Range by David Epstein

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jennypenny
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Range by David Epstein

Post by jennypenny »

Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World

Sorry ... I probably won't be able to post a proper review for a couple of days. Definitely recommended reading.

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Re: Range by David Epstein

Post by jacob »

Arne Naess wrote:The complete individual is not a specialist; he is a generalist and an amateur. This does not mean that he has no special interests, that he never works hard, that he does not partake in the life of the community. But he does so from personal inclination, with joy, and within the framework of his value priorities.

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jennypenny
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Re: Range by David Epstein

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There are some more specific clues than the simple recommendation to be a generalist. From the NYT review of Range "Students who take an interdisciplinary array of science courses are better at thinking analogically; researchers with offbeat knowledge combinations score more “hit” papers; Nobel laureates in science are more likely than their less-recognized peers — 22 times as likely! — to have artistic pursuits outside their field."

The book is still spinning in my head, but I wonder if the idea of the side hustle should be amended for EREs who are as interested in resilience as they are financial independence. In the book and elsewhere, Epstein talks about how adaptable generalists are, though he means certain types of generalists. Like the mention of artistic hobbies amongst scientists ... it seems there are certain combinations that promote the most resiliency and adaptability.

I guess I wonder if the common goal to monetize side hustles actually diminishes their contribution to our overall resiliency and capabilities. Dunno. Lots to think about.

TheProcess
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Re: Range by David Epstein

Post by TheProcess »

Good podcast with Epstein out today that shares a lot of the ideas (Invest Like the Best): https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/mathew ... refid=stpr

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Re: Range by David Epstein

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He also talked about it on yesterday's EconTalk.

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Re: Range by David Epstein

Post by wolf »

Have anyone of you already read it? It sounds promising.

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jennypenny
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Re: Range by David Epstein

Post by jennypenny »

Sorry, I never posted a review. I'll do it next week.

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Re: Range by David Epstein

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wolf wrote:
Fri Jun 14, 2019 8:44 am
Have anyone of you already read it? It sounds promising.
I read it. But I'm not too positive. Anecdotes make for an entertaining read but this book is pushing it. There's just too much text and not enough information. On some level, it's entertaining, but if you dislike books with low information density it's annoying. It gave me the feeling of regularly confusing correlation and causation (but maybe it didn't, and it's just because the author didn't want to go into more detail) and thus I'm also left wondering whether this book actually made its point.

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Re: Range by David Epstein

Post by jacob »

FrugalPatat wrote:
Fri Jun 14, 2019 11:48 am
There's just too much text and not enough information.
I blame word processors. It seems like most books past 1985 or so are just shite when compared to the earlier stuff. I'm seriously contemplating switching to pen and paper fearing that I might be part of the problem. Ideally, each sentence should constitute a thought and each paragraph should constitute a concept. That's not the case anymore.

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Re: Range by David Epstein

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

Right, nothing published these-a-days can possibly compare to the quality of the best-selling non-fiction of 1923, a year which saw the publication of masterworks such as "Diet and Healthy" by Lulu Peters and "Painted Windows" by A Gentleman in a Duster (pseudonym for Harold Begbie.) And, of course, the literary world will never again experience the brilliance of the decade of the 1970s when vast masses of the populace could be found slathered with coconut oil on beaches intently reading "Wicked Loving Lies" or "Coma." :lol:

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jennypenny
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Re: Range by David Epstein

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Epstein was criticized for including too much research and factual information in The Sports Gene. I don't agree with the criticism but others thought the book was a bit dry and burdensome. I'm guessing that's why Epstein tried to make this book more readable. He comes from the sports writing world so his natural audience might not be used to reading information-dense non-fiction. I still liked the book and found it relevant to ERE in how it addressed broad vs. deep vs. serial learning.

@7 -- I was just talking about popular reading material from the 70s. I spent most of those summers on the beach and I remember everyone (EVERYONE) read books all day while sitting on the beach. It's hard to imagine that now. :( The non-fiction was innovative and concise, and the novels were excellent and challenged convention. One of my favorite Doris Lessing* novels was from that era.


*I found an old copy of Prisons We Choose To Live Inside. It's very relevant to today's issues and worth a read if anyone stumbles across a copy.

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Re: Range by David Epstein

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

@jennypenny:

Yeah, I started reading adult audience 70s novels at a very young age, anything and everything I found on the coffee tables of my babysitting clients. So, on some level I feel like I was already an adult during that era. On an only semi-related note, I was kind of struck by some sort of false memory syndrome while recently binge watching "Mad Men", because as an adult I dated a couple men who were adults during that era.

Anyways, the point I was attempting was that there has been a good deal of schlock published in every era, but declining likelihood of reprint runs over time serves as quality filter. Maintenance fees and tasks, no matter how minimal, will likely serve similar purpose for digital publication moving forward.

