 2002 to 2007, we secured numerous technical government contracts for our small business. An English grad and a mid-life MBA. Generalists working together in fields dominated by big names in radio, construction, and military contracts. It was exciting.
Excitedly, I devoured page after page of Epstein's material. He really hit a stride with this book. Neither of the other two titles I've read by Epstein resonated with me like this one. In true confession, I had to stop reading about a third of the way into my reading. Like some cosmic brain transfer, I was finding the content of his book sounding very much like the book I was writing.
Sadly, I had set Range down and until I published my book. I wanted to finish my book without the influence of Epstein as I could see we were headed in the same direction. Once I published my book, I went on to finish Range. Weird to recognise parallel thought development so aligned with one's own thinking. I shared the same experience when I read Dan Pink's A Whole New Mind.
I laughed at seeing principles I’ve identified being portrayed in Epstein’s own language and style. In fact, I loved it. I was also inspired by Epstein’s references and the near-total absence of regurgitated material on his subject. So many of these type books have been written that I often feel they are just expanding on previous iterations of an idea. What a joy it was to not find that in Range. Of course that is apart from the eerily similar references I deployed in my book.
By itself, I give this the top rating. I loved it. Perhaps a part of that high praise could be that he and I are on the same wavelength. My copy of Range is far too heavily flagged with great bits to comment on specifics, but I would like to share my favourite quote:
An enthusiastic, even childish, playful streak is a recurring theme in research on creative thinkers. (p 273)
This is a crowded and very competitive genre with some serious and highly professional players. Notwithstanding David's book is well written with some really fascinating stories that do make you think. I'm not sure starting off de-bunking the 10,000hr concept was such a good idea as many of David's examples who he considers 'generalists' will have probably double those hours in their various disciplines. However most of what he offers can be found in 'So Good They Can't Ignore You' by Cal Newport, 'Where Good Ideas Come From' by Steven Johnson (definite must read) and 'Little Bets' by Peter Sims. It's still a good read and worth a purchase.
What a book! I have just discovered that I am the exception to the rule! A hardcore generalist. This book is very enlightening and would help especially young people understand the power of being a generalist. I travelled a lot as a young child, lived in several countries as a result attended many schools, I studied three different subjects at different times at university, and found myself working at different types of organisations. The experience and opportunities I have gained and had cannot be quantified. I Love being a generalist. My diverse experiences and perspectives have made me the success I am today.
This is an excellent distillation of various streams of thought around the merits os specialisation vs. generalisation. There is no conflict, although when advice on being “the best” suggests early focus rather than broad curiosity we are vastly underestimating the transformative power of curiosity for its own sake. This is a vital read for anyone interested in leadership.
I bought this book because its topic is highly relevant to my stage in life. I have, for the longest time, pretty much until this book, worried that I know just a little bit of everything, but nothing where I particularly exceed in, no expert in anything; nothing that makes me particularly valuable. Others having headstarts also deeply worried me. But this book is able to point towards countless studies on this subject and combined with relevant biographies, makes a very compelling case to be a person of range. I absolutely loved this book and it emboldened me to take the path I truly want.