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Range

Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World
Written by: David Epstein
Narrated by: Will Damron
Length: 10 hrs and 17 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (324 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The number-one New York Times best seller 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

“I love this idea...because I think of myself as a jack of all trades.” (Fareed Zakaria, CNN)

“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, best-selling 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.

©2019 David Epstein (P)2019 Penguin Audio

What the critics say

“For reasons I cannot explain, David Epstein manages to make me thoroughly enjoy the experience of being told that everything I thought about something was wrong. I loved Range.” (Malcolm Gladwell, author of Outliers and The Tipping Point)

“For too long, we’ve believed in a single path to excellence. Start early, specialize soon, narrow your focus, aim for efficiency. But in this groundbreaking book, David Epstein shows that in most domains, the way to excel is something altogether different. Sample widely, gain a breadth of experiences, take detours, and experiment relentlessly. Epstein is a deft writer, equally nimble at telling a great story and unpacking complicated science. And Range is an urgent and important book, an essential read for bosses, parents, coaches, and anyone who cares about improving performance.” (Daniel H. Pink, author of When, Drive, and A Whole New Mind)

“In a world that’s increasingly obsessed with specialization, star science writer David Epstein is here to convince you that the future may belong to generalists. It’s a captivating read that will leave you questioning the next steps in your career - and the way you raise your children.” (Adam Grant, author of Give and Take and Originals)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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yesss

This was just the book I needed....it was recommended to me by my business coach and I'm glad I tuned in. I came away feeling like every lesson amd moment in my life had given me something and that range can be so positive

2 people found this helpful

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Fresh take on innovation & the generalist mindset

This book is reassurance for all the wanderers, day dreamers and tinkerers that you don't have retire your insatiable curiosity for a path to success. Nearing thirty, I still havent settled in just one career path, never mind a narrow trajectory. My lack of specialization has been a source of deep personal anxiety and exasperation from peers and mentors. This book offers an alternative that celebrates the generalist's path to success and happiness. I'll continue to follow my interests wherever they lead, but having read this book, I'll bring along a few new tools, and a lot less guilt.

1 person found this helpful

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Engaging and informative

A well researched thought with pertinent examples to ensure transference of lessons to ones own life and situations. In a society focused on hyper-specialization, this is a timely writing to remind us of the great many benefits of range (generalization).
Enjoy.

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Put a smile on my face

This is one the most influential books on a personal level that I read in the last few years. I have always struggled with breadth but lack of depth. I read everything and anything! I tried many hobbies, kept some and left some. I changed paths from undergrad to masters and currently PhD. I have curiosity for knowledge about anything and everything. I noticed this early in my twenties and I thought there must be something wrong with me. Most of my peers followed through into one path and became very specialized which made me feel behind, awkward, a failure, and many other negative feelings. This book made me look at myself in a different way! I now have a different perspective on life and my progression within it! This could be my path to benefiting many people on the future!

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great book, worth reading

the book offers insights and interaction that anyone would benefit from about leaning into curiosity, exploration, and diversity. author is a bit monotone, but it did not take away from the value of the book

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Mountains

Loved the book. I'm just going to say this in case there is any chance that this was not intentional. I'm pretty sure that it was, but Anders Ericsson's latest book on deliberate practice is called Peak, and this book is called Range, and together they tell you how to go about scaling mountains... or something. Lol.

It's interesting because these are my two favourite books that I've read this year and even though they may seem to contradict each other at times, they complement each other really well. If you've read one, I definitely recommend reading the other. Great book!

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Against what we're taught to believe which I like

Up and down affair with my own level of interest but overall I enjoyed it. I'm one of the people that would be considered having range with all the various areas of work experience I have but I cant definitively say I'm better off than had I stayed in my original field. However on the flip side for many years I felt like I was behind so it's interesting that this book attempts to squish that notion. The author probably could have provided fewer examples to get the point across otherwise it's a worthwhile listen/read.

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Meh

Maybe I’ve read too many books in this genre, but didn’t hear anything original.

It was very average, not too gripping. Took me quite a few goes to get through.

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The Best Non-Fiction Book I've Read This Year

Epstein left no stone unturned in this book. Brilliant and worth buying and sharing with those in your life. From sports to music to science and everything in between, this book is superbly researched, well organized and excellently written. Purchased both audio book and physical copy.

