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Range by David Epstein

Book Notes and Takeaways via Duncan Kelm

  •  “And he refused to specialize in anything, preferring to keep an eye on the overall estate rather than any of its parts…And Nikolay’s management produced the most brilliant results.” – Leo Tolstoy
  • “No tool is Omni competent. There is no such thing as a master-key that will unlock all doors. – Arnold Toynbee
  • The professed necessity of hyper specialization forms the core of a vast, successful, and sometimes well-meaning marketing machine, in sports and beyond. In reality a broad path to sports stardom is far more prevalent than the direct path, but those athletes’ stories are much more quietly told
  • Learning is best done slowly to create lasting knowledge even when it means performing poorly on tests of immediate progress
    • The most effective learning looks inefficient; it looks like falling behind
  • The fastest growing start-ups average age of the founder was forty-five when the company was launched
    • Age doesn’t necessarily matter
    • Experience in other areas actually tends to benefit entrepreneurs
  • Overspecialization can lead to collective tragedy even when every individual separately take the most reasonable course of action
    • Highly specialized health care professionals have developed their own version of the “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail” problem
    • Increased specialization has created a “system of parallel trenches” in the quest for innovation
    • Everyone is digging deeper into their own trench and rarely standing up to look in the next trench over, even though the solution to their problem happens to reside there
  • The challenge we all face is how to maintain the benefits of breadth, diverse experience, interdisciplinary thinking, and delayed concentration in a world that increasingly incentives, even demands hyper specialization
  • Where patterns do not clearly repeat, repetition does not actually cause learning
    • We learn to group recurring information into chunks
  • The more tasks shifts to an open world of big picture strategy, the more humans have to add because they can connect dots and create inferences that are broad and that a computer cannot
    • The bigger the picture the more unique the potential human contribution
    • Our greatest strength is the exact opposite of narrow specialization – it is the ability to integrate broadly
    • In a narrow enough world, humans may not have much to contribute much longer – In more open realms they certainly will
    • The progress of AI is a closed and orderly world, with defined rules, that is not life
      • In truly open-world problems devoid of rigid rules and reams of perfect historical data, AI has been disastrous
  • A study found that when experienced accountants were asked in a study to use a new tax law for deductions that replaced a previous one, they did worse than the novices
    • Being ignorant to the rules can actually benefits those new to tax who haven’t been in the industry long
  • Creative achievers tend to have broad interests
    • This breadth often supports insights that cannot be attributed to domain specific expertise alone
  • Modern work demands knowledge transfer: the ability to apply knowledge to new situations and different domains
    • A city dweller traveling through the desert will be completely dependent on a nomad to keep him alive. So long as they remain in the desert, the nomad is a genius (This actually kind of argues for specialization which is a bit strange)
  • In a study it was found that the correlation between broad conceptual thinking and GPA was about zero
  • Everyone needs habits of the mind to dance across disciplines
  • 75 percent of college graduates go on to careers unrelated to their major
  • One good tool is rarely enough in a complex, interconnected, rapidly changing world
    • No tool is Omni competent
  • When it comes to musical instruments, nearly all of the most accomplished players had played at least three or more instruments
    • Same concept applies to multi-sport athletes
  • The more context in which something is learned, the more the learner creates abstract models, and the less they rely on any particular example
    • Learners become better at applying their knowledge to a situation they’ve never seen before, which is the essence of creativity
  • When you are self-taught you experiment more, trying to find different solutions to a single problem, thus giving you a broad range of knowledge while you learn
  • Struggling to retrieve information primes the brain for subsequent learning, even when the retrieval is unsuccessful
    • Telling yourself you will remember in a few minutes will help prime the brain and memory and you are much more likely to remember
  • Repetition is far less important than struggle
    • Hard work creates the best learning environment even when it feels tough at the time
    • As with excessive hint giving, it produces a misleading level of mastery
      • Repetition is actually a fallacy in learning
    • Frustration is not a sign you are not learning, ease is
  • Spacing, testing, and using making connection questions were on the extremely short list of a high performer
    • All these are ways to improve the brain cognitively
  • Professors who excel at promoting contemporaneous student achievement on average harm the subsequent performance in more advanced classes
  • Best way to expand knowledge is deep learning by causing short term struggle but long term gains
    • Deep learning broadens the curriculum and produce students with a deeper understanding
