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Synopsis of “Range” — David Epstein

For all those making a living in the current century, Range talks about the commonly held perception of head-start and grinding culture and the inverse by citing some real world examples. Read more here ...


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Srilekha Vinjamara

2 years ago | 3 min read

For all those making a living in the current century, Range talks about the commonly held perception of head-start and grinding culture and the inverse by citing some real world examples.

Given the diverse set of topics covered in this book, be it the field of sports, arts, science, literature and leadership to name a few, it can be challenging to bring out the minute details of every example in this limited space. What I aim to bring here is the core motive that will make you want to open and read this book line by line, page by page, even if it is your first one! :)

Time and again, the author tries to show that as an individual, one cannot be sure of what we want beforehand and work it backwards. Rather, one can live the present, experiment around and figure out what works good — could be a combination of skill, desire, passion, curiosity, pay etc.

“What do you want to be as an adult?”

This is one of the common questions asked to a kid, who by the age of 7, gets a cognitive idea of the subset of designations he/she wants to be/do in the future. So when one sets a specialized goal first and then works backwards to make it happen, is there any guarantee that it would be suitable to them few years or decades down the line? It may or may not work out, only as the person grows, they can best answer and figure it out along the way.

Providing guidance and giving the freedom of choice to explore is different from chalking the end goal at the initial stages. A good example mentioned throughout the book is of Tiger Woods vs Roger, how the former seems to have envisioned the 10k hour rule and is considered a child prodigy in his field, but is opposite in the case of Roger. History shows the results in both cases. There is a special emphasis on how Roger played multiple sports during his initial childhood days which helped build his overall strength in various dimensions of the game.

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Another aspect is how folks with narrow and deep expertise can work more effectively in a kind-world environment, which is where previous patterns are present and they can be reiterated to sharpen past skill. This is not always the case as there are certain unknowns in some not so kind-world scenarios. Here broad thinking, the so-called out-of-box or diverse analysis helps as one is not bounded/restricted just by their expertise which can cause more harm than good. This is where the “T-shaped” skills fit in. Be it in research laboratories like NASA or even in armed forces where there is a fight-flight situation, a lot of kind-world cases don’t always exist. It is then that teams with broader/diverse knowledge and expertise or a person with diverse experience can bring more to the table than a deeply specialized person who has great depth in the specific domain but probably not a clue in the parallel domains themselves.

This book also serves to make people put on their thinking hats and take a pause from what is called rat-race nowadays. It definitely doesn’t give a definitive answer as that differs from time to time and per individual, but these examples are laid in a manner to show that diversity in learning and the so called lagging behind in specialization may not have short-term benefits but yields fruit long-term, in shaping the problem solving or analytical abilities to look beyond just what’s presented as an issue.

I would strongly urge folks to take at least a single reading of this book, I will probably be coming back to this book for a re-read at some point in life, as it demands. Also, as a reader I understand that one aspect is the privilege one has to get this freedom to experiment, learn, chose and then go along that path. Though this isn’t a very relevant context, it is something to be grateful for!

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Srilekha Vinjamara

Love to read, automate, be curious and peaceful


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