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Loved it! I will never settle on one career!

Wonderful audiobook with great narration. The science is fascinating, thank you David Epstein for writing this book.

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  • anon.
  • 2019-06-07

If you're highly curious, read this

Who will like this book
* If your friends would describe you as highly curious, you’ll like this book
* If you’re an investor, a business owner, a researcher, a scientist, a musician, a writer, a director, an athlete, or really anyone dealing with complex questions or seeking world-class achievement, you’ll like this book
* If you care about doing the most good for the world and maximizing your positive impact on the world, you’ll like this book
* If you’ve thought about how to increase innovation and problem solving in the world, you’ll like this book
* If you’ve thought about what makes great inventors or innovators great, and how to identify and encourage world-class talent, you’ll like this book
* If you like books like “Sapiens,” “Poor Charlie’s Almanack,” “Elephant in the Brain,” “Principles,” you’ll like this book
* If you have ADHD, you’ll like this book
* If your job or passion involves trying to accurately forecast the future, you’ll like this book

The benefits you’ll get from this book
* You’ll see how to achieve more, professionally
* You’ll understand the ways your understanding of the 10,000 Hour rule has been wrong
* You’ll better understand the path to world-class achievement
* You’ll better understand how to spot potential world-class achievers
* You’ll better understand how to forecast the future
* You’ll better understand how to solve complex challenges where the answers aren’t obvious, both in your work and personal life

Conclusion
If you think that you'll benefit from it based on my above notes, I recommend buying it. If you're on the fence, listen to interviews with the author either on the "Invest Like The Best" or the "Econtalk" podcasts to get a better sense.

After you read it
Search YouTube and watch the talk called “Greatness Cannot Be Planned.” It extends the ideas from this book in a brilliant way.
If you like the Greatness Cannot Be Planned, then you’ll also enjoy the following books: “So Good They Can’t Ignore You,” “Where Good Ideas Come From,” and the chapter on the evolution of technology from “The Evolution of Everything.”
Also search google for the blog post “Focus May Be Your Worst Enemy in Biotech R&D” — it also resonates with the ideas from this book.

P.S. If you’re a curious person, and you probably are because you’re looking at books and reading the reviews, definitely get this book!
P.P.S. This book is the next “Sapiens.”

106 people found this helpful

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  • GuamUsa65
  • 2019-10-22

Excellent read for 50 somethings like myself who has peaked in one field but is far from done in contributing to this world.

I am 50 something and her and CEO and people keep asking me what do I do now that I’ve peaked. I am nowhere close to being done and my contributing to my country, people of Guam or family. This book is in inspiration to all of us who have meandered our way through our lives to relative success but still feel like Caesar that our life has just begun!!

9 people found this helpful

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  • Brian Tudor
  • 2019-06-06

Generally Speaking…

As someone who has a vast amount of hobbies and interests I found Range to be a very well informed look at the idealized nature of success based on having a wealth of experience to draw upon. Epstein is a wonderful writer whom I have enjoyed since his time at Sports Illustrated and Will Damron did a great job narrating the book. If you are someone in a field where innovation is the order of the day this book is for you. If you work in HR, Management, or College admissions, this is the book for you. Understanding how to look at all the salient data points to see the full story of a problem, product, or most importantly a person is broken down in Range to help you find the most successful teams in the last place you'd think to look.

8 people found this helpful

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  • ST
  • 2019-06-05

I wish I had this book 10 years ago

Having been raised, and currently living, in an environment dominated by the philosophy of “Grit” and the “10,000 hour rule”, this book is a refreshing look at those who have thrived on the other end of that spectrum. I wish this book was written 10 years ago; it would have saved me a lot of time and grief.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Zack
  • 2019-08-11

