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  • Writer's pictureAnderson Petergeorge

Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World - David Epstein


David Epstein examined the world's most successful athletes, artists, musicians, inventors, forecasters and scientists. He discovered that in most fields--especially those that are complex and unpredictable--generalists, not specialists, are primed to excel.


  • Specialization is beneficial on things that have a defined set out outcomes e.g. Chess, golf but in areas where you will need to improvise or situations are always changing that you cant predict having a range of skills is a higher determinant of success

  •  Roger Federer played several sports as a child and an adolescent. His parents encouraged him only in the direction of good sportsmanship, and when he began to gravitate toward tennis, they cautioned him against taking the sport too seriously. Years later, Epstein notes, Federer would credit the hours he spent dabbling in basketball, handball, skiing, wrestling, swimming, table tennis, and skateboarding with helping him develop his hand-eye coordination and his famously well-rounded athleticism

  • Sampling periods are crucial, he argues, because they allow kids to discover organically what they love doing and most want to succeed in

  • Epstein points out, while the ability to persevere when something is difficult can certainly be a competitive advantage, in the long run so can knowing when to quit

  • Many of the things that specialized humans are good at are now done better with AI. However in open-ended real-world problems generalists still have a huge advantage over AI

  • Don’t give hints. Let people be wrong. Correcting them later will make the lesson stick

  • Many sports legends did many different things before choosing the sport they are good at

    • Steve Nash - played soccer before basketball

    • Tom Brady - played baseball before football

    • Rodger Federer - sample various different sports before tennis

  • More experiences = more analogies to pull from

  • Analogic thinking allows humans to reason through problems they have never seen in unfamiliar contexts"

  • Van Gogh tried various different careers (e.g. Missionary, sculpting, abstract, realism) before he figured out what he was good at in his 50s

  • Remember that a hospital saw the best rate of surgeries when all the heart surgeons went to a conference because it allowed non specialized people to think of the situations more wholistically





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