By Rachel Puryear, Someone with Quite Varied Interests
Are you interested in lots of different things? Do you think of yourself as a “jack/jill-of-all-trades”? Do you like to experiment, change your mind often, and even fail often?
If any of the above ring true, you will probably enjoy reading “Range”, by David Epstein. It’s along the lines of Malcolm Gladwell’s “Blink”, and Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner’s “Freakonomics”. The basis of the book is to critique the widespread notion that everyone must choose one narrow specialty in their work, and that activity outside that specialty should be minimized. Epstein particularly challenges the growing push towards early specialization for young people.
Epstein shows many real life examples to support the following finding: Rather than being “masters of none”, the jack/jills-of-all-trades have advantages over folks whose experience is deep, but narrow. This is especially true when it comes to innovation, and solving unfamiliar problems. “Range” refers to breadth of experience, as opposed to depth.
It is an increasing assumption that in order to succeed and be good at anything, one must choose a narrow course and fervently stick to it, rather than be a quitter. Large industries and fortunes are built from constantly beating the drum for specialization, and preferably specialization as early as possible.
The author gives credit where specialization is important and helpful, and illustrates what type of problems are best geared for specialists. At the same time, the author also shows where having a wider range of experience (even if not deep, or at a master level), and having done a little bit of a lot of different things; equips one to address problems with a lot of uncertainty, complex problems, and novel problems. A wide range of experience develops analogous thinking, which is key to innovation.
If you are more of a generalist (as is your humble host) than a specialist, you are not alone – and you have a lot to offer because of that, rather than in spite of it. Check out Range to learn more, and you will likely see a lot of yourself in it.
Thank you for reading, following, and sharing, dear readers. And here’s to your thriving and prospering, so you can better enjoy life with those you love.