Join bestselling author David Epstein in conversation with Malcolm Gladwell for an engrossing discussion about Epstein’s book, Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World. Recorded May 30, 2019 at 92nd Street Y.
Transcript00:00David welcome to the 92nd Street Y is00:01this your this is your first time on00:03stage here is it I did the Q one time is00:06my first a oh really yeah the DA is more00:11fun than the Q I think I think so yeah00:14we I thought we would start by talking00:17about how we know each other yeah I00:19think that’s a I’ve wanted to do that00:21like at the end to make sure we did that00:23so can I say how we know each other yes00:26what we’ll give each give our version of00:29the events because I suspect it might be00:31different but you go first00:32okay my version is that in our00:37relationship our first date was I guess00:39me criticizing some of your work in my00:41first book yes and and and I remember00:47when you know not expecting that book to00:49do much I was at like a very small event00:52in Greenwich Village and somebody came00:54by and said you know I just saw reading00:55your book at a cafe Malcolm Gladwell and00:57I was like oh darn00:59I didn’t I didn’t think it would get on01:00your radar yeah and then our second date01:04was you critiquing me back in The New01:06Yorker also being very positive but also01:08critiquing me back well you know I hold01:10on ironic I wrote an article for the01:13magazine which was I mean it was the01:15warmest sweetest face of your book yes01:17and then I did a separate piece for the01:20website where I gently pushed back01:26against some of your more outrageous01:27assertions okay01:31and then pick up the story from here01:34okay then I was I am so gentle you are a01:38book tour with almost no book why was I01:40in well I was in Washington DC and I’m01:42going into NPR and then you come01:45swinging through the door me you did did01:48you not remember this we had it was in01:50the movies they would call this meeting01:51cute and then for some reason we started01:55running together yeah well no you01:57skipped over our third date yeah which02:00was the first time we actually met in02:01person which was at the MIT Sloan Sports02:03analytics conference oh that’s right02:05that was the first time we met in person02:06we were invited to do a debate that was02:0810,000 hours versus the sports gene yeah02:11and and in some ways my preparation for02:15that debate because you’re very clever02:17and I’d never met you I didn’t want to02:18get embarrassed yeah so I did a lot of02:20homework and that that debate in some02:24ways seeded some of the ideas for for02:27this for this book but but what I really02:30want to say about that debate was you02:33could very much have just like tried to02:36you know crush me or like using your02:38literary crowd or whatever it was clout02:40but instead we ended up having a great02:42conversation not only that but when we02:44came off the stage you told me what you02:47thought my good points were and said02:49when we’re back in New York tomorrow why02:51don’t you go running he said this was a02:53great idea you should explore that more02:54and for me this was in many ways like02:59the people I write about in chapter 1003:01of range where this could have become a03:02zero-sum thing which frankly with some03:04other authors that I came into conflict03:06with it did become a zero-sum thing but03:09in this case it wasn’t like those like03:12the foxes in chapter 10 you were willing03:14to update your mental models and I03:15learned from that and I think in some03:17ways it empowered me to take on a more03:20amorphous and ambitious book in this03:21project that I that I know isn’t perfect03:24but that I was willing to do because of03:26that and that’s sort of openness in03:28exchange I think made me better and I03:32think if that happened more you know we03:34can see in society there I think there03:36are too many conflicts that are viewed03:38as zero-sum ideas03:39we were both disincentivized from03:41agreeing about03:41thing in many ways but it made me better03:44that’s for me it’s kind of a model of an03:45intellectual relationship so I really03:48appreciate we do I mean I feel sorry03:50you’ll see because I have a I helped03:56this whole theory of love bombing which03:58was when you’re someone criticizes you04:01the only appropriate response is to love04:03them back even if you’re doing it04:05cynically because it completely disarms04:07us the last thing they’re expecting but04:09in your case I started out thinking all04:11this love bomb him and then I realized04:12actually he has convinced me so started04:16cynical and ended up totally idealistic04:18in the sense that I was like oh he’s04:19told me right I tried to love bottom and04:22failed because he actually won me over04:24so by the way not to put a critique one04:27of your theories but I’ve seen your your04:30responses to like like some of Christian04:33breeze criticism and I wouldn’t call04:34that love bombing I was worried I was04:36maybe a teeny we all stray off the04:39straight and narrow04:40but I do in the main I like to love by04:43critics but wait we have to get to the04:46point04:46what was it so we had this discussion04:49wasn’t a debate it was a discussion the04:51MIT Sloan conference and you said it’s04:53soda seeds for this book what was the04:55seed so in trying to anticipate what I04:59thought you would have to argue in this05:01debate I I said well you’ll have to05:04argue in favor of early specialization05:06in sports and so I went and looked at05:09all the research I could find about the05:11development of athletes and it showed05:13that this pattern that athletes who go05:15on to become elite have a sampling05:16period where they play a broad range of05:18sports they they gain these this broad05:21general skills that become a scaffolding05:23for later skills they learn about their05:24interest they learn about their05:25abilities they delay specializing until05:28later than their peers who plateau at05:29lower levels and and it’s not even just05:32a selection effect because when you05:33match kids in studies where they’re05:35matched for a certain ability level a05:37certain age and tracked the ones who in05:39a certain age do more variety of05:40different sports improve more by time to05:42basically and so I sort of brought that05:44up and you know in some ways that was05:46incompatible with with some aspects of05:48the 10,000 hour theory and so when we05:51were walking up the stage and we framed05:53it as the Roger verse tiger prop05:54right so pause on that point okay05:57build-out Roger versus Tiger because05:59there’s a beautifully simple way of06:00illustrating this argument okay06:02so Tiger Woods probably even even for06:05people who don’t know his story you’ve06:07probably absorbed at least the gist of06:08it which is 7 months old his father06:10gives him a putter not trying to train06:11me to be a golfer but just gives him a06:12putter06:13he starts carrying it around in his baby06:15Walker at 10 months he starts imitating06:17a swing he was physically precocious two06:19years old he’s on national television06:20two years old the CDC development06:23benchmarks are stands on tiptoes and06:25kicks a ball and he went on television06:26and showed his driving off in front of06:29Bob Hope basically by three his father06:32was media training him at four he06:34started hustling people basically you06:36know he’s famous as a teenager by 2106:38he’s the greatest golfer in the world06:39Roger Federer and maybe the most famous06:42development story in the history of06:43anything Roger Federer meanwhile played06:47about a dozen different skiing06:49skateboarding badminton tennis06:50basketball soccer all these things06:53mother was a tennis coach refused to06:55coach him because he wouldn’t return06:56balls normally she said it was no fun06:58when his coaches tried to bump him up a07:01level he declined because he just wanted07:03to talk about pro wrestling with his07:04friends after practice when he finally07:07got good enough to warrant an interview07:08with a local newspaper and the reporter07:10asked him if he ever became a pro what07:12he would buy with his first paycheck he07:13said in Mercedes and his mother was07:15appalled and asked if she could hear the07:17interview recording and and he’d07:19actually said Mayer CDs and a Swiss07:20German accent he just wanted more CDs07:24and so then she was like okay we’re07:27doing okay his father had no rules just07:29said don’t cheat don’t care anything07:30else and he specialized year he07:33continued playing badminton basketball07:34soccer specialized years after what is07:37Roger Federer really only playing tennis07:40mid teen years basically where he’s only07:42doing tennis but he still continues to07:43non formally play soccer even though07:45he’s doing that and in other informal07:48sports continues with them even after07:50that and the question basically was07:52which one of these models is the normal07:54but it’s one should we extrapolate over07:55why this is Tamayo is the fascinating07:58question so we have these two two of the08:01greatest athletes of the last yeah 5008:03years represent diametrically opposed08:06models of development one08:08one unknown yeah wasn’t story we’re in08:10love08:11with the tiger model if I pulled the08:13audience most of them would say the08:15tiger implicitly is is the model that08:17leads to greatness you’re arguing no08:20it’s the Roger model why it doesn’t08:23I wouldn’t thing I’ve never understood08:24is why did we fall in love with the08:25targa model and not like the Roger model08:28wait I thought you made us fall in love08:30with the tiger model don’t blame me08:32you’re I can just I did not write a book08:35about I just didn’t I no no no that’s08:38true that is that is very true that08:41ideas that you started became outrageous08:44in other hands in many cases that’s it08:47but I remember the Time magazine article08:49that was like unrecognizable about yeah08:52well it was that point I was positing08:54that there was another Malcolm