Contemporary culture promotes the idea that the key to success is hyper specialization: Figure out what you’re good at at an early age, focus on it exclusively and put in hours of practice over many years. If you devote time to several pursuits, this argument holds, you can only hope to be pretty good at some of them. On the other hand, consider Tiger Woods: At the age of 2, his surprising natural talent earned him a spot on national television hitting golf balls with Bob Hope. And then there’s Mozart, who was performing public concerts by the age of 6.
With models like these, striving parents have anxiously searched to identify and promote their child’s unique talent. But now, with the New York Times bestseller Range, journalist David Epstein sets out to disprove the benefits of hyper-specialization. Not only does he offer counterexamples of so-called late bloomers — jazz great Duke Ellington, artist Vincent van Gogh and tennis champion Roger Federer — he also explains how specialization can actually hinder creativity and innovation.