Gladwell-Esque Supplement to Fuzzy and the Techie

3.5 — I can't help but think of this in relation to The Fuzzy and the Techie: Why the Liberal Arts Will Rule the Digital World. Both address a similar idea, but with with slightly different focuses. Range was more personal, sharing case studies of individuals who got late starts or hopped across industries/careers/specializations. Stylistically, it's one of those Gladwell-esque books that follows the case-study-illustrating-a-broader-lesson formula. What has stuck with me from The Fuzzy and the Techie, in contrast, was the more societal stuff: how some of the jobs we think of as most secure (STEM, coding, etc.) may actually be vulnerable as AI and automation advance, whereas cross-disciplinary, expansive, critical thinking-oriented skill sets will be in demand (because those functions simply can't be replicated by computers). On that front, I thought Fuzzy was stronger, but Range was a great supplement, particularly in its explanation of "kind" vs. "wicked" learning environments and those implications. The case studies were interesting, too, running the gamut from Roger Federer to musically virtuousic brothel orphans.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Daniel Cunha
  • 2019-06-21

Interesting

Interesting content, but falls short of proving the case that one is better off embracing being a generalist today to "triumph" (present tense) as the subtitle suggests. It rather makes an interesting case as to why generalists should be more valued than they currently are.

5 people found this helpful

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  • A Baker
  • 2019-07-17

A gem worth 6 out of 5 stars

Wow. The book description does not come close to justifying the depth, importance, knowledge value, quality of writing AND narration, breadth of life and career applicability, insight, credibility, and even the level of entertainment contained herein. Epstein did a stellar job of painting a complete picture of how we think, problem solve, interact, learn, grow, and progress in life. Showing the necessity of continuous analytical curiosity and critical thinking development.

This book contains mountains of important lessons, perfectly curated to provide a complete, deep understanding of our skill sets in the world. I have a top five reading list in psychology, critical thinking, statistics, and philosophy.. this book thoroughly competes with the entire combination of my essential reads.

I could go on and on. But I’ll end with this, if you have any interest in deep learning and critical thinking, this book is my #1 recommendation for most important work of the decade.

4 people found this helpful

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  • A. Yoshida
  • 2019-08-02

Good premise but poor support for it

The point of this book is that specialists do well in a 'kind' world, where rules are clear and feedback is immediate (like playing golf or chess). Generalists do well in a 'wicked' world, where rules are unclear or unknown and feedback is not immediate (like practicing medicine). Therefore, a cardiologist with a wider range of knowledge (like nutrition and physiology) would make a better doctor than one who is focused only on acquiring more technical knowledge about the heart. Unfortunately, the author does a poor job of supporting this premise. The stories and studies in the book really support the idea of being exposed to a wide range of activities and experiences instead of any specialization at a young age. This would give a person a better foundation so that later in life, that person can find an area of expertise that is a fit and can draw on that varied, past experiences for innovative solutions in their area of expertise (instead of a myopic view of the world through the perspective of their specialization).

16 people found this helpful

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  • J. Fried
  • 2020-01-23

Eye opening for all ADD & folks with multiple interests

Interested in more than one thing? Here’s the book to save your self image, give you avenues to get better and learn how to produce breakthroughs through diversity of interests.
I enjoyed every chapter on its own and all together as a book. Highly recommended and very easy to listen to.

1 person found this helpful

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  • jaga
  • 2019-10-15

SPECIALIZATION VS BREADTH OF KNOWLEDGE/EXPERIENCE

First of all, a better subtitle would be: “Why generalists sometimes triumph in a specialized world”. That said, In a world where specialization is increasingly prized, there is growing evidence that multi disciplinary knowledge may be more directly related to innovation and success. David Epstein summarizes and distills this research and countless anecdotes in his latest book, “Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World”. This is due to a variety of reasons, including technological development, the pace of change, available resources (including having virtually all of human knowledge at our fingertips). And while there are certainly situations where you want or need the experienced professional (eg, surgery), studies show that generalists, or at least teams of experts with different specialities are more adept at solving problems and forecasting. Specialists have a tendency to see things through the lense of their training / experience and are particularly blind at dealing with situations which fall outside of the normal pattern of events. Unfortunately, people we typically deal with in particular situations are often not the ones that are best at synthesizing information from a multitude of sources and evaluating problems / challenges most clearly and objectively. Examples of this include work performance review processes, grant review / approval, talent evaluation in sports (see “Moneyball” by Michael Lewis). The biggest takeaway for me is that innovation tends to happen where disciplines meet. Epstein has written a very well researched and fascinating book which is not only entertaining but very practical for business people, parents and just about anyone.

1 person found this helpful