A Review of Range: aka the Book that Reminded Me to Continue Sampling

“I didn’t have time to write you a short letter, so I wrote you a long one.” -Mark Twain

Hello again! This is my second book review of 2021 on Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein. This time I took a different note-taking approach. Instead of writing down ideas or quotes, I dictated them to my Notion app on my phone. I ended up with 3x more text 😭 and took a lot more time piecing together this review.

  1. may be experts in one or a few areas, but often are a generalists with knowledge in different areas.

Thinking Beyond Our Experience: Cognitive Flexibility

→ Cognitive flexibility allows us to solve problems that we’ve never encountered before.

Developing an Outside View

Epstein speaks of an “inside view” and an “outside view”. With an “inside view”, we approach a problem with the details of the project in front of us. An “outside view” looks past the surface details for deep structure of similarities in different problems. This requires one to switch their mindset from narrow to broad, from close minded to open minded.

It’s Okay to Fail

Sometimes we need to fail in order to look elsewhere and find a high “match quality”. (match quality, term coined by economists: a degree of fit between the work someone does and who they are). Some examples Epstein uses to highlight this: Van Gogh, Gaugin, JK Rowling, and himself.

“We fail tasks we don’t have the guts to quit.” — Seth Godin

Oly💡: We tend to put a lot of weight on sunk costs, holding us back from taking a leap, moving laterally or doing a 180 with our careers. If we move on from a specific career path, or specialization, the years we’ve invested don’t go to waste, they contribute to who we are and to broadening our world view.


We’re told to think and plan long-term. Where will you be in 10 years? What job title do you want when you’re X age? Epstein shares a different approach: in order to plan out your whole life, you should test and learn, and constantly readjust. Plan short term.

  • In another study, they found people who were really fulfilled and successful but took an unusual winding career path. One thing they all had in common is none of them did long-term planning they all started with short term plans.

“The people we study who are fulfilled do pursue a long-term goal but only formulated after a period of discovery.”

Oly💡: People seem so set on career progression, bigger salaries, fancier titles, etc. Why is our society obsessed with image and career progression?

  • My hobbies (and mild-obsessions turned maybe-this-can-be-a-career but ended up staying hobbies) in the past 5 years include: pottery, knitting, Barre3, pilates, yoga, blogging, travelling, running.



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