157 minutes | Mar 9, 2020

#96 - David Epstein: How a range of experience leads to better performance in a highly specialized world

In this episode, David Epstein, best-selling author of Range and The Sports Gene, discusses the evidence around the most effective ways to improve long-term performance and learning in our specialties, our sports, our careers, and our lives. David makes a compelling case that a range of experiences and skills are more likely to lead to expert performance compared to early specialization, and offers an in-depth critique of the much-publicized 10,000-Hour Rule. David also provides insights into our role as parents in the process of encouraging exposure to many things, the concepts of when to push them, when to give them space, and when to allow them to quit. Furthermore, David goes into many other fascinating topics such as the role of talent, genetics, and practice in reaching expert status, what differentiates a kind vs. wicked learning environment, the importance of “informal training,” and many case studies that suggest strategies for short-term success may not be best for long-term development.

We discuss:

  • A shared interest in Ayrton Senna, and pondering the value in participating in sports [2:30];

  • Examining the 10,000-Hour Rule, and the importance of questioning existing dogma [15:00];

  • How the medical profession is affected by bad science, and the importance of understanding individual variation [28:00];

  • David’s most surprising findings when writing The Sports Gene [35:45];

  • Kind versus wicked learning environments [40:45];

  • How and why strategies for short-term success may not be best for long-term development [47:30];

  • Contrasting the success stories of Tiger Woods and Roger Federer—which path is more common, and an argument for diversified training and experiences [59:15];

  • Is there an age-range or “critical window” during which exposure is necessary to reach a certain level of proficiency or mastery of a skill or knowledge? [1:14:00];

  • How diversifying your interests and unraveling your identity from your speciality could lead to more enjoyment and actually improve performance in your speciality [1:22:15];

  • The undervalued importance of “informal training” [1:29:15];

  • Advice for increasing match quality in your work—where interests and abilities align—to optimize both job performance and fulfillment [1:41:15];

  • Would David want his own son to attend college given the current state of higher education? [1:51:15];

  • The role of a parent—how to encourage sampling, when to push them, when to allow them to quit, and insights from the childhoods of Tiger Woods and Wolfgang Mozart [1:55:45];

  • The need for varied perspectives and the ability to improvise—insights gained from the Space Shuttle Challenger tragedy [2:08:45];

  • How a diversified background and identity could be the difference in life or death—the Hotshot firefighters case study [2:22:15];

  • David’s takeaways from the inspiring story of Frances Hesselbein [2:29:00]; and

  • More.

Learn more: https://peterattiamd.com/ Show notes page for this episode: https://peterattiamd.com/davidepstein Subscribe to receive exclusive subscriber-only content: https://peterattiamd.com/subscribe/ Sign up to receive Peter's email newsletter: https://peterattiamd.com/newsletter/ Connect with Peter on Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

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