For our last meeting of the Field Notes Book Group for 2020 (may this year end quickly and mercifully!), we had a lively and very funny discussion of Good Omens, picking our favorite characters and our favorite bits from the book, and then went on to choose the first book we’re going to be reading and discussing in 2021, specifically on January 16: Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, by David Epstein.
The basic premise of this nonfiction book is that we as a culture have been sold a bill of goods when it comes to excellence in any given field. Yes, there are the Mozarts and the Tiger Woods types, who knew practically from birth what they wanted to do with their lives and who spent nearly every waking moment practicing and developing their talents in their particular fields. And we’ve all heard the 10,000 hour rule, where you need to spend 10,000 hours in an area to become really good at it. The rest of us, those who didn’t know what we wanted to do when we were young, or even when we got older, who moved from one job to another, from one field to another, we were basically out of luck and never going to become really good at anything.
This, Epstein says, isn’t true. In fact, the people who have a broader background, who have done things beyond their particular specialty, who are the most likely to be successful. He presents counter examples and stories of how generalists have often outshone the most specialized people.
We didn’t just choose this book to make us feel better for not being child prodigies (though I’m sure that was something in the back of our minds), but because it looks like a good read and likely to produce some great discussions. We’ll be having copies at the Circulation Desk (probably next week), and we’ll be meeting (virtually, again, I’m afraid) on January 16, 2021, from 11 to 12:30. If you’re not a member but want to join us, let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll send you a link. Looking forward to it!