Gladwell08:55walking around curly hair who had a set08:58of views that I would there were some09:00unknown to me but but in terms of tiger09:02as I think to steel it’s dramatic it’s09:03incredibly dramatic there’s a video of09:05him on YouTube at age two it makes a ton09:07of intuitive sense it’s very easy for a09:09prescription to tell people and I think09:11as you said we’re obsessed with09:12precocity right you said these child09:14prodigy videos are human cat videos and09:16I think that’s true and I’m mad I didn’t09:18think of that line for my book but is09:20that an is that enough though because09:23it’s also clear that Tiger pays an09:26extraordinary price for his precocity in09:31a way that Federer does not right in09:33fact it’s not difficult to reach the09:35conclusion that one of the reasons Tiger09:37had a kind of meltdown for many years is09:39that he really has been a prisoner of09:41golf since he was this high and one of09:43the reason Federer seemed so09:45well-adjusted is that he’s he had a09:47normal childhood he did he completely09:49had a normal childhood his his the09:51writer who probably knows the family09:53best called his parents pulley not not09:56pushy so he did have a very normal09:57childhood yeah so so even given the fact10:00that the Tiger model is costly we still10:03embrace it yes because well we’re10:07obsessed with excellence and I think so10:08if one of the themes in range I think is10:11that there are and maybe this doesn’t10:14apply to golf and we can talk about that10:16but that there are things that you can10:17do that cause head starts that actually10:19systematically honor10:20long term development but I think that10:22is a deeply counterintuitive idea and10:26when push comes to shove our intuition10:28is that getting ahead is getting ahead10:30and that that prodigious performance in10:33a child is a trajectory not just a10:35cross-section but that’s that’s often10:37not the case but but it’s also it’s just10:38it’s admirable to see someone want to10:41work that hard like I respect that in10:43them but and it’s intuitive that that10:46would work but also that’s you know one10:48of the reasons we do science is because10:50our intuition always figured it out so10:53let’s walk through the reasons why the10:56tiger model doesn’t work and as far as I10:58can tell from reading your book there’s11:00at least at least three if not more but11:03starting with explain walk us through11:05the match argument which is a really11:07interesting one which had never occurred11:09to me the so match quality is this term11:11that that economists use to basically11:13describe the degree of fit between an11:16individual’s abilities their interests11:18and the work that they do it turns out11:19to be incredibly important for11:20motivation for their performance right11:24and even their apparent grit so you get11:26good fit and it’ll look like grit when11:28someone does something when they’re when11:29they’re in something that fits correctly11:30and the problem is in in sports11:33selection this dovetails with something11:35you’ve written about the earlier it goes11:37the less likely you you optimize11:39someone’s match quality so one of the11:41things that happens when you delay11:42matching is you give people a chance to11:44get more signal about what they’re good11:45at and they end up picking better11:47matches for themselves and not just in11:48sports so so you know one of the other11:51studies and range looks at timing of11:52specialization in higher education and11:54the question the Economist asks is who11:56wins the trade-off the early specializes11:57or the late specialized errs and what he11:59finds is the early specialize errs do in12:01fact jump out to an income lead after12:02college but by year six the later12:05specialized errs who have picked a fast12:06a better match have a faster growth rate12:08fly past them and the early specialized12:10IRR start quitting and much higher12:11numbers because you know it’s like if we12:14treated those those decisions the way we12:17treated dating we would never pressure12:18people to settle down that quickly12:20before they took some more data about12:21things and so so so to pause on this12:24because I think this is a crucial point12:27the parent who says who observes of12:30their six-year-old that you know Lucy12:33enormous tea is really well coordinated12:37and flexible I want to make her a12:39gymnast yeah the mistake they’re making12:42is that you don’t know at 6:00 whether12:44Lucy is best is best cut out for12:47gymnastics and if you wait until 12 you12:50message may be a bad example here but if12:52you wait longer you have a better12:53likelihood of figuring out what her12:55skills match up with definitely six is12:57just too soon yes gymnastics is female13:00women’s gymnastics specifically is a13:01weird example because it requires a pre13:03puberty PDF what’s better but because13:06you know female gymnast has shrunk from13:07five foot three to four foot nine on13:09average in the last thirty years because13:10it makes their power to weight ratio13:12better and lower moment of inertia so13:13that’s a whole different advantage but13:16but you’re absolutely right so in Tiger13:18Woods by the way he said in 2000 his13:20father never asked him to play golf it13:22was him asking his father to play is the13:24child’s interest that matters and so I13:27think the idea that he was like father13:28manufactured from the get-go like you13:31shouldn’t be worried about missing the13:32next Tiger Woods because if there’s that13:34like incredible incredible sort of13:36outlier display of interest like that’s13:39not something that his father13:40manufactured from the get-go yeah so so13:42I think people are worried about missing13:43that but really what you should be13:46oriented toward his match quality and13:47there’s all sorts of reasons so you’ve13:49written about the relative age effect13:50right so I was just looking at the13:53breakdown of the birthdays of soccer13:56players in the u-17 under-17 European13:59Championships 47% of them were born in14:02January February and March and 6% in the14:05last three months of the year and that’s14:06because as we put selection earlier and14:08earlier all the coaches are selecting14:11four is the kids that are effectively a14:12year older and they are actually14:14biologically mature and they’re14:15mistaking that for talent and then14:16they’re in the pipeline you’ve14:17deselected the other kids and it’s14:19getting more and more exacerbated where14:21we’re picking for things that have14:22nothing to do with the traits you14:23ultimately want because we’re driving14:24selection earlier yeah so that’s one14:28argument that by and I can see actually14:31it’s it’s kind of fascinating to apply14:33that outside of sports as well so the14:35equivalent would be to observe of your14:38six-year-old that she has a facility for14:40counting and to put her immediately into14:43a pre math ph.d program that’s that14:46would be that but that’s exactly what14:48yes what parents are doing and in fact14:49what they’re encountering is a good14:51example because that what these things14:53that parents do are usually based on is14:55the observation of what’s called a14:56closed skill something like counting or14:58the kid walks early or something like14:59that and those kinds of closed skills15:01that aren’t these more general pieces of15:04scaffolding that that are good for long15:06term development there’s a fade-out15:07effect on those kinds of skills whether15:09they’re in sports whether they’re in15:11math lots of lots of academic programs15:13that are meant to give kids a boost15:15early on to get them on a different15:16trajectory and it does initially because15:18the way you can give them the fastest15:20improvement is by teaching them closed15:22skills that have to do with procedures15:24that are used over and over and over and15:25there’s a ubiquitous fade out effect15:28which is actually just other people15:29catching up because everyone’s gonna15:30learn that skill eventually and it15:32ceases to become an advantage and so we15:34make choices based on precocity in these15:35closed skills in many cases that are not15:38really in the long term in advantage so15:40second argument is that in order to15:43excel at a complex skill in the long15:46term you need to build a broad base yeah15:48so walk us through that both I’m15:51interested in this one this one’s even15:52more relevant outside the sports realm15:54yeah yeah but give us both sports and15:57non sports in this instance yeah so15:58wonder if this is me we should introduce15:59the issue of the kind and wicked16:01learning environment basically which are16:03which are terms taken from a16:06psychologist named Robin Hogarth and and16:08one of the reasons there’s a real lack16:10of study in Gulf which is interesting16:11but one of the reasons I can believe16:13that early specialization may in fact16:14work in golf although the best player in16:16the world right now Brooks kepta picked16:18up golf later because he got in a car16:20accident and his parents didn’t wanna do16:21contact sports anymore but is a time16:25learning environment is where all the16:27information is available next steps are16:30totally clear people often wait for each16:32other to take turns patterns repeat16:35feedback is automatic and totally16:38accurate after everything you do so golf16:40is almost like an industrial task you16:42try to do known movements over and over16:43and over with as little deviation as16:45possible that’s a kind learning16:46environment so is give me other examples16:48chess is a kind learning environment so16:50it’s based the grandmasters advantage in16:53chess is basically patterned recognized16:55and that also is the reason why it is so16:57amenable to automation because computers16:59are even better at pattern recognition17:00so the the kinder in environment is you17:03know Golf is like entertainment and we17:05still watch people playing chess because17:06it’s entertainment but the more of a17:08kind environment the skill is the more17:10easy it is