I found Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World (2019) by David Epstein through a number of different internet sources. An email from Outside magazine had it on a list of 9 Self-Improvement Books Actually Worth Reading, and it was also on NPR’s Favorite Books of 2019. However, I’m not sure I would have gotten to it as soon as I did, if I hadn’t seen that it was available on audiobook at my library. I haven’t had much time for reading lately, so listening to books is a way I’m able to get to more books even with other obligations getting in the way of my reading time.
To put it simply, Epstein shows in Range that specialization isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. In fact, many people who’ve made great contributions to society started rather late in life after hopping from one thing to another, following their interests. Epstein has a great number of examples of game changers around the world. This includes a number of Nobel Prize winning scientists, athletes, Vincent Van Gogh, and even Yo-Yo Ma (who did not start playing music on the cello).
I have to admit that it was very refreshing to hear about all these geniuses who were basically failures until they finally found their calling in midlife. I could definitely relate to jumping around in life, interested in everything, and not willing to settle down into something specific. Unfortunately for me, I think it’s possible to have this trait without being a genius. I am a generalist, and I’m interested in many things, but at this point I’m not expecting to blossom into something that would make a notable difference in the world.
Many of these stories seemed more anecdotal than a scientific blueprint for how to succeed. All of the athletes discussed, whether they specialized early or not had an innate talent that not everyone is gifted with. However, it does make sense to give yourself time to find what you really like because you might otherwise quit before you have a chance to get good.
He goes even further to say that groups are more successful in whatever they are trying to accomplish if they have a relatively varied membership without too much specialization. That way, they have more to draw from when overcoming obstacles.
On the whole, this book consistently kept my attention with numerous interesting stories that shifted the way I think. Now when I go on my tangents, it’s not just me being random, but widening my experiences to become a stronger, more well-rounded person!
You can find all of my reviews on my blog.