  • For knowledge to be flexible, it should be learned under varied conditions, and approach called carried or mixed practice, or, to researchers, “interleaving”
  • Desirable difficulties like testing and spacing marked knowledge stick
    • It becomes durable
      • Desirable difficulties like making connections and interleaving make knowledge flexible
    • Progress reinforces our instinct to do more of the same o Learning deeply means learning slowly
      • The cult of the head start fails the learners it seeks to serve
  • Deep analogical thinking is the practice of recognizing conceptual similarities in multiple domains or scenarios that may seem to have little in common on the surface
    • Analogical thinking takes the new and makes it familiar, and puts a new light on it which allows humans to reason through problems they have never seen in unfamiliar context
  • It was found that teachers are more effective at improving student performance after they switch to a new school, and the effect is not explained by switching to higher-achieving schools
  • Striving to accomplish a single overarching coal every day means you have grit, determination, and resilience
    • But the ability to pull yourself together mentally and physically in competition is different from the new challenges that await you
    • Free your mind up on tasks that don’t have clear timelines or goals periodically to help refresh and come at the goal with a new perspective
    • Put in work now so you can reap the benefits later
  • Always keep your mind open regardless of the scenario, if your mind is open you will take something from every new experience
  • Career goals that at one time felt safe and certain can appear Ludacris, when examined in the light of more self-knowledge
    • Preferences do not stay the same, because we do not stay the same
    • The precise person you are now is fleeting, just like all the other people you’ve been
      • Tattoo example, if you got a tattoo at 20 it is statistically unlikely that whatever it was still interested or captured you even half as much
  • Adults tend to become more agreeable, more contentious, more emotionally stable, and less neurotic with age, but less open to experience
    • An individual’s nature influences how they respond to a particular situation, but their nature can appear surprisingly different in some other situation – call this context principle
      • People can be introverts in some scenarios and extroverts in others
    • If you get someone into a context that suits them, they’ll more likely work hard and it will look like grit from the outside
  • Every good thing in life can be traced back to misfortune
    • When bad things happen, accept that you do not know, and you may have to wait to find out how this takes you to a good place
  • InnoCentive is company that seeks solutions from far outside the focused training
    • It posts complex biological, design, structural etc. problems and people can sign up and submit their answers from all walks of life
    • It has had some incredible success and reinforces the range theory
  • The more information specialists create, the more opportunity exists for curious outsiders to contribute by merging strands of widely available but disparate information
    • The larger and more easily accessible the library of human knowledge, the more chance for inquisitive patrons to make connections at the cutting edge
  • Facing environments and wicked problems, breadth of experience is invaluable 
  • The average “expert” is a horrific forecaster
    • Their areas of specialty, years of experience, academic degrees, and even (for some) access to classified information made no difference
    • Many experts never admit systematic flaws in their judgement, even in the face of their results
      • Victories were total victories, and defeats were always just a touch of bad luck away from having been victories too
  • The best collaborators and predictors talk through their ideas to find out where their assumptions may be weak
    • The best forecasters were shown to have a high correlation to effective collaborators o The craftiest forecasters were good on their own, but together they become a much greater sum than their individual parts
  • Experienced groups become rigid under pressure and “regress to what they know best”
    • “If I make a decision, it is a possession, I take pride in it, I tend to defend it, and not listen to those who question it
  • One needs to let the brain think about something different from it’s daily work
  • Think laterally, broaden experiences and forge a new path in search for the best answers
  • Progress on a broad from results from the free play of free intellects, working on subjects of their own choosing
  • People usually feel that lunch is inefficient, but actually it is some of the best time in the work day
    • It is a break from the daily task and allows for ideas and connections to be discussed and tried
  • Original creators tend to strike out a lot, but they are also the ones who hit grand slams
    • Keep swinging
  • Compare yourself to yourself yesterday and no one else
    • Grow and broaden your horizons
    • Everyone progresses at different speeds, so don’t let anyone else make you feel behind
  • When you move on to a new area of work, that experience is not wasted, you will apply it in what you do next even if only subconsciously

The financial consultants at Arrow Point Wealth Management are registered representatives with and securities and advisory services offered through LPL Financial, a registered investment advisor, Member FINRA/SIPC

This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended as specific advice or recommendations for any individual. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results.