to automate which is why you17:12know now that your iPhone app can like17:15beat Garry Kasparov on the wicked and17:18our challenge is where the the rules may17:22not be clear people are acting in17:24real-time they’re more dynamic you may17:26or may not get feedback after everything17:28you do next steps aren’t always clear17:29the feedback may be delayed or may be17:31inaccurate so hogarth use this example I17:33love of a famous New York City physician17:35who became renowned because weeks before17:37patients would develop typhoid by17:39palpating their tongue feeling around17:40their tongue with his hands he could17:42predict that they would get typhoid17:43right again and again again and as one17:45of his colleagues eventually observed he17:47was a more productive carrier of typhoid17:48than typhoid mary using just his hands17:50and so17:54yeah that’s a really wicked learning17:57environment because the feedback yeah17:59wait that wasn’t even another joke18:02the the feedback teaches exactly the18:05wrong lesson and so he gets famous for18:07this feedback loop that teaches him the18:08wrong lesson most environments aren’t18:09that wicked either but the closer you18:11are to the wicked end of the spectrum18:13the more you have to do what’s called18:14transfer where you take knowledge and18:15skills and have to apply them to18:17situations you have never seen before so18:19this more repetitive using procedures18:21knowledge then can become an impediment18:23because you’re stuck doing the same18:25things when you really have to transfer18:27to situations you haven’t seen before18:28starting a business would be wicked18:30starting a business would be would be18:32wicked and I think that’s one reason why18:34like if there was some recent research18:36from LinkedIn that showed like people18:38who who become successful executives one18:40of the best predictors is the number of18:41job functions they’ve worked across18:43within an industry or again to go to18:45this obsession with precocity when Mark18:47Zuckerberg was 22 and he said young18:49people are just smarter and MIT18:51northwestern in the Census Bureau just18:53has research out showing that the18:54average age of a founder of a18:56blockbuster startup on the day of18:57founding not even when it becomes a18:59blockbuster is about 46 yeah but like19:02the tiger story we just focus on the19:04Zuckerberg story but actually people19:05have to zigzag usually quite a bit19:06before they find that that grant cuz the19:09goal isn’t initially clear like it is in19:11in kind learning environment yeah yeah19:13so it’s odd that the the the kind of19:17myth of precocity and the the idea that19:21the tiger bottle is so important is19:22relevant only in the areas that were19:24least interested in that’s you right I19:28should have talked to you before I wrote19:30some of the lines in the book yeah no19:32that’s that’s yeah very clever way to19:34phrase it and and that’s so one of the19:35things that I was critiquing in range19:37was you know books in in the did we both19:41read sort of in the performance genre19:43have used the tiger model is the most19:46popular model from which to extrapolate19:48to everything else in the world like19:50literally I think talent is overrated19:51the back cover says Tiger Woods the19:54polgár’s the chess family and this is19:57what works for anything that you care19:58about in fact it’s that leap that is a20:01problem it may work in golf but it’s the20:03extrapolation where we’ve made20:05mistake yeah yeah the the let’s let’s20:10talk a little bit about this this notion20:12of in sports so what’s a good example of20:16a wicked sport I don’t think any sports20:19are that wicked I think because they’re20:21all rule-bound so what Hogarth said is20:23either tennis is more wicked than in20:25golf20:26yeah because tennis set is dynamic you20:28have to you have to use so-called20:29anticipatory skills where the sport is20:31actually happening too fast for you to20:33react to so you need to learn to pick up20:35cues and a player’s body and you know20:37the ball and things like that to act20:39faster than you could otherwise so it’s20:41much more dynamic but it’s still you20:44know in soccer really one of the reasons20:46why applying like Moneyball stuff to20:48soccer has been so difficult because20:49it’s so fluid and the game changes so20:51much that analytics hasn’t made nearly20:53as big an impact there is like baseball20:55where something happens and it stops and20:57something happens and it stops and so20:59analytics have made a much better impact21:02but hogarth then says what we’re really21:04mostly playing in the world the things21:06we most care about our Martian tennis21:07where you can see people doing something21:10but nobody’s told you the rules it’s up21:12to you to deduce them and by the way21:14they can change at any time and that’s21:16that’s these these other challenges that21:18we mostly are about what about I was21:20thinking that there’s a third reason why21:22you would want to take a generalist21:27course supposed to a specialization21:29course and that is that you it is only21:32through taking a generalist approach21:34that you could have novel skills not21:37only but the chief reason you’d want to21:39need one it like so I’m thinking of this21:41in basketball that you know every now21:43and again there’s someone like a Hakeem21:44Olajuwon or Steve Nash these brilliant21:47basketball players who have strong21:49grounding in soccer yeah and that’s very21:51rare among basketball players but we say21:54of those who come to basketball late21:55from soccer that they have certain21:57skills that are unusual yeah or at least22:00they have developed certain skills much22:02more than their peers that’s right come22:05from soccer and that is what gives them22:07their their their special advantage22:10their comparative advantage so it’s it’s22:13quite conceivable that had he not play22:15soccer Steve Nash would not22:16been a superb mba player because what22:20what sets him apart as an NBA player is22:23the fact he brings an unusual skill set22:25it just so happens that I was emailing22:28with Steve Nash about this last week22:30Canadian royalty yes and there was this22:35HBO real sports segment about sport22:37development in Norway because like22:38Norway blew everybody away and these22:39last Winter Olympics and it’s all this22:40unstructured stuff they’re not even22:42allowed to have formal games until you22:43know competitions until until they’re22:45sort of mid or later teen years and and22:48Steve’s a big soccer fan you know and22:50France which just won the World Cup22:51overhauled its development pipeline22:54starting decades ago to incorporate this22:56so a French soccer player young soccer22:59player plays about half as many formal23:01games as an American soccer player of23:02the same age and and they have this23:04saying there’s no there’s no remote23:05control meaning the coaches aren’t even23:07allowed to talk to them most of the time23:08they want to do this like freeform23:09unstructured stuff so I actually think23:11that so Steve Nash didn’t even get a23:14basketball till he was 13 by the way and23:15I liked him as an example because he’s23:17relatively normal-sized like he’s not23:20that big for those she was plus for23:21those of you who don’t know Steve it23:23occurs to me I’m so deep inside23:25basketball nough stood I get there other23:27people or not right Steve Nash is23:29someone who sort of physically resembles23:32me yeah he and happens to be one of the23:4010 greatest point guards of the last 5023:43years two-time NBA MVP for sure oh yeah23:46yes I mean he’s three legendary23:48basketball player and he’s a he’s a23:50skinny guy from Canada I mean you could23:53just the number of parallels between him23:56and me are astonishing right right23:58this Venn diagram is you in any but um24:07but so so go back to silly emailing with24:10Steve oh yeah and so we watched this24:11real sports and he’s actually exploring24:12starting an academy to incorporate these24:15principles of unstructured play because24:17I think in some ways multi-sport is24:19actually just a proxy for movement24:20diversity really because if you go24:23around to you know Brazil the kids24:24aren’t even playing soccer they’re24:25playing futsal this game that’s like24:26small ball stays on the ground they’ll24:28play on a shape this24:30sighs one day sand one day cobblestones24:31the other day so they’re playing futsal24:33but it’s really a different game all the24:35time it’s different involving different24:36anticipatory skills and and so he’s into24:39this and so he wants to start an academy24:41because he realizes that his imprimatur24:43you know Steve Nash’s name will allow24:45parents to say okay maybe we will do24:48like what the science says we should do24:49instead of going to early specialization24:51and Judy Murray Andy and Jamie Marie’s24:53mother has done the same thing in the UK24:55where she basically facilitates24:58unstructured development and people send24:59their kids to her camp they won’t let25:02the kids do this stuff on their own but25:03if Judy Murray says it’s okay like then25:04it’s yeah it’s information yeah but this25:06is another thing that’s wrong with25:08really specialization which again sounds25:11like it’s specific to sports but applies25:13and I want to talk about that this25:15notion and you pointed out that when you25:17specialized early and you’re doing the25:19same repetitive movements over and over25:21again your risk of injury later in life25:22starts to increase oh yeah so but this25:26is there’s a beautiful parallel to this25:28in non-sporting thing yes which is this25:31notion of burnout yeah and I wonder25:34whether that’s not a really crucial that25:37somehow there is something about an25:38early specialization that leaches the25:40joy out of an intellectual activity and25:43limits it far too early I think that’s I25:47think that’s probably true for a lot of25:49people but by the way I want to say one25:50interesting about the injury issue which25:51is Cirque du Soleil lots of