Can we achieve greater success in life by choosing to generalize rather than to specialize?
If you want to be the best at something, the story goes something like this: Begin as early as you can. Focus on nothing else. And practice as if your life depends on it. It’s the story we associate with sports heroes and chess grandmasters.
But David Epstein, author of the book, Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, argues that this story is incomplete. It never mentions the fact that activities like chess and golf take place in “kind” learning environments, where learners have perfect information, operate with clear goals, and experience immediate feedback. In contrast, most of us operate in what are called “wicked” environments. There, as David explains, “…not all information is clear. People don’t wait for each other to take turns. . . Goals may be unclear. Feedback may be intermittent, nonexistent . . . it may be inaccurate and it may be delayed.”
David also reveals that many top performers were not, in fact, specialists from an early age. They were generalists who took the time to explore multiple paths, and many delayed choosing a focus until they found the right fit: “They pinballed around . . . They didn’t focus on the long term . . . Instead, they said here’s who I am right now, here are the skills I have, here’s what I want to learn, here are the opportunities in front of me right now…”
David has worked as an investigative reporter for ProPublica and a senior writer for Sports Illustrated. His first book was the bestseller, The Sports Gene.
You can learn more about Curious Minds Host and Creator, Gayle Allen, and Producer, Rob Mancabelli, by visiting @CuriousGayle and www.gayleallen.net.
David Epstein and Malcolm Gladwell on 10,000 Hours vs The Sports Gene
What the Childhood Years of Tiger Woods and Roger Federer Can Teach Us about Success by David Epstein
The Two Settings of Kind and Wicked Learning Environments by Robin M. Hogarth, Tomas Lejarraga, and Emre Soyer
Gary A. Klein
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