Kriegsspiel
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Re: Range by David Epstein

Post by Kriegsspiel »

jennypenny wrote:
Sat Jun 15, 2019 5:55 pm
Epstein was criticized for including too much research and factual information in The Sports Gene. I don't agree with the criticism but others thought the book was a bit dry and burdensome. I'm guessing that's why Epstein tried to make this book more readable. He comes from the sports writing world so his natural audience might not be used to reading information-dense non-fiction. I still liked the book and found it relevant to ERE in how it addressed broad vs. deep vs. serial learning.
I can't understand people thinking The Sports Gene was dry! Here's an excerpt that is anything but burdensome:
In August 2004, a small group of scientists at the venerable Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) bet all their chips on the primacy of general, non-sport-specific athleticism

The AIS scientists had a year and a half to try to qualify a woman for the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, in the winter sport of skeleton, in which the athlete begins by running down the ice with one or two hands on a sled and then, in a leap fairly like the disco move "the worm," gets on board and careens down an ice-coated track face-first on her stomach at more than seventy miles per hour.

The Aussie scientists had never even seen the sport, but they had learned that the beginning sprint accounts for about half of the variation in total race time. So they announced a nationwide call for women who could fit snugly on a tiny sled and who could sprint. Thus began Australia's Winter Olympics equivalent of American Idol, and it would draw commensurate media attention Down Under.

Based on written applications, twenty-six athletes were invited to the AIS in Canberra in SE Australia to undergo physical tests in the hope of earning one of ten funded training spots. The women came from track, gymnastics, water skiing, and surf lifesaving, a popular sport in Australia that mixes open-water rowing and kayaking, surf paddling, swimming, and footraces in the sand. Not one woman had heard of skeleton, much less tried it.

Five of the ten spots were filled solely based on the 30-meter sprint, the other five by consensus of the scientists and AIS coaches, based on how well the athletes did in a dry land test during which they had to jump on a sled fitted with wheels.

As far as the world skeleton community was concerned, the project was a doomed sideshow. "Everyone in the sport told us, 'You guys will never succeed.' says Jason Gulbin, then a physiologist at the AIS. "They told us, 'it's a real feel thing. It's an art. You need time in this sport.' The biggest naysayers were really the coaches from other countries."

The women of the AIS project certainly had no feel for the ice, but they were outstanding all-around athletes. Melissa Hoar had won a world championship title in the beach-racing category of surf lifesaving. Emma Sheers had been a world water skiing champion. "It was a real curiousity," Gulbin says, "to dump basically beach babes in skeleton who had never done it before."

After selection, it was time to find out whether the women could actually get down the ice, bones intact. The scientists swallowed their nerves and headed to Calgary at the start of the winter season for the first runs on ice. It didn't take a Ph. D. to evaluate the results.

Within three slides, the newbies were recording the fastest runs in Australian history, faster than the previous national record holder, who had had years of training. "That first week on the track, it was all over," says Gulbin. "The writing was on the wall."

So much for needing a feel for the ice. Suddenly, the initial helpfulness became standoffishness as rival skeleton athletes and coaches realized they stood to be displaced or embarrassed by women they had previously viewed as rank novices.

Ten weeks after she first set foot on ice, Melissa Hoar bested about half the field at the world U23 skeleton championships. (She won the title in her next try.) And beach sprinter Michelle Steele made it all the way to the Winter Olympics in Italy.

The AIS scientists chronicled the program's success in an aptly titled paper: "Ice Novice to Winter Olympian in 14 Months."

Australia, a world sports powerhouse, has thrived off talent identification and "talent transfer," the switching of athletes between sports. In 1994, as part of the run-up to the 2000 Sydney Olympics, the country launched its National Talent Search program. Children ages 14-16 were examined in school for body size and tested for general athleticism. Australia, home to 19.1 million people at the time, won 58 medals in Sydney. That's 3.03 medals for every million citizens, nearly 10 times the relative haul of the United States, which took home 0.33 medals per million Americans.

As part of the Australian talent search, some athletes were ushered away from the sports in which they had experience into unfamiliar ones that better suited them. In 1994, Alisa Camplin, who had previously competed in gymnastics, track and field, and sailing, was converted into an aerial skier. Camplin was an outstanding all-around athlete but had never even seen snow. On her first jump ever she broke a rib. On her second, she hit a tree. "Everyone thought it was a joke," Camplin told Australia's Channel Nine TV network. "They told me I was too old. They told me I started too late." But by 1997, Camplin was competing on the World Cup circuit. At the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, despite breaking both her ankles six weeks earlier, Camplin won the gold medal. Even after that victory, watching the sparsely experienced Camplin on skis was like watching a giraffe on roller skates. She crushed her victory flowers when she fell trying to ski down the mountain to the gold medal winner's press conference.

