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The 10,000 Hours Rule is Wrong, Generalists Win, & More
FUTURE OF THE WORLD - Edition 15
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Continuing with this month’s theme, How to Learn, this Future5 edition focuses on why you need to become a generalist.
Our education system creates specialists. But in the future, if you want to succeed, you will need to know a lot about a lot of things.
I hope you enjoy it.
As always, please give me feedback in the comments so we can iterate and improve.
Have a wonderful weekend!
Here’s what you’re getting today:
Quote: You should be a jack of all trades.
Video: Divergent thinkers beat geniuses in the real world.
TED Talk: Specializing early doesn’t always mean career success.
Book: Why generalists win.
Practice: How to read faster.
“A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one.”
The first written record of the phrase “jack of all trades” as an insult dates to 1592. The jab refers to a poet with no university education who was involved in myriad roles, like copying scripts, bit-part acting, and even trying to write plays. The poet on the receiving end of the insult: a young William Shakespeare.
We’re all familiar with the shortened and inaccurate version of the quote: ‘jack of all trades, master of none.’ It is often used to coerce young people into focusing on a particular career path or skill set.
That version is plain bad advice. Instead, we would do well to heed the original 16th-century quote.
As we move into the future and the rate of technological advancement increases, entire specialties will become outdated, AI will replace many roles, and others will disappear.
To stay relevant, to be increasingly adaptable, and to create solutions to new problems, you will need to be a jack of all trades.
Divergent thinkers beat geniuses in the real world.
For a lot of the 20th century, the biggest contributions came from specialists.
But in the information age, as more information became quickly and easily disseminated, it became easier to be broader than a specialist and the biggest contributions started coming from people who spread their work across a large number of technological domains, often taking something from one and bringing it to another area where it was seen as extraordinary, even if it was more ordinary somewhere else.
The world is changing rapidly. We don’t know what work will look like next year, far less, five or ten years. In this kind of environment, the most desirable people are “those who have a broad view and can kind of draw on different stores of knowledge.”
Specializing early doesn’t always mean career success.
In a society hyper-focused on head starts, we are told to choose our paths early, focus narrowly, and start racking up our 10,000 hours of deliberate practice.
But a mountain of research shows that, among people who end up fulfilled and successful, early specialization is the exception, not the rule.
Winding paths and mental meandering can be sources of power, not disadvantages.
It’s time to ditch the 10,000 hours to mastery approach. Instead, become a master learner by doing regular deep dives into a variety of areas. Let your mind make connections across diverse fields and industries. Take frameworks from one arena and apply them to an entirely different one. Become a polymath.
Learn more in this potent TED Talk from David Epstein:
Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein
Plenty of experts argue that anyone who wants to develop a skill, play an instrument, or lead their field should start early, focus intensely, and rack up as many hours of deliberate practice as possible. If you dabble or delay, you’ll never catch up to the people who got a head start. But a closer look at research on the world’s top performers, from professional athletes to Nobel laureates, shows that early specialization is the exception, not the rule.
In most fields—especially those that are complex and unpredictable—generalists, not specialists, are primed to excel.
Generalists often find their path late, and they juggle many interests rather than focusing on one. They’re also more creative, more agile, and able to make connections their more specialized peers can’t see.
Provocative, rigorous, and engrossing, Range makes a compelling case for actively cultivating inefficiency.
Failing a test is the best way to learn.
Frequent quitters end up with the most fulfilling careers.
The most impactful inventors cross domains rather than deepening their knowledge in a single area.
As experts silo themselves further while computers master more of the skills once reserved for highly focused humans, people who think broadly and embrace diverse experiences and perspectives will increasingly thrive.
This book will not just change how you think, it will make you better at everything you do.
How to read faster.
The key to learning is reading a ton of books. And the key to reading is reading faster.
These four steps can help you read faster and learn more easily:
1. Don’t subvocalize.
2. Preview what you’re about to read.
3. Track your reading progress.
4. Skip the small words.
Learn more in this article: How to Read Faster and Retain More.
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