Olympians25:55they looking at this kind of day they25:58have a ton of physiology data decided to26:00have their performers learn the basics26:02of other performers skills not because26:03they were gonna perform them but to see26:05if it would make them more creative and26:06subjectively they thought it did but26:08they measure their injury rates next to26:09Canadian gymnastics and drop their26:11injury rates by a third so something26:13about doing that makes people less26:14fragile and I have theories about what26:15that is but it doesn’t matter the fact26:17is it works but but I think you’re26:19absolutely right so like when I started26:20I had to write about music and range of26:22course because probably then the next26:24domain that’s most associated with early26:26specialization and when you look at26:28those studies the main reason that26:29people they’re promising musicians quit26:31is that they report a mismatch between26:34the instrument they play and the26:35instrument they wanted to play and if26:37you look at the pattern of their26:38development they will usually so the26:41ones who come on to become the best26:42typically have a sampling26:43just like the the athletes so like even26:47yo-yo ma who actually you know did focus26:49very early had a sampling period went26:50through it a heck of a lot quicker than26:52most people because he didn’t like the26:54first two instruments that he was26:55playing and this what what the ones27:01going to become exceptional they early27:02on spread their early practice across a27:04larger number of instruments27:05whereas what it looks like for the ones27:07who plateau at lower levels and or quit27:09they have their first instrument where27:12they get tons of practice and and27:14someone kind of tells them you know you27:16can’t switch now you have a head start27:18you’ll get behind so it’s you know some27:20cost fallacy kind of thing and and they27:21end up quitting so I can Battle Hymn of27:23the tiger mother you know in the first27:25page she says here the secrets to27:26successful children and assigns one of27:28her children violin and and presides27:31over five hours a day of practice and27:32and and to the author’s credit later in27:34the book she acknowledges the daughter27:36says you picked it not me and quits27:38right people that part of the message27:41didn’t get his famous five hours of file27:45in a day is just the most bananas idea27:47I’ve ever heard not just but the child27:48who has to play five hours but for the27:50parent who has to listen to five hours27:52no why would anyone do that to27:53themselves I I my parents drove idea27:57they violated by the way what that one27:59week it lasted what my sampling curry28:01was one week so it’s great and I walked28:02away why why did I quit violin after one28:05week because my brother who’s older and28:08musical I say that in scare quotes I had28:12this child listen to him endlessly bang28:14away on the piano and I was like it28:16clearly it’s gonna take many many years28:18for him to even be remotely kind of28:20pleasing on this instrument why would I28:22put everyone else in our family through28:24the same painful so magnanimous of you I28:27don’t have that Reuben hey bris is not28:32about my family pathologies this is28:34about28:35something much fun but I want to talk28:37about this in terms of just talk about28:39this in terms of schooling what this so28:42if you’re if I make David Epstein czar28:45of American schooling this leave sports28:47aside for a while yeah I would like you28:49to redesign the curriculum of K through28:5112 to maximize people’s development as28:56human beings I see not even K through 1228:58came through the end of college tell me29:00what you would do in light of what29:02you’ve learned from range geez what a29:05question the first thing I would do is29:07but before I would just overhaul the29:10system from the bottom I would start29:12with things that we actually could do at29:13no cost today which is so so chapter29:16four is called learning Fast and Slow29:17with apologies to Daniel Kahneman and it29:21it details these really well-known29:24findings in cognitive psychology about29:25learning that again are deeply29:28counterintuitive because they showed the29:29quickest way to demonstrate progress29:31actually undermines long term progress29:34so the probably the single most29:35surprising study in the book to me was29:38this one done at the Air Force Academy I29:40love this one is amazing so because you29:42could never do this any other place29:43right so you have an Air Force Academy29:44that brings in you know whatever a29:45thousand students every year they all29:47have to take a sequence of three math29:48courses calculus one calculus two and29:50they are randomized to professors for29:53calculus 1 re randomized for calculus 229:55re randomized again and so you have this29:58incredible experimental condition and30:00and these researchers who wanted to see30:02the impact of teaching in this30:04incredible natural experiment and so30:07they followed thousands of students and30:09a hundred different professors and what30:10they found was that the students so the30:13the student and the students30:14characteristics coming in were evenly30:16spread across classes the students who30:19over performed compared to the ability30:21that came in with the most in calculus30:23one then systematically underperformed30:28in all of the follow-on courses the30:30professor whose students did sixth best30:33in calculus 1 out of 100 and got the30:35seventh best ratings from the students30:37finished dead last in how his students30:39performance was in their follow-on math30:41courses after that there was almost an30:42inverse relationship between how well30:44students over performed in calculus 130:46and how much they then under30:48in the follow-on courses in between how30:50well they rated that first professor and30:52it turned out what those professors were30:54doing was they were teaching using30:56procedures knowledge they were teaching30:57a narrow curriculum that worked really30:59well for the calculus one test but did31:01not set up these broad frameworks that31:03allow you to scaffold later knowledge31:05and so again that’s so deeply encounter31:08intuitive that you could do something31:10that causes this kind of short-term31:12progress everyone had to take the same31:14tests of course and somehow undermines31:16long term development and so I think you31:18know you can you can kind of see what31:20I’m getting at this fact that the way we31:22use testing is evaluation can be a real31:24problem if you’re incentivizing people31:27to impart using procedures knowledge31:30that can make kids do the best on the31:31test but it’s not the best for their31:32long-term development that’s a problem31:34testing is wonderful but for learning so31:37there are three in that chapter sort of31:38three strategies testing interleaving31:41and spacing testing is just quiz31:43yourself right you want to force someone31:44to generate an answer before they know31:46what they’re doing because it’s the31:47attempt to generate an answer that then31:49Prime’s your brain to remember something31:50when you were told the answer so you31:52want to test before people are ready31:53interleaving means doing tons of31:56different kinds of problems the way that31:57math study usually works in u.s. is you31:59do a type of problem do it do it do it32:01do it problem ay-ay-ay32:02bbbbb ccccc and that leads to using32:05procedures knowledge what you want to do32:07is never show the same exact problem32:08twice and what that forces the learner32:10to do is to match a strategy to a32:12problem instead of learning how to32:14execute a procedure that’s called32:15interleaving where you mix up these32:17problems third spacing you don’t want to32:19do we usually do you do one thing you32:23wait and then you just move on to32:25something else whether this is school or32:26professional development what you really32:27want to do is do something do some other32:29things and then come back to that thing32:31and so you have this you’re repeatedly32:33coming back to things so a famous32:34spacing study Spanish vocabulary32:36learners they were taught one group was32:39taught eight hours on one day the other32:41group four hours on day one four hours a32:43month later all the same total training32:45eight years later when they were brought32:47back group two remembered two hundred32:49and fifty percent more with no study in32:50the interim32:51right same amount of study so the first32:53thing I would do is incorporate testing32:55spacing testing for evaluation not32:57testing I mean sorry testing not for32:58evaluation testing for learning33:00before people are ready spacing and33:02interleaving in everything we do because33:03that’s no cost stuff that that scaffolds33:07learning in a totally different way33:08where you learn this this knowledge is33:09called making connections knowledge33:11instead of but this but instead of33:14procedure underneath all that is this33:16really fundamental insight which is that33:18the sometimes the very best teachers are33:21those who disadvantaged us in the short33:23term yeah yes and I mean that’s one of33:26the themes of the book is that the33:26things that you can do they look the33:28best in the short term in order to be in33:31your terms in order to be the best at X33:32it seems intuitive that you should just33:34start doing X as soon as possible but33:36that turns out not to be the right thing33:37more more in a more conceptual level if33:39I were the schools are I think there’s33:42there’s something to talk about that the33:44there’s a section book I talked about33:45the army and their failure to retain33:50their most talented officers and first33:53they tried to throw money at them and33:54that the people who are gonna stay33:56stayed anyway the people were going to33:57leave left anyway and that was a half33:58billion dollars of taxpayer money and34:00then they started something called34:02talent based branching where instead of34:04saying here’s your career track up or34:06out someone