Range, David Epstein

"Of course, the purpose is to find something that stimulates you but that you couldn't have known to look for--an interest you don't know you had."


"Pretending the world is like golf and chess is comforting. It makes for a tidy kind-world message, and some very compelling books. The rest of this one will begin where those end--in a place where the popular sport is Martian tennis, with a view into how the modern world became so wicked in the first place."

p. 46

"Tiger parents are trying to skip that phase entirely. It reminds me of a conversation I had with Ian Yates, a British sports scientist and coach who helped develop future professional athletes in a range of sports. Parents, Yates told me, increasingly come to him and "want their kids doing what the Olympians are doing right now, not what the Olympians were doing when they were twelve or thirteen," which included a wider variety of activities that developed their general athleticism and allowed them to probe their talents and interests before they focused narrowly on technical skills. The sampling period is not incidental to the development of great performers--something to be excised in the interest of a head start--it is integral."

p. 85

"Compared to the Tiger Mother's tome, a parenting manual oriented toward creative achievement would have to open with a much shorter list of rules. In offering advice to parents, psychologist Adam Grant noted that creativity may be difficult to nurture, but it is easy to thwart. He pointed to a study that found an average of six household rules for typical children, compared to one in households with extremely creative children. The parents with creative children made their opinions known after their kids did something they didn't like, they just did not proscribe it beforehand. Their households were low on prior restraint."

p. 101

"It should come as no surprise that more students in Scotland ultimately majored in subjects that did not exist in their high schools, like engineering. In England and Wales, students were expected to pick a path with knowledge only of the limited menu they had been exposed to early in high school. That is sort of like being forced to choose at sixteen whether you want to marry your high school sweetheart. At the time it might seem like a great idea, but the more you experience, the less great that idea looks in hindsight. In England and Wales, adults were more likely to get divorced from the careers they had invested in because they settled down too early. If we treated careers more like dating, nobody would settle down so quickly."

p. 174

"Paul Graham, computer scientist and cofounder of Y Combinator--the start-up funder of Airbnb, Dropbox, Stripe, and Twitch--encapsulated Ibarra's tenets in high school graduation speech he wrote, but never delivered:

It might seem that nothing would be easier than deciding what you like, but it turns out to be hard, partly because it's hard to get an accurate picture of most jobs. . . . Most of the word I've done in the last ten years didn't exist when I was in high school. . . . In such a world it's not a good idea to have fixed plans.

And yet every May, speakers all over the country fire up the Standard Graduation Speech, the theme of which is: don't give up on your dreams. I know what they mean, but this is a bady way to put it, because it implies you're supposed to be bound by some plan you made early on. The computer world has a name for this: premature optimization. . . .

. . . .Instead of working back from a goal, work forward from promising situations. This is what most successful people actually do anyway.

In the graduation-speech approach, you decide where you want to be in twenty years, and then ask: what should I do now to get there? I propose instead that you don't commit to anything in the future, but just look at the options available now, and choose those that will give you the most promising range of options afterward."

p. 219

"Many experts never admitted systematic flaws in their judgment, even in the face of their results. When they succeeded, it was completely on their own merits--their expertise clearly enabled them to figure out the world. When they missed wildly, it was always a near miss; they had certainly understood the situation, they insisted, and if just one little thing had gone differently, they would have nailed it. Or, like Ehrlich, their understanding was correct; the timeline was just a bit off. Victories were total victories, and defeats were always just a touch of bad luck away from having been victories too. Experts remained undefeated while losing constantly."

p. 297

"Compare yourself to yourself yesterday, not to younger people who aren't you. Everyone progresses at a different rate, so don't let anyone else make you feel behind. You probably don't even know where exactly you're going, so feeling behind doesn't help. Instead, as Herminia Ibarra suggested for the proactive pursuit of match quality, start planning experiments."

p. 393

"In my experience with the foundation, applicants who win a scholarship are often those who explain a varied path--including stops along the way that sometimes seem far afield--as a series of lessons and subsequent pivots. I think that is a good strategy to keep in mind: rather than hiding diverse experience, explain it."

p. 400