Range by David Epstein

Like many people, I first heard about the 10,000 rule from Malcolm Gladwell. I later went on to read Peak by Anders Ericsson, the researcher who basically established this rule. I found the 10,000 rule to be immensely interesting and exceedingly suffocating. Let me explain.

It is fun and exciting to find a concise theory of expertise; to be great at something you must follow this model or concept. It feels somewhat powerful to know what feels like a hidden formula. But at the same time, it feels all overwhelming. Do you want to be the best? Do you have the time to practice deliberately and continuously for at least five years? No? Maybe? Then never mind.

I am way too curious to be a specialist. In college, I felt a tremendous pressure to dedicate my professional life to one topic. I change my major a few times trying to find my niche. I finally chose higher education, which is sort of a cop-out; higher education is a field that compromises almost all fields. Even then I thought I needed to become an expert. Over and over again, I felt like I failed the mission. My curiosity had killed any specialty.

So, where am I today? A degree in theology. A degree in counseling. Working on a degree in legal studies. What a mess, eh?

However, my curiosity is not a problem, it is an asset. Range is a manifesto against the 10,000 rule. True, there may be some fields where the 10,000 rule pays off. But complex questions do not have simple answers. People who have a wide range of knowledge and interests are able to bring novel ideas to the table that help crack the code to the world’s most difficult problems.

This is a very interesting book. A definite recommend.

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