goes in say here’s a bunch34:08of career tracks you can sample a couple34:09will pair you with a coach and after34:11each one they’ll help you reflect on34:14what you learned about your own34:15abilities what you learned about your34:17own interests and you’ll keep34:18triangulating until you get this better34:20match and I think I would take that34:21conceptual approach to kind of34:22everything where you help people who’s34:25one of my favorite quotes in the book is34:27from Herminia Barrett who studies how34:28people find careers that fit them she34:30says you learned we learned who we are34:32in process in practice not in theory and34:34what she means is there’s this whole34:35industry that tells you can just34:36introspect and decide who you are but in34:39fact the only way we learn about34:41ourselves and our options is by doing34:42stuff and reflecting on it so I think I34:44would want to build that kind of talent34:45based branching where the teacher or34:47coach is someone who helps a person34:49reflect on what they’ve learned about34:51their own abilities and interests from34:52these multiple experiences you know what34:54the enemy of what you’re describing is34:56is self-knowledge I’ve always thought35:00that self-knowledge was overrated why is35:02it so important to know the kind of35:04person you are and what you’re35:05describing is the benefits of not35:08knowing35:08so people who say I’m not a math person35:11I’m35:13I’m very X or Y are precisely the people35:16who would who would who would object or35:20who would great would have a problem35:22with the kind of course of action you’re35:24describing right you’re asking people to35:26sample widely yes outside their areas of35:29specialty right or their areas of35:31interest or their areas of another35:32interest their areas of imagined35:34interest and imagined specialty right on35:36the on the grounds that they don’t know35:38what it is it’s that will that they’ll35:40either thrive at or what they need to be35:42good their insight into themselves is35:45constrained by their roster of previous35:46experiences period yeah and and that’s35:49an important thing to know and not only35:51that but this concept this concept35:52they’re right about the end of history35:53illusion right which shows that we are35:56at every time point in life we realize35:58we’ve changed a lot in the past our36:00preferences our values what we think our36:02strengths and weaknesses are the friends36:04we prefer the things we like to do for36:05fun and at every time point we then36:08underestimate how much we will change in36:09the future we keep saying like man I36:10changed a lot from these experiences36:12there but now I’m pretty much done and36:13we say that at every time point so it36:15leads to these really weird results like36:17when people are asked how much they36:18would pay to see their favorite band36:21today ten years from now the average36:22answer is 129 dollars and when they’re36:25asked how much they would pay wait that36:26wasn’t even a joke when they’re asked36:28when they’re asked how much they would36:29pay today to see their favorite band36:31from ten years ago the average answer is36:32eighty dollars and so we really36:35underestimate how much we changed this36:36idea that we we come like fully formed36:40with with insight into ourselves is is36:42not supported by any other work in them36:44you know this reminds me of in my this36:46season of my podcasts I have all these36:47episodes about Jesuits36:50it’s the theme is how to think like a36:53Jesuit because I love the way Jesuits36:54think and the Jesuits had this really36:56lovely notion and by the way if there’s36:58a Jesuit in the audience and I get this37:00wrong just raise your hand and correct37:02me I’m not a Jesuit that’s why I’m like37:05but they have a notion what’s called37:07disordered attachments and the idea this37:10is an idea from Saint Ignatius is that37:12you cannot approach a problem if you’re37:14bringing with you attachments that get37:17in the way of seeing listening clearly37:20seeing the nature that so that guy I was37:23talking to gave me this example of when37:25he was a novice37:26and he was supposed to be sent out to do37:29your training and he said to his senior37:32he said you know I’ll do anything you37:34want I’ll go anywhere to do my training37:36just don’t send me to a hospital because37:38I just can’t stand beside the blood and37:40people dependent and the guy said you’re37:42going to a hospital and it’s exactly37:44your point oh he was observing that he37:46had a disordered attachment to the idea37:48that he was someone who could deal with37:50who could not deal with that particular37:53set of problems and that set of problems37:55were not useful to the direction he37:57wanted to go on and this the senior38:00priest understood that no that’s you’re38:0325 years old you can’t have a definite38:06self definition that rules out this38:08massive area of your presumed38:11responsibility which is people who are38:13suffering right we’re physically38:14suffering I mean especially at at 25 at38:17the the period of fastest personality38:19change over your life is 18 to 28 so38:21making those decisions for a 25 year old38:24is it’s making a decision for someone38:25that you don’t really know yeah38:27and for a world that you can’t really38:28conceive yeah and I don’t think that’s a38:30good stretch it’s go radical for a38:33moment what if for example would you go38:36for the following idea what if we if we38:38had students choose their – when you38:41when at the point in high school when38:43you start choosing your own courses what38:45if we took that away and we just had38:47people assigned people courses randomly38:51I think that would probably be fine as38:53long as we again I think we should38:54implement this kind of but I love that38:58you without even a moment like mister39:02stop we’re in the Upper East Side of39:04Manhattan we’re within walking distance39:06of Dalton39:07we’ve just suggested that the premise on39:09which all of this high-priced education39:10is based yeah it’s just nonsense well I39:13mean yet the evidence no but but the39:16evidence for that is actually pretty39:17clear though yeah like quiet because39:21school outcomes come from their39:23selection of students and those students39:25others background factors and things39:26like that African stuff they learned in39:27school the equivalent would be a39:28hospital that boasted of its success in39:31curing people and only admitted the39:33healthiest people right they basically39:36just admitted members of the US Olympic39:37team and then turned around and said oh39:39my God look at our look at the the39:42health status of our of our patients39:45right extraordinary they’re setting39:47World Records that’s how much we cured39:48them right right things like yeah no39:51wait so this is so you’re in favor of39:54randomization what was your caveat that39:57I think especially at those early ages40:00yeah I just want to make sure anything40:02they do like when I when I first started40:05in training to be a scientist when I did40:07my first lab work I thought here’s where40:09I’m gonna learn that this is what I want40:11to do for the rest of my life and I40:13learned that maybe this wasn’t what I40:14wanted to do for the rest of my life and40:16I wasn’t happy about that but that was a40:17very important signal to get but I think40:19you want to make sure that that you help40:21them maximize their learning from these40:22experiences and and some people do that40:24on their own so-called self-regulatory40:26learners and the thing they do the most40:28of is they stop and reflect and so so I40:32think you want to help them and make40:33sure that they’re getting signal from40:34whatever it is that they’re doing and I40:36don’t think you would lose much by40:37randomizing anyway because the fact is40:39like when Jim Flynn who I think we we40:41both know studied college students both40:44in in the UK and in the u.s. he found40:46that the skills that they were able to40:47use to get good grades at elite colleges40:49what had a I think it was about a point40:52zero three correlation with their40:54abilities on a test of critical thinking40:56that really matters in the world so40:58we’re clearly in viewing people with41:00skills that are no good for critic41:02analyzing the actual world so I don’t41:04think you stand to lose very much in41:05most cases what about this brings up a41:07second notion which is does this41:10argument suggest that you may learn more41:14from situations where you are relatively41:17speaking performing badly than41:18situations where you’re performing well41:21well so so Kaiser no relationship no I41:24mean the cognitive psychologist Nate41:26Cornell’s say if your difficulty is not41:30a sign that you aren’t learning but ease41:32is and I think that’s a that’s a good41:34thing to keep in mind if something is41:35too easy then maybe you like to do it41:38but that doesn’t mean that you’re not41:39learning much right like you can go to41:41the gym and lift the same weights the41:43same number of times every day and you41:44won’t slide backward but you also won’t41:45won’t cause adaptation yeah and and so41:49no I think there’s I think there is41:51something to that so why why then do we41:54persist what is the value of assigning41:56grades to academic performance in high41:58school I assume part of the goal is to42:02give people a sense of how they’re doing42:03but if you really wanted to42:05what self-regulatory learners really42:07need or the kind of the best learners is42:08very fast feedback so when you actually42:10give them a test and then show them the42:11answers like weeks later that’s not good42:13for learning you would want to do it42:14like right away yeah or work with them42:17right away not just give them the answer42:18so I but I think it’s for because we42:22need a system that likes if it’s people42:23for colleges you know and give them some42:26ostensibly is to give them some kind of42:27feedback about how they’re doing and how42:29they’re learning is but I think in