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Book review

Range: how generalists triumph in a specialized world
Blog 198 Range book

Now this is a fascinating and thought-provoking read! Having researched the world's most successful athletes, artists, musicians, inventors and scientists, author David Epstein shares his findings in The New York Times bestselling book, Range: how generalists triumph in a specialized world.

The premise of the book is that the people who reach the top of their game in a range of fields do so not because they’ve trained and trained at it for years to become specialists, but rather because they’re generalists.

Wait, what? Doesn’t that contradict everything we’ve ever learnt? Pretty much, which is why Range is such an interesting book. In it, Epstein argues that to truly succeed, we need to gain a variety of experiences – to experiment, dabble in numerous interests, embrace different perspectives, fail (that’s an important one) and take detours along our journey. And it’s our ability to do this that determines how we solve problems, learn and succeed. His findings reveal that generalists are more creative, agile and better equipped to make connections than specialists, who can become so focused on a particular field, they can fail to look beyond it.

If you’re looking for a sign that you should read this book, take this review from Bill Gates, who said: “… I think his ideas even help explain some of Microsoft’s success, because we hired people who had real breadth within their field and across domains. If you’re a generalist who has ever felt overshadowed by your specialist colleagues, this book is for you.”

Epstein has a background in environmental science and journalism – much like the lauded generalists in Range, he’s had a varied career. His other book – The sports gene, also The New York Times bestseller – investigates the origins of athletic success and the whole nature versus nurture debate.

For a great introduction to Range, check out Epstein’s TED Talk (13:16) about why early specialisation doesn’t necessarily lead to career success – one of the many ‘controversial’ themes explored in this captivating book.

– The Coach Place Global

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