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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.
The premise of the book is very interesting and the author uses several different examples (from Tiger Woods to NASA engineers). In my opinion, the author got way too lost and hung up in all the details of the examples trying to prove a point that by the end of each chapter I barely remembered what I read but was left with a copious amount of supporting facts. Could be his writing style but I don't see myself picking up another book by Epstein anytime soon.
The book is entertaining, although I constantly felt that the author was cherry picking anecdotes. The core idea, that range provides valuable tools for success is repeated with no practical advice. It could make a nice newspaper article but seems excessive for a book.
Epstein's writing is compelling and fluid. He provides the reader with a lot to think about and that certainly makes this a worthwhile read. His work with the Pat Tillman Foundation to retrain veterans and wounded warriors for careers outside of the military is commendable. Epstein's main premise is that the more experiences one has educationally, recreationally, vocationally or culturally, the greater one's ability for creativity and unique problem solving. Most institutions nurture fast-track learning and hyper-specialization. By specializing too soon, one can box in one's thinking and life options. There are multiple examples provided from athletes, the military, artists, musicians, scientists and corporations. The author sites innumerable studies. Breadth can be more powerful than depth in enabling one to "think outside the box". Many successful individuals have taken a slow, long path, full of many detours until finding success.
At first, this reviewer thought, "Wow, every senior high school student should read this book before fast-tracking into college, the military or the job market!" In reality, though, everyone does not have the financial or emotional support as well as the temperament to meander through the smorgasbord of life's possibilities. Most of us work with others and have found that BOTH breadth and depth are needed to find success in solving problems and/or completing tasks successfully. A pool of multiple intelligences and experiences can enhance endeavors. Why can't it be "both and" rather than "either or" in regard to depth and breadth?
The author downplays the notion of "grit" or persistence i.e. the ability to stick with a task until one masters it. He suggests that "quitters" are really winners not losers because quitting may provide "a big strategic advantage." Learning can have a variable timetable for each individual and some skills are so intricate that they require years to master. Does everyone have the leisure,"grit" and financial security to quit multiple times and start anew?
This reviewer would have liked information on how gender may affect the acquisition of flexibility and creative thinking. Having moved many times as an adult and changed careers many times to accommodate those moves and child rearing, this reviewer wonders whether being a woman/mother/worker necessitates greater flexibility and breadth in one's approach to life. The author did not address this issue. For this and the above mentioned unanswered questions, this reviewer believes that the jury is still "out" on the issue of breadth vs depth and awards this book 3.5 stars.
So I am very undecided on how much did I enjoy this book. However overall, having read it, I'm glad I did (to be fair, I'd probably be glad to have ready most books out there). Whether it was a good use of my time? I'm undecided. This book has a clear message which I love because it speaks to me, being the kind of person with very diverse interests and skills, never being able to fully devote myself in one particular thing. In that sense there is some confirmation bias here or motivated reasoning in why I liked the ideas. The author gives a lot of real-world examples as well as scientific studies to support his claims. It shows that he did his work. However as a scientist myself, I know that findings from studies can oftentimes be used in various ways to support different claims. Regardless, I found it interesting at times but also quite boring at long intervals when my mind was craving for something new. It's pretty much the same point being looked at from different angles and the style of writing is quite dry. It's as far as possible from fiction or books on self development that I usually read. It won't take you to another dimension. As an academic, I read a lot of papers and studies, so for me, it felt as like a summary of research which was not too enjoyable. For others, the level of research-backed claims might sound more fascinating than it did to me. Overall, different books attract different audiences. While I liked the message of the book (which is why I bought it in the first place) I struggled to get through it, and will go back to fiction / self-development books.
Not a page turner and makes contradictory points but does emphasize creativity and motivation in successful people. Lots of information but does not make the point that diversity in youth sports leads to excellence in one. Most examples are of exceptional athletes or just plain intelligent people. I would like to know more about “Range” in terms of the average person.
I an the type of reader who looks for logical, precise, strong arguments. However, the chapter on “learning fast and slow” and the one on “lateral thinking” are not directly related to the topic of generalists vs specialists—the way you learn (testing, interleaving as he mentioned) does not define if you are a generalist, and lateral thinking is pretty much required for one or the other. He misused a lot of Daniel Kahneman’s arguments from his book (I’m a big fan of his Thinking Fast and Slow) without filling the logical gaps. A lot of examples are individual success stories, but success cannot be copied, and should not be treated as a common formula. The way he contrasted specialists with generalists, really could make people think that generalists are the absolute winner, but we must admit that the world still needs specialists. As he argued in one chapter, outsider views are essential—the key is to promote diversity within and across orgs. I just feel that while reading, I am not convinced a lot of times.
That being said, I do like some fun facts mentioned in the book about learning. I think the book is more about how, as a person, we should endorse broad learning more, and how, as a team, we should promote diversity. I 100% agree with AI replacing specialists’ jobs, and The current world becoming too narrowly focused on one thing that really narrows a person’s growth. It could be an exciting or troubling read depending on which type of reader you are. For me, it’s really tingling on my back while I read.
Interesting topic area and critical discussion on experts vs. generalists but much of the book is fluff. Much like Gladwell books, if you enjoy minutiae ensconced anecdotes you’ll enjoy this. An essay may have been more warranted.