but42:31why can’t that be exactly why is it I42:34don’t know I mean I just said playing42:37with it strikes me that the more you42:39think about your argument the more sort42:42of subversive it becomes because if you42:45really wanted to redesign an educational42:47system from scratch based on these ideas42:50yeah you really are sweeping away a42:53whole lot of the kind of rituals that42:55surround formal education I think there42:59are things that are done well in formal43:00education – I should say by the way like43:01so chapter 2 is about these steadily43:03rising IQs across the world and I think43:06some of that has to do with things that43:07that are learned in school in that sense43:09you think thin effect is so the Flynn43:12effect is this observation that in43:15the developed world at least and also in43:17parts of the yeah the non bubbler IQs43:20have been rising steadily over the last43:21hundred years I thought that was like43:26didn’t Steven Johnson famously argue it43:29was video games so it’s it seems to be43:33this well it’s controversial but seems43:35to be this more abstract thinking basic43:37because that all the games have been on43:38the most abstract type of tests like not43:40the stuff that’s taught in school43:41yeah that’s an argument that school43:42hasn’t helped but it’s it’s like things43:44like Ravens progressive matrices we get43:46these abstract designs you have to fill43:47in the missing one so this was supposed43:49to be the test that like if Martians43:50landed it could tell how smart they were43:52and in fact it’s the one that has to had43:54the most change and so I don’t think43:55it’s from things that are explicitly43:56taught in school but the way that that43:59we’ve learned to as Flynn would say look44:00through scientific spectacles to do44:02classification and abstraction I don’t44:05think that’s necessarily taught on44:06purpose but I do think it is is it44:08ingrained in what happens in school and44:10I don’t want to rag on schools too much44:12cuz I point out in the high point not44:15stopping you I mean this is the perfect44:17place to rag on school David you have no44:19bow but but I mean I do point out that44:22everyone thinks that education has44:24gotten worse since their day right but44:26actually so I I put in range some44:28questions from you know like the 60s44:31that sixth graders would say said I44:32thought it was said now patients got44:34more expensive since their higher44:36education I think right but so this44:37would be like middle school education44:39basically and there was without question44:40middle schoolers have a better grasp of44:42basic concepts than their forebears did44:44without question but if you look at the44:46test questions that test the same level44:48in the 60s it was like you know rate44:50times time problem just apply it and and44:52now it’s like these complex word44:54problems that require multiple steps and44:56so the challenge has gotten much harder44:58because we’re not training people to do45:00repetitive tasks anymore because we’re45:01not in that same kind of industrial45:02world so school is actually doing better45:04it’s just the challenge has outpaced45:06that yeah yeah in any case that the main45:09thrust of your argument is not so much45:12that what schools are doing is wrong but45:16that the the the the techniques that45:19students and parents use to navigate45:21education are wrong we’re making45:24different oh you know we’re just making45:27the wrong choice45:28is within a stable environment that’s45:29really the kind of yeah I mean one45:31program that I learned about was45:33researching is called career academies45:35that targets kids who you know are are45:38by traditional measures not not really45:40headed to college and gives them some45:41sort of vocational training basically or45:43early exposure to types of work and45:45surprisingly even when they often do not45:48decide to go in to do anything with that45:50career they still do better overall like45:53in income wise going to do something45:54totally totally different and and I45:57think a little bit of that has to do45:58again they’re getting more significant46:00sort of signal about themselves and46:01about match quality than you often do in46:03traditional classes yeah yeah46:05when is um speaking of match quality46:08presumably you couldn’t keep searching46:11forever I mean I have no idea what I’m46:13gonna do when I grew up I literally have46:14no idea what I’m gonna do that now like46:16no idea I mean when I was a teenager46:20that was maybe the Air Force Academy be46:21a test pilot and be an astronaut and46:22I’ve gotten like linearly less long term46:24goal directed I don’t know whether46:29whether you’re your particular position46:32right now is a best-selling author is46:33generalizable to the general public no46:35no I mean but but this was but in the46:38Dark Horse project in the book the the46:41common trait of people who find46:42fulfilment in their careers is it46:43focused on short term planning and and46:46that resonated with me so much such that46:47I ended up as a subject in the study46:49which I disclosed in the book what they46:52do is they all came in and would say46:53well you know don’t tell people to do46:56what I did because I came through this46:58weird path I thought I was gonna do one47:00thing then I tried I didn’t like it so i47:01zigged and zagged and they all view47:03themselves as having come out of nowhere47:04which is why the researchers called it47:05the Dark Horse project and their common47:07trait is this short term planning where47:08they don’t look around and say here’s47:10who’s younger than me and has more than47:11me they say here’s Who I am right now47:13here my skills and interests here the47:14opportunities in front of me I’ll try47:15this one here’s my hypothesis about what47:17I’ll learn and a year from now I’ll47:18change because I will have learned47:19something new and they just do that47:20until they get to a spot where they can47:22kind of uniquely succeed and feel47:24fulfilled and so I’ve totally abandoned47:26that that longer-term47:27planning in favor of these short-term47:29proactive experiments and and why would47:31you have to stop you can keep doing that47:33year old yeah does your if you were47:34running a company based on these47:37observations would you47:41put that observation into practice47:43that’s to say right now companies do a47:45version of this right they silo people47:47from the get-go47:48hmm you start out in marketing you stay47:50in marketing unless you’re one of the47:51very very few to rise to the very top47:53and then maybe you get a shot tooare you thinking you would do much morecross specialization with it even atfour people in their 30s and 40sabsolutely absolutely the you know oneof my favorite character knew but kindof got her first like real job when shewas 54 basically but and in a lot of thecharacters did that Oliver Smithies wasanother of my favorite characters rightwho he he he started in med school andthen does chemistry and becomes becausehe sees a lecture and loves it and itbecomes a biochemist when that was not athing now that’s its own specialty atthe time it was this weird hybrid andthen his 50s he decided to take asabbatical two floors away like everycouple years he goes in new domain twofloors away from his own lab to learnDNA and then at 60 does his work thatwins in the Nobel Prize and lower likeon drag I’m the only in the last chapterthe only scientist who’s won both theigg Nobel Prize for the silliestresearch and the Nobel Prize for and hesays which one did he win first ignoblefor levitating frogs with magnets andwhy is that ignoble that sounds like areally interesting thing they they askyou if you’re willing to accept itbecause of the reputational thing firstand he was he was like happy to acceptit and he likes to say it’spsychologically unsettling to switchgears but he likes to say I don’t I liketo say I don’t do research I only dosearch and I sort of love that he andyou and we were just talking about BillSimmons before this and the ringer who’swho’s bounced around and had some hugesuccesses and some failures in some ofthe work that he’s done and one of thethings is now these people who arebecoming famous at the wringer went inwith totally different jobs and he49:28allowed them to come on a podcast or to49:30write a story or do this other thing and49:31now they are famous yeah because he49:33allowed this sort of internal mobility49:34and then for to try things like you were49:36you were just calling someone a genius49:38who was hired as an online editor and49:39now as a famous podcaster right and49:41that’s not what she was hired for and he49:43allows people to try different things49:45yeah it was one of like the happiest49:46workplaces that visited do it well it’s49:48interesting because the what that49:50reminds us is that we have going back to49:52this question of math49:54we have way too much confidence in the49:57accuracy of the match mechanisms with50:00that are in place for sure like so you50:01you know the there is no reason for50:04someone who is 25 or 28 or 30 years old50:08to believe they have the system has50:10successfully matched them with what50:11their what they ought to be doing yeah I50:13mean or you can you mean you can always50:15be looking to make that match better50:16right and again this is what the army50:18realized where they said are our50:19traditional tests are not doing as good50:22a job as this talent based branching50:23base yeah that you have to actually do50:25some experimentation and maybe that’s50:26annoying but it should be viewed as an50:29investment in long-term development yeah50:31we have questions number and I’ve been50:34remiss and not looking at them oh here’s50:40a good one that points out that there’s50:42a difference between the u.s. in and the50:45English educational systems and to our50:49credit we generalize longer and yeah the50:54Brits specialized earlier yes so would50:57you they must your your argument would51:01suggest they’re paying a price for that51:02correct in fact the economists who