Notes on Range by David Epstein
I heard from Ryan Holiday about the book Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein. In his final Reading List Email of 2019, he said it was the book he had recommended to the most people this year. (He also said it doubled as a valuable parenting resource.)
The book's focus is all the ways that generalists, or people with skills and knowledge across multiple domains, can often be even more effective in a dynamic, fast-changing, specialized world. It also explains the benefits of tinkering, experimenting, and "active openmindedness" in science, technology, and innovation/creativity in general.
I've often considered myself more of a jack of many trades than a master of any single one, and this book makes me feel a little better about myself. You have to be deep enough in a domain to understand it and be effective, but it's often at the intersections and interfaces between domains (where generalists often hang out) where innovation and creativity usually occurs.
As a parent, I learned that there is huge value for kids in early experimentation and sampling of many different things (musical instruments, sports, etc.) before later specialization. Early specialization can yield remarkable results, but later specialization is usually much better overall for many reasons the book discusses.
My main notes and takeaways on the book are below.
In order to read more books, I've had to significantly narrow down the list of podcasts I subscribe to. The parenting podcast The Longest Shortest Time has always made the cut for my short list. I've listened to it since almost the beginning of my fatherhood, and I've learned a lot from it (and have felt less alone or lost). I was really excited when I heard that the host Hillary Frank had written a book of the top listener-contributed parenting "wins": Weird Parenting Wins: Bathtub Dining, Family Screams, and Other Hacks from the Parenting Trenches.
This book was truly awesome. It was super tactical, low level, casual, and direct. Every page and chapter was filled with nuggets that I can't wait to try and that can inspire my own future "wins." It was also fun to read about how other parents solve daily challenges and get through difficult situations, and it was a nice preview of the next major phases of development and their challenges (and potential solutions).
Bravo to Hillary for an awesome and practical book.
My notes and favorite "wins" are below.
I finally got around to reading the classic The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done by Peter F. Drucker. It did not disappoint. It was short and sweet and had a lot of nuggets of wisdom.
As I've recently been part of a very fast growing team, I've wondered how executive time is best spent. This book provides a great theoretical framework for thinking about that. Yes, some of the language around computers or secretaries is a bit dated, but that did not interfere in any way with the main messages. I highly recommend this to someone in a leadership role in any fast growing organization.
My main notes and takeaways are below.