Today's episode looks at searching for the best career. Should you specialise early? Or be a generalist and specialise later?
This episode contains content from Chris Dixon, Bill Gates, Tim Ferris, Malcolm Gladwell and David Epstein on how to best approach your career.
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All links in one place
00:00 On the Specialist vs Generalist Dilemna
00:00 Episode Intro
01:57 Chris Dixon on Hill Climbing
03:33 The Two Approaches to Finding and Climbing 'Hills'
04:48 The 10,000 Hour Rule
06:20 The Problem with the 10,00 Hour Rule
07:45 Bill Gates on the 10,000 Hour Rule
09:33 Tim Ferris on the 10,000 Hour Rule
12:26 Range - The Tiger v Roger Problem
15:21 Adam Ashton on Range
19:24 Applications - Match Quality
22:56 Applications - Long Term Success Requires a Broad Base
25:23 Applications - Short Term Thinking
29:23 Application - Skill Intersections
32:22 Early Specialisation can be counter-productive
hello and welcome to graduate theory. Today. I've got a little bit of a different episode for you. An interesting thought exercise about careers is how to maximize your career potential. Some problems that we have when we start off Korea things like what, how do I know if what I'm doing is, is what I'm meant to be doing? Am I doing something that, that is really matched to my skillset. Am I going to kind of maximize my potential by doing this thing long into the future? And that there are a lot of schools of thought and ways of approaching this problem, but today's episode, we're going to do a really deep dive into the different ways of looking at this problem and the different perhaps learnings that we can have and, and the things that we can take from these learnings and apply to our careers so that we can go about planning a career and being more effective in making decisions about which industry we're going to go in and what sort of role we're going to take, you know, so we can make those decisions more effectively. Um, today's episode, we're looking at the idea of a hill climb And then we're going to look at the 10,000 hours rule, uh, and how that applies and then funding them begin to finish off looking at range and how that is really the underpinning of a lot of these concepts that we'll talk about in today's episode. There's a lot of value in this episode, and I'm a little of great takeaways that can help you in planning your career and in helping you decide, you know, what industry, what sort of job are you getting at this? You, as you go and start your career and wherever you may be. So let's get started. And one of the things I want to start with today is this idea of the cold climate. And I mentioned it before. I who climb is essentially, we want to climb. Imagine we've got lots of Hills. We kind of want to climb to the highest hill, to explain this better, we've got Chris Dickson. Who's going to explain this concept of a hill climb.Chris Dixon:
number two, um, don't climb the wrong hill. Uh, uh, I speak a lot to, uh, Uh, young people who are thinking about joining startups and trying to sort of recruit them. And I see a very common pattern, which is, uh, people get stuck in fields, uh, that they don't like, because they feel like they're making incremental day-to-day progress. I think a good, um, analogy or for sort of, uh, understanding. This concept is one that comes from computer science. It's a sort of known as hill climbing algorithms. Um, describe this briefly, imagine a sort of landscape, the hilly landscape with various, some tall Hills and shorter Hills when your goal is sort of defined the highest still, and that might be, you know, whatever your, your personal goal is. Um, and, and, and what tends to happen, I think is that, um, especially as happens with ambitious people, is that. The lure of taking a step upward on the, on the current hill is very strong and it's very hard to sort of step back and, um, go and explore and look at other Hills with computer science teaches you, is the optimal algorithm for finding the highest hill, uh, is to, uh, meander explore a lot, especially early on, uh, occasionally drop yourself into random places around the terrain. And when you find the highest hill, uh, pursue it, no matter how. Um, attractive the upward step of the current hill might appear
So we can split up the hill climbing analogy into two key things. Okay. The first is finding the hill. Okay. So which hill are you going to climb? Let's first try and find the hill that. Kind of the highest Paik, uh, you know, and the pig in a sense is like her said, whatever out goal was off or accurate, you know, we kind of want to maximize whatever it is. It might be money or status or whatever it may be that, or it might just be happiness, fulfillment, et cetera. Okay. And so the hill that the height of the hill kind of represents that. And the first part of this is working. Which hill was the highest. Okay. How can we go about doing that? And the second thing we can break this into is actually climbing the hill itself. Okay. Climbing the hill itