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Range
Cover of Range
Range
Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World
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The #1 New York Times bestseller that has all America talking: as seen/heard on Morning Joe, CBS This Morning, The Bill Simmons Podcast, Rich Roll, and more.
Shortlisted for the Financial Times/McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award

"The most important business—and parenting—book of the year." —Forbes
"Urgent and important. . . an essential read for bosses, parents, coaches, and anyone who cares about improving performance." —Daniel H. Pink

"So much crucial and revelatory information about performance, success, and education." —Susan Cain, bestselling author of Quiet
"As David Epstein shows us, cultivating range prepares us for the wickedly unanticipated... a well-supported and smoothly written case on behalf of breadth and late starts." —Wall Street Journal
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.
Provocative, rigorous, and engrossing, Range makes a compelling case for actively cultivating inefficiency. Failing a test is the best way to learn. Frequent quitters end up with the most fulfilling careers. The most impactful inventors cross domains rather than deepening their knowledge in a single area. As experts silo themselves further while computers master more of the skills once reserved for highly focused humans, people who think broadly and embrace diverse experiences and perspectives will increasingly thrive.
The #1 New York Times bestseller that has all America talking: as seen/heard on Morning Joe, CBS This Morning, The Bill Simmons Podcast, Rich Roll, and more.
Shortlisted for the Financial Times/McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award

"The most important business—and parenting—book of the year." —Forbes
"Urgent and important. . . an essential read for bosses, parents, coaches, and anyone who cares about improving performance." —Daniel H. Pink

"So much crucial and revelatory information about performance, success, and education." —Susan Cain, bestselling author of Quiet
"As David Epstein shows us, cultivating range prepares us for the wickedly unanticipated... a well-supported and smoothly written case on behalf of breadth and late starts." —Wall Street Journal
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.
Provocative, rigorous, and engrossing, Range makes a compelling case for actively cultivating inefficiency. Failing a test is the best way to learn. Frequent quitters end up with the most fulfilling careers. The most impactful inventors cross domains rather than deepening their knowledge in a single area. As experts silo themselves further while computers master more of the skills once reserved for highly focused humans, people who think broadly and embrace diverse experiences and perspectives will increasingly thrive.
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  • From the book

    Chapter 1

    The Cult of the Head Start

    One year and four days after World War II in Europe ended in unconditional surrender, Laszlo Polgar was born in a small town in Hungary-the seed of a new family. He had no grandmothers, no grandfathers, and no cousins; all had been wiped out in the Holocaust, along with his father's first wife and five children. Laszlo grew up determined to have a family, and a special one.
    He prepped for fatherhood in college by poring over biographies of legendary thinkers, from Socrates to Einstein. He decided that traditional education was broken, and that he could make his own children into geniuses, if he just gave them the right head start. By doing so, he would prove something far greater: that any child can be molded for eminence in any discipline. He just needed a wife who would go along with the plan.
    Laszlo's mother had a friend, and the friend had a daughter, Klara. In 1965, Klara traveled to Budapest, where she met Laszlo in person. Laszlo didn't play hard to get; he spent the first visit telling Klara that he planned to have six children and that he would nurture them to brilliance. Klara returned home to her parents with a lukewarm review: she had "met a very interesting person," but could not imagine marrying him.
    They continued to exchange letters. They were both teachers and agreed that the school system was frustratingly one-size-fits-all, made for producing "the gray average mass," as Laszlo put it. A year and a half of letters later, Klara realized she had a very special pen pal. Laszlo finally wrote a love letter, and proposed at the end. They married, moved to Budapest, and got to work. Susan was born in early 1969, and the experiment was on.
    For his first genius, Laszlo picked chess. In 1972, the year before Susan started training, American Bobby Fischer defeated Russian Boris Spassky in the "Match of the Century." It was considered a Cold War proxy in both hemispheres, and chess was suddenly pop culture. Plus, according to Klara, the game had a distinct benefit: "Chess is very objective and easy to measure." Win, lose, or draw, and a point system measures skill against the rest of the chess world. His daughter, Laszlo decided, would become a chess champion.
    Laszlo was patient, and meticulous. He started Susan with "pawn wars." Pawns only, and the first person to advance to the back row wins. Soon, Susan was studying endgames and opening traps. She enjoyed the game and caught on quickly. After eight months of study, Laszlo took her to a smoky chess club in Budapest and challenged grown men to play his four-year-old daughter, whose legs dangled from her chair. Susan won her first game, and the man she beat stormed off. She entered the Budapest girls' championship and won the under-eleven title. At age four she had not lost a game.
    By six, Susan could read and write and was years ahead of her grade peers in math. Laszlo and Klara decided they would educate her at home and keep the day open for chess. The Hungarian police threatened to throw him in jail if he did not send his daughter to the compulsory school system. It took him months of lobbying the Ministry of Education to gain permission. Susan's new little sister, Sofia, would be homeschooled too, as would Judit, who was coming soon, and whom Laszlo and Klara almost named Zseni, Hungarian for "genius." All three became part of the grand experiment.
    On a normal day, the girls were at the gym by 7 a.m. playing table tennis with trainers, and then back home at 10:00 for breakfast, before a long day of chess. When Laszlo reached the limit of his expertise, he hired coaches for his three geniuses in training. He spent his extra time cutting two...