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Re: Range by David Epstein

Post by pukingRainbows »

I've started reading this and am enjoying it so far (chapter 1). It seems like he's adding some nuance and context to the 10000 hours/deliberate practice dogma that's become gospel.

I also seem to fit his description of a generalist, so it's heartening to hear that there's some hope for me yet. =)

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Re: Range by David Epstein

Post by Scott 2 »

I stumbled upon this one through my library's audio books recommendations. I was thinking it'd play well here, and sure enough, found this thread.

Halfway through, I see the author's infatuation with the generalist as anti-fragility applied to personal development. There are parallels to what I've experienced professionally. Grand plans rarely work, much better to run many small trials and act on the feedback.

I am finding the apparent preference for near random cycling of endeavors a little off putting. I think there's a place to nurture a convergence of experiences, or to focus it on clear constraints in a system. Maybe he'll get there in the second half.

His sales pitch and anecdotal discussions might be the most interesting. Professionally, I routinely struggle to convince life long specialists and planners, that there is another way. Maybe I'll take some ideas away there.

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Re: Range by David Epstein

Post by RoamingFrancis »

I read this book a while ago. What I found most interesting were his thoughts on analogical thinking and the ability of a generalist to apply principles from one field to another field, in a way that specialists are blind to. He mentions the invention of the GameBoy as a clever reworking of technologies that already existed.

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Re: Range by David Epstein

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John Boyd (20th century military strategist, "The modern Sun Tzu"), said that people who win are people who can invent snowmobiles - in other words, take concepts from different fields (skiing, motorcycling, tank...ing?) and combine them to suit the actual present-reality-situation (gotta get up this snow hill asap). Boyd put a pretty high emphasis on timing (tempo), aka being able to perceive the world in real-time as much as possible and respond quickly, which to me is an argument *against* just-in-time learning - you need to have a wide experience in a number of fields stored in your brain, so as you observe current reality, you have all these "parts"/components that you can intuitively apply to the situation.

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Re: Range by David Epstein

Post by Alphaville »

7Wannabe5 wrote:
Sat Jun 15, 2019 10:54 am
Right, nothing published these-a-days can possibly compare to the quality of the best-selling non-fiction of 1923, a year which saw the publication of masterworks such as "Diet and Healthy" by Lulu Peters and "Painted Windows" by A Gentleman in a Duster (pseudonym for Harold Begbie.) And, of course, the literary world will never again experience the brilliance of the decade of the 1970s when vast masses of the populace could be found slathered with coconut oil on beaches intently reading "Wicked Loving Lies" or "Coma." :lol:
:lol: :lol: :lol:

i just snorted loudly. can you please write a book of very funny essays? please??

Hristo Botev
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Re: Range by David Epstein

Post by Hristo Botev »

Glad AxelHeyst refreshed this thread, as I'd not seen it before. Just requested this book from the library and am looking forward to reading it.

I've been slowly trying to de-specialize myself for a few years now, initially just with respect to my career, but currently at a more personal level as it concerns hobbies, knowledge base, book interests, etc. At an anecdotal level, my little generalist law firm has done spectacularly well with COVID, whereas many of our BigLaw competitors of 500+ uber-specialized attorneys have really struggled. Our small size and generalist mindset has made us very resilient and particularly good at pivoting as the business landscape changes on a seemingly weekly basis. And, our clients have learned to very much value the sort of broad-based thinking that attorneys who don't pride themselves on being specialists can bring. E.g., a patent specialist sees every problem as a patent problem, ditto for a real estate specialist, a privacy specialist, an advertising specialist, and so on. I'm looking forward to building up that same sort of resiliency outside of my career as I focus on outsourcing less and pursuing interests and creating/doing things as opposed to just passively being entertained.

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Re: Range by David Epstein

Post by Alphaville »

before i got thrown off by @7w5’s ace post i was about to say there’s an app/service (“blinkist”) that summarizes books for you in both text and audio formats. i used it for a year and stopped the subscriptions, but it’s a good way to deal with the barrage of information from nonfiction writing these days. i got to the point where i couldn’t catch up with blinkist alone, much less read all the books i wanted, but i’m thinking maybe of reviving the subscription now that things are “calmer” (lol).

it’s obviously a convenience and not a necessity, unless you’re strapped for time, which i can be at certain times/seasons. but the time savings can be significant because it’s more or less a push service: you don’t have to go hunting and pecking for information but it’s thrown at you constantly instead (hence the occasional overload). so you just need to sort through what comes to you. but anyway i thought i’d mention it here even though it’s no substitute for a good read, just a good preview for things you might want, but also maybe more importantly a good way to skip pointless stuff.

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