Creating a Book of Small Experiments

Between Dan Pink, Dan Ariely, Adam Grant, and Seth Godin, I’ve usually got material for about five or six blog posts a month. Add in my Music Monday posts, and I’ve got 10 posts covered. That still leaves 20 or so ideas that I need to come up with each month, but it’s nice when there are certain sources I can count on each month.

And tonight’s blog comes courtesy of Dan Pink’s latest Pinkcast.

In this episode, Dan interviews David Epstein, author of one of my favorite books of the past few years – The Sports Gene. Epstein has just come out with a new book – Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a  Specialized World.

Here’s a blurb from the book’s web site:

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.

It sounds like the kind of book I want to read, and so I’ve put a request in for the book at our local library (I’m eighth in line for one of two copies the library has).

I like the idea of small experiments; it reminds a little of 30-day challenges that I’ve written about before. In fact, this whole daily blogging thing started as a 31-day write-and-run challenge back in January 2015. I made it through the first 31 days, and now I’ve been doing it for over 1,600 days.

The Wall Street Journal even had a story about 30-day challenges a few years ago.

I had first heard about 30-day challenges from Steve Pavlina’s blog back in 2005, and I’ve even incorporated such challenges into the classes that I teach. While the primary purpose of such challenges is to establish a habit, I can also see how they could be viewed as mini-experiments that one can try so as to discover what activity best suits them and their skills sets and interests.

Here are some impressive words of praise for Epstein’s newest book:

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, bestselling author of Blink and Outliers

(this could be in reference to the fact that in the blurb above there is mention of deliberate practice, something that Gladwell argues in favor of in his book, Outliers)

It’s a joy to spend hours in the company of a writer as gifted as David Epstein. And the joy is all the greater when that writer shares so much crucial and revelatory information about performance, success, and education.”
— Susan Cain, bestselling author of Quiet

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, bestselling author of Originals and Give and Take

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, bestselling author of When and Drive

That’s quite a group of fellow authors. And here’s one more from O Magazine:

“An assiduously researched and accessible argument for being a jack of all trades. ”

So here’s the three-minute Pinkcast interview with David Epstein:

To me, perhaps the most amazing thing about the interview was finding out that these guys are neighbors! What’s in the drinking water n that neighborhood?!

Happy experimenting.

*image from Insider Threat Security

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