study51:05that was got interested in it because he51:07was gonna go into the British school51:08system at the last minute decided he51:10wasn’t sure what he was gonna do and and51:12decided to come into the u.s. school51:13system instead and decided to that got51:15him interested in studying51:16specialization timing so he looked at51:18for example the school systems in51:19England and Scotland which are very51:20similar except for specialization timing51:22where Scotland allows some more sampling51:24in England you know mid teen years you51:26already have to be like applying to51:27programs in college and he said who wins51:29this trade-off the earlier the late51:30specialized errs and what he found is51:32it’s usually the late specialized errs51:34that you know there’s a million ways to51:35you have to get to performance but that51:37the late specialized errs have higher51:39growth rates because they match better51:40and they and they end up quitting less51:41because they match better do you think51:42that that is that is more of an issue51:44with people of high ability that is to51:46say do people of high ability require51:48longer to find their match yeah I don’t51:51know I think you know I don’t know the51:55answer to that I think you could make51:56the argument that they have more options51:58to choose from so for example like if52:01you look at something like the the study52:03of mathematically precocious youth that52:04has these five cohorts that it started52:06tracking from age52:06well and so some of these people are52:09middle-aged now the it takes these kids52:12who scored eight hundred on the SAT when52:13they’re 12 on the SAT math and and the52:15girls have score 810 to also score like52:17super high on the verbal if you score52:19high on one you tend to score high on52:20the other but a lot of the girls who52:21scored 800 a math score very high in52:23verbal and they tend to have this wider52:25variety of careers whereas you know if52:28some of the boys are have this high52:29ability tilt then they’ll go toward that52:31tilt but the people who are more even52:33tend to have these more options so they52:35spread across this larger numbers are52:37lovely if I’m remembering this this52:39research correctly they make this lovely52:42observation that boys to find what they52:44like is what they’re good at and girls52:47don’t they separate those two traits and52:50this is why they were trying to52:51understand why there was so much there52:54were all these brilliant girls who were52:56brilliant in science and math who were52:59leading science and math and they they53:01thought they had scrubbed out all the53:02bias and scrubbed it all the and and53:06they were so puzzled by this and what53:08they realized in the end was it was this53:09simple this difference in definition53:11it’s a it’s a matching gift definition53:14boys match to things they were good at53:16thinking that that would that correlated53:18with what they would like indras girls53:19never made that ascent in many ways that53:23the girl position is superior to the boy53:25position don’t you think typical yeah53:31hold on how does being a generalist53:36protect one against AI yes so that’s53:39kind of like the topic of the first53:40chapter in some ways so I’ve kind of I53:44think it’s and I didn’t make this up in53:46AI researcher gave me this this idea to53:48think about AI on a spectrum from from53:51chess where it’s based on there’s a huge53:53database of previous knowledge they’re53:56you know very constrained rules it’s not53:58changing and so computers have made54:02totally explosive exponential progress54:04done to self-driving cars where we’ve54:08made huge progress and very constrained54:10rules but there are sometimes unfamiliar54:12situations and it turns out we were not54:14as close right like like Elon Musk keeps54:17pushing it out two years seven two years54:19– the others – when we’re gonna have all54:21the way to something like scientific54:23research or cancer research we’re ibm’s54:26watson has been such a big flop that54:28some of the AI research as i talked to54:30were worried that it would damage the54:32reputation of AI in healthcare and as54:34one of the oncologists that quote had54:36said the reason watson did well on54:37Jeopardy and and not in cancer research54:39is because we know the answers to54:41jeopardy and so i think in those those54:44challenges that are more repetitive yeah54:47those are much more amenable to54:49automation if you look at things like54:50James Bessemer a good example of the ATM54:53when that came in and was supposed to54:54obviate bank tellers and in fact we it54:56caused more bank tellers because it made54:58every branch cheaper and so banks could55:00open more branches and they could hire55:02more tellers overall but it totally55:04changed the job from someone who had55:06these very specific procedural skills55:08that had to do with transactions to55:10someone who has this much more amorphous55:11human behavior marketing customer55:13service kind of orientation to these55:15much more sort of softer skills and even55:18even where AI is really good like in55:22chess I mean it was Garry Kasparov who55:25recognized when he played deep blue more55:28of expects this idea that humans and55:30computers have opposite strengths and55:31weaknesses and he realized the computer55:33was far superior tactics which is55:35patterns that’s you know that’s most of55:38chess and grandmasters patterns study is55:40their advantage but humans are good at55:42strategy this bigger picture planning of55:44how to manage the little battles to win55:45the war and so some of his efforts led55:47to this freestyle chess tournament where55:49humans could play with computers or55:51whatever they wanted and the the a55:54couple of amateur humans with normal55:57laptops beat the best humans they beat55:59the best computers and they beat the56:00best grandmasters with the best56:02computers these so-called centur teams56:03these were people who were moderate56:06amateur chess players who knew something56:07about computer search who could hand a56:09lot of glowing information so suddenly56:11overnight this stuff that Kasparov has56:14spent his life learning is outsourced to56:16the computer and he’s no longer the best56:18where when the game when the humans are56:21doing the thing that humans are uniquely56:22good at yeah by the way parenthetically56:24I’ve never understood why people got so56:27worked up about the fact that a computer56:29could be56:29in chess it’s like saying psyche getting56:31worked up about the fact that a car can56:33beat a human in a race well like yeah56:37it’s a car56:37I mean why we have races because we56:41raced people who are like ourselves56:42right you don’t race a car normally56:45because it’s in a different class has an56:47engine uses gasoline for yourself so56:50then in chess there like they import not56:53just a different species but an actual56:56like machine I don’t like whoa56:59the machine could beat me well I mean57:01anyway just crazy57:03it was IBM marketing it was actually I57:06think that IBM the we’re almost out of57:10time but we have about a few more57:12questions a few more minutes what has57:15been your book has been out for mmm how57:19many days to to put it I guess it has a57:24three you’re too modest to say this it’s57:26everywhere and having this kind of57:30sensational effect and when you and I57:32you and I did a David and I did a57:34similar kind of thing back in March57:37March sports centric that words and I57:40have to say as you were describing this57:41idea to a roomful of was at this this57:44sports nerd conference called Sloan and57:47it was like two thousand nerds and they57:50were so riveted you could have heard a57:53pin drop as you’re explaining this there57:55is something about this idea that seems57:57to grab people by the lapels what why58:02why do you think everyone is so kind of58:05powerfully attracted to this argument I58:07think I think well I think there have58:12been very strong arguments that people58:13perceive going in the other direction58:14for one no reason but you look at that58:19David see anyone but I think this is a58:25topic how broad or how specialized to be58:28that is important to everyone whether58:32they discuss it explicitly or implicitly58:34that that the signal is very strongly on58:37one side to only do one and that we talk58:40about all the time but that we talk58:41about purely with intuition58:42and so I think my goal was to not to be58:46the final word on this because I don’t58:48even know ultimately how you could ever58:49have the final word on this but to look58:53and see what research was out there and58:55bring to those conversations some58:58concrete information that I hope could58:59make those discussions much more59:01productive and interesting for people so59:04I hope it’s that this important59:06discussion that’s only been grounded in59:07tuition maybe we’ll go a little bit of a59:10different place now and that plus so59:14much of it was deeply counterintuitive59:15for me again this idea that you can do59:17things in the short-term that undermine59:18your develop in a long-term and so I so59:21I think you know apparently59:23counterintuitive nough sometimes works59:25in writing yes it does it does thank59:28David thank you very much David will be59:30by the way before you don’t clap yet’59:31David you will be signing books we’re59:34downstairs I’m not sure somewhere59:36somewhere in this area David will be59:39signing your books I encourage you all59:40to read this book I genuinely think it59:44is an eye-opening and much needed and59:48beautifully written59:49well book and you’re to be commercially59:52and and you know I want to thank you for59:55your support of it because like I said59:56this has been like a model sort of59:58intellectual relationship for me you60:00make me sound like I’m be an old guy60:02like this is Karate Kid none and your I60:05take it all back take it off back all60:08right thank you very much David thank60:09you60:10[Applause]
Navigating the tension between work and relationships.
