June 14, 2020

Range by David Epstein: why you need to stop specialising


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About the Book 

Plenty of experts argue that anyone who wants to develop a skill, play an instrument, or lead their field should start early, focus intensely, and rack up as many hours of deliberate practice as possible. If you dabble or delay, you’ll never catch up to the people who got a head start. But a closer look at research on the world’s top performers, from professional athletes to Nobel laureates, shows that early specialization is the exception, not the rule.

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. Generalists often find their path late, and they juggle many interests rather than focusing on one.They’re also more creative, more agile, and able to make connections their more specialized peers can’t see.

Source: https://davidepstein.com/

About the Author

David Epstein is the author of the #1 New York Times best seller Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World , and of the New York Times best seller The Sports Gene, both of which have been translated in more than 20 languages. (To his surprise, it was purchased not only by his sister but also by President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.)

He was previously a science and investigative reporter at ProPublica, and prior to that a senior writer at Sports Illustrated, where he co-authored the story that revealed Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez had used steroids.

David has given talks about performance science and the uses (and misuses) of data on five continents; his TED Talk has been viewed 8.5 million times, and was shared by Bill Gates. Three of his stories have been optioned for films.

David enjoys volunteering and as an avid runner, he was a Columbia University record holder and twice NCAA All-East as an 800-meter runner.

Source: https://davidepstein.com/

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Buy the book from The Book Depository - https://www.bookdepository.com/Range/9781509843503/?a_aid=stephsbookshelf

BIG IDEA 1 (4:18) - Roger vs. Tiger

Roger Federer and Tiger Woods have both defined their respective sports. Tiger Woods hyper-specialized since he was a child - his parents believed he was going to be the best golfer in the world. Whilst the young Roger Federer just liked playing sports. Eventually in his teens he picked tennis, at an age when many of his peers had been specialising since a very young age and were already working with elite coaches and nutritionists ec.

The Roger story is actually much more common, but we worship the Tiger story. Research also shows that elite performers actually practice less at a very young age, compared to the near-elite performers who specialise and practice more, earlier. 

BIG IDEA 2 (6:25) - Kind vs. Wicked

The world's problems are becoming more wicked and much more complex.  Therefore, to tackle them, we need the fundamental conceptual reasoning skills that we can transfer across different fields. When you have a narrow view of the world, you’ll only have a look for one thing in your field to answer the question or solve the problems.

This type of development of thinking was explored during some fascinating research in remote villages where the villagers still lived in a pre-modern age.  Those with a very narrow view of the world, could only look at things from the perspective of what they had experienced before.  So whilst some of their ideas were more creative (their descriptions of colours), their ability to think conceptually and abstractly was almost completely limited.

The Roger Federer approach is much better for wicked problems - one that brings the skills and experience of different sports (or fields). The Tiger Woods approach is better for kind problems or the more complicated, replicable challenges. If there is a high likelihood that you know what’s going to happen next, being Tiger Woods can help.

BIG IDEA 3 (13:05) - The Power of Analogy

If we need to have better conceptual thinking, the ability to think in analogies will help. A study on problems solving says that successful problem solvers are more able to determine the deep structure or problem before they proceed and match a strategy to it.  And a lot of the time, the deep structure of a problem isn’t limited to the same field of that particular problem - it takes going beyond the context and into the concept.

Less successful problem solvers are more likely to mentally classify problems only by superficial features (ie, it’s a medical problem or an engineering problem).

Sometimes the more you know about the area, the worse you are about making decisions.  Companies, including NASA, have had some of their longest standing problems solved by amateurs with no, or limited, scientific knowledge but who are able to see the similarity from something else they have seen before in another field.

Links: 

Learn more about being a multipotentialite here: https://www.ted.com/talks/emilie_wapnick_why_some_of_us_don_t_have_one_true_calling?utm_campaign=tedspread&utm_medium=referral&utm_source=tedcomshare

Watch David’s TED Talk here: https://www.ted.com/talks/david_epstein_are_athletes_really_getting_faster_better_stronger

Music By: Bluerise Song by Oliver Michael

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