Book Review – Range


My first book of 2020 was Range, Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein. I learned about this book from the Next Big Idea Club, which is a group including authors Dan Pink, Malcolm Gladwell, Adam Grant and Susan Cain. They provide book recommendations every few months, and you can join the group in a way to have the books shipped automatically to you. I do the non-book membership since I prefer the audible option. There is tremendously great content provided to subscribers, so I recommend checking it out.

As to the book itself, I like that it challenges the myth that you must be a Tiger Woods or Serena Williams to be on top of your game. While the “start at age 2 and stick with it forever” process can work, there are many more examples of people finding their niche later in life and still being world class. As Malcolm Gladwell wrote, “David takes an idea that has become anchored in our understanding—that the route to excellence is early and pronounced specialization—and he challenges it. “

Drawing comparisons to sports versus other venues, such as academics and business gives a great cross-domain point of view on this topic. David says, “head starts are overrated.” Not that they’re meaningless, but if you are starting behind (or simple later in life), you can catch up, and even shoot ahead.

Late specializers can do better long term than ones who focus earlier in their life. Yes, there are singular examples of the latter, such as Tiger and Serena mentioned above. But for the rest of us, it’s great news to hear that if you haven’t settled on your “one thing”, you may very well still have time.

One example I’ve seen over and over is adults who become professional speakers. I see this far more in the over 40 crowd than from younger experts. Again, you can find singular examples of starting one thing early, but there are far more examples of late bloomers seeing success.

There are cases where the early specialization can be useful, and the book does well to identify the differences (called out as kind learning environments vs. wicked learning environments). Examples include academics, sports, and my personal favorite, chess.

There are multiple interesting examples of how non-specialists have solved very specific problems, and how sometimes over specialitaztion can lead to missed solutions. David points to why probelms need both specialist and generalists to be successful.

Who is this book for?
– If you’re a parent that worries that your 3 year old doesn’t have a career path
– If you’re a veteran who is sweating the career change from military to civilian life
– If you’re any person who thinks it may be to late to pursue a new goal
– If you wonder how someone who isn’t an expert in your field can provide insight to your team

Rob’s Rating system (bolded, the rating is)
Buy now at full price (Yes, it’s available on the Nook and Audible)
Buy if you get a discount
Wait for the paperback
Wait for someone else to be done with the paperback
If you’ve read my review, you got the gist of it

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