Soren Kierkegaard asked God to give him the power to will one thing. Amid all the distractions of life he asked for the power to live a focused life, wholeheartedly, toward a single point.
And we’ve all known geniuses and others who have practiced a secular version of this. They have found their talent and specialty. They focus monomaniacally upon it. They put in the 10,000 hours (and more) that true excellence requires.
I just read “You Must Change Your Life,” Rachel Corbett’s joint biography of the sculptor Auguste Rodin and his protégé, the poet Rainer Maria Rilke, and they were certainly versions of this type.
The elder Rodin had one lesson for the young Rilke. “Travailler, toujours travailler.” Work, always work.
This is the heroic vision of the artist. He renounces earthly and domestic pleasures and throws himself into his craft. Only through total dedication can you really see deeply and produce art.
In his studio, Rodin could be feverishly obsessed, oblivious to all around him. “He abided by his own code, and no one else’s standards could measure him,” Corbett writes. “He contained within himself his own universe, which Rilke decided was more valuable than living in a world of others’ making.”
Rilke had the same solitary focus. With the bohemian revelry of turn-of-the-century Paris all around him, Rilke was alone writing in his room. He didn’t drink or dance. He celebrated love, but as a general outlook and not as something you gave to any one person or place.
Both men produced masterworks that millions have treasured. But readers finish Corbett’s book feeling that both men had misspent their lives.
They were both horrid to their wives and children. Rodin grew pathetically creepy, needy and lonely. Rilke didn’t go back home as his father was dying, nor allow his wife and child to be with him as he died. Both men lived most of their lives without intimate care.
Their lives raise the question: Do you have to be so obsessively focused to be great? The traditional masculine answer is yes. But probably the right answer is no.
In the first place, being monomaniacal may not even be good for your work. Another book on my summer reading list was “Range,” by David Epstein. It’s a powerful argument that generalists perform better than specialists.
The people who achieve excellence tend to have one foot outside their main world. “Compared to other scientists, Nobel laureates are at least 22 times more likely to partake as an amateur actor, dancer, magician or other type of performer,” Epstein writes.
He shows the same pattern in domain after domain: People who specialize in one thing succeed early, but then they slide back to mediocrity as their minds rigidify.
Children who explore many instruments when they are young end up as more skilled musicians than the ones who are locked into just one. People who transition between multiple careers when they are young end up ahead over time because they can take knowledge in one domain and apply it to another.
A tech entrepreneur who is 50 is twice as likely to start a superstar company than one who is 30, because he or she has a broader range of experience. A survey of the fastest-growing tech start-ups found that the average age of the founder was 45.
For most people, creativity is precisely the ability to pursue multiple interests at once, and then bring them together in new ways. “Without contraries is no progression,” William Blake wrote.
Furthermore, living a great life is more important than producing great work. A life devoted to one thing is a stunted life, while a pluralistic life is an abundant one. This is a truth feminism has brought into the culture. Women have rarely been able to live as monads. They were generally compelled to switch, hour by hour, between different domains and roles: home, work, market, the neighborhood.
A better definition of success is living within the tension of multiple commitments and trying to make them mutually enhancing. The shape of this success is a pentagram — the five-pointed star. You have your five big passions in life — say,
- faith —
and live flexibly within the gravitational pull of each.
You join communities that are different from one another. You gain wisdom by entering into different kinds of consciousness. You find freedom at the borderlands between your communities.
Over the past month, while reading these books, I attended four conferences. Two were very progressive, with almost no conservatives. The other two were very conservative, with almost no progressives. Each of the worlds was so hermetically sealed I found that I couldn’t even describe one world to members of the other. It would have been like trying to describe bicycles to a fish.
I was reading about how rich the pluralistic life is, and how stifling a homogeneous life is. And I was realizing that while we’re learning to preach gospel of openness and diversity, we’re mostly not living it. In the realm of public life, many live as monads, within the small circles of one specialty, one code, no greatness.
In fact, I also believe that there is a connection between being an introvert and being really great at something, and extroverts with being good at many things but not really extraordinary in one thing.
.. it is impossible for one person to have all the knowledge and build the building on his own.
.. Architects are at the core of a construction process, they learn to deal with many topics at once and coordinate specialist in order to get the job done.
.. Experienced Architects have a great understanding of the different fields and their processes.
They have a great overview on the bigger picture (the entire building) and know how to bring the different parties together (cooling, heating, water, electricity, etc.).
Yet, architects are not superior at anything. They are just good at building the system and hiring people to build the different components.
.. This article explores the advantage and disadvantages of both types: specialist vs. generalist – to make it easier for you to understand and know what type of entrepreneur you are.
The “Architect” – The generalized Entrepreneur
This type of entrepreneur is similar to the architect: not really good at ONE thing.
.. They basically know a little bit of “everything”. But they lack the ability to focus on one thing to get really good at it because they simply lack the patience because they are interested in learning many things.
.. Once they accomplish one, they move to the next. They hustle and never really rest.
What generalists are very good at:
- Strategic planning
- Building systems
The “Bricklayer” – The specialized Entrepreneur
These are the ones that are extremely good at something because curiosity and passion drives them forward. They spent day and night to understand and solve a problem. If they can’t solve it, they can’t sleep until they found a solution. They tend to spend a lot of time in solitude, thinking about problems their solutions. These are actually the people who create real innovation and bring humanity one step forward.
.. What specialists are very good at:
- finding a niche and owning it
- problem solving
- keeping focus
- optimizing processes
.. What all entrepreneurs have in common:
- they delegate tasks, that they’re not good at
- they automate processes to save time
- they never stop learning
- they are willing to take risks
- they know that failing is part of winning
- and last but not least: they don’t have the employee mindset
If a novelist were imagining the Trump presidency, this book, a case study in what can go wrong from the outset of an administration ushered in by a change election in uncertain times, is precisely what Mr. Bannon would be reading.
.. But the implied irony was not that the advisers weren’t impressive men (always men, usually men who had attended Harvard). They were. Rather, Mr. Halberstam’s caustic title and the nearly 700 pages that follow indict the notion that society’s smartest are necessarily the ones best equipped to tackle society’s biggest problems.
.. President Kennedy chose his men based on general wits, rather than on specific knowledge. Perhaps the most famous example was Robert McNamara, an ingenious scientist of managerialism, a president of Ford Motor Company, who as secretary of defense, said Mr. Halberstam, “knew nothing about Asia, about poverty, about people, about American domestic politics.”
.. “The book speaks to a concern about having a government run by technocrats,”
.. He has also advocated “a very, very, very aggressive stance against radical Islam,
.. If “The Best and the Brightest” is a brief against the East Coast meritocracy, though, its proposed alternative is not pure ideology. It is expertise.
.. Time and again, in Mr. Halberstam’s telling, lower-level government officials who understood Vietnamese politics, sentiments and even geography assessed reality accurately and offered correct policy
.. “You’ve got these guys that are so brilliant, but they’re generalists,”
.. “There’s a distinction to be drawn, he concludes, between this abstract quickness, this verbal facility, and true wisdom, which he says was missing.”
.. an order that, according to reports, was written by Mr. Bannon and the Trump adviser Stephen Miller, neither of whom are counterterrorism experts (or lawyers).