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    March 4, 2019
    Journalist and self-identified generalist Epstein (The Sporting Gene) delivers an enjoyable if not wholly convincing work of Gladwellian pop-psychology aimed at showing that specialization is not the only path to success. His survey finds no shortage of notable athletes, artists, inventors, and businesspeople who followed atypically circuitous paths. Some are household names, such as J.K. Rowling, who by her own admission “failed on an epic scale” before deciding to pursue writing, and Duke Ellington, who briefly studied music as a child before becoming more interested in basketball and drawing, only returning to music after a chance encounter with ragtime. Others are more obscure, such as Nintendo’s Gunpei Yokoi, who turned his limitations as an electronics engineer to his advantage when he created the cheap-to-produce, durable Game Boy, and Jack Cecchini, “one of the rare musicians who is world class in both jazz and classical.” Epstein’s narrative case studies are fascinating, but the rapid-fire movement from one sketch to the next can create the impression of evidence in search of a thesis. While this well-crafted book does not entirely disprove the argument for expertise, Epstein does show that, for anyone without 10,000 hours to devote to mastering a single skill, there is hope yet. Agent: Chris Parris-Lamb, Gernert Company.

  • Library Journal

    March 1, 2019

    Epstein follows up The Sports Gene, which explored the roots of elite sport performance, with this intriguing analysis of successful artists, musicians, inventors, forecasters, scientists, and athletes. The author's revelation is that generalists, not specialists, are more primed to excel, with generalists often finding their path late and participating in many interests. The author's refreshing viewpoint is based on deep research into what characterizes successful professional performance. Instead of intense specialization, Epstein suggests professionals strive to cultivate inefficiency, fail tests in order to learn, and explore various career scenarios, arguing that deep knowledge in a single area can limit a person's agility and creativity. This will likely stir controversy in the field of professional sports, but the push to focus early and narrowly extends well beyond sports, says the author, as evidenced in Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers and Matthew Syed's Bounce. VERDICT All readers eager to look into the next trench over for innovative ideas to solve their problems will welcome this remarkable, densely packed work that will prove essential for all university libraries supporting AAA level athletics programs, colleges of business, and human resource development.--Dale Farris, Groves, TX

    Copyright 2019 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    March 15, 2019
    Why diverse experience and experimentation are important components of professional accomplishment.Arguing against the idea that narrow specialization leads to success, journalist Epstein (The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance, 2013) mounts convincing evidence that generalists bring more skill, creativity, and innovation to work in all fields. The author begins by contrasting the career trajectories of Tiger Woods, who began training as a golfer before he was 1, and Roger Federer, who dabbled in a range of sports before, as a teenager, he "began to gravitate more toward tennis." Although he started later than players who had worked with coaches, sports psychologists, and nutritionists from early childhood, a late start did not impede his development. His story, Epstein discovered, is common. When psychologists have studied successful individuals' "paths to excellence," they have found "most common was a sampling period" followed only later by focus and increased structure. "Hyperspecialization," writes the author, is not a requisite for achievement, and he offers abundant lively anecdotes from music, the arts, business, science, technology, and sports. Drawing on studies by cognitive psychologists and educators, Epstein examines how knowledge develops and, equally important, how it is assessed. He distinguishes between teaching strategies that emphasize repeated practice, leading to "excellent immediate performance" on tests, and "interleaving," an approach that develops inductive reasoning, in which students "learn to create abstract generalizations that allow them to apply what they learned to material they have never encountered before." Interleaving, he asserts, applies to both physical and mental skills: to a pianist and mathematician as well as to Shaquille O'Neal. The author critiques higher education for rushing students to specialization even though "narrow vocational training" will not prepare them for jobs "in a complex, interconnected, rapidly changing world." Although he admits "that passion and perseverance" are important precursors of excellence, "a change of interest, or a recalibration of focus" can also be critical to success.A fresh, brisk look at creativity, learning, and the meaning of achievement.

    COPYRIGHT(2019) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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