Yogesh Dhimate

Notes to Myself

Jan 13, 2021 - 2 minute read - Books

Reflections on Range by David Epstein

I recently finished reading Range - Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein. It wasn’t exactly a new topic. It was recommended in Bill Gates’ blog so I was curious about it and picked it up. The book talks about (hyper)specialization vs broad thinking in career as well as life. I had read one perspective about this in other books like ‘Talent is Overrated’ by Geoffrey Colvin, and Cal Newport’s ‘So Good They Can’t Ignore You’.

This book offers a different perspective. It’s quite a myth-buster about the 10000 hours theory or deliberate practice. It explains how the hyperspecialization of narrow skills can be harmful to your long term growth. David kept me engaged throughout the book, even though sometimes the content kept on dragging the same message. It also felt relevant to my experience in life and career. I have been a sort of generalist, trying out different things like software engineering, solution architecture, or pre-sales over the last 20 years in my career. I intentionally avoided sticking to a single tech stack or framework or career track. And sometimes felt bad (or incompetent) being a jack of all trades type of a person. Turns out it isn’t bad to be that guy. In a way, I felt vindicated of everything I have done so far.

The key messages that stuck with me were about the experimentation and match quality - the term used to describe the fit between work someone does and their abilities. Everyone progresses at a different rate, so feeling behind doesn’t help much. Most likely you don’t know where exactly you are going. In this situation, the proactive pursuit of match quality, experimentation with different things, learning and adjusting as you go is the best approach. Comparing yourself to (cherry-picked) younger people doesn’t help either. Instead, compare yourself to your yesterday’s self and see how you are progressing. Epstein provides a good framework and reason to encourage range (rather than depth) over different areas of interest and stay curious.

As noted above, some of the repetitive content could’ve been edited to make it more concise. But other than that it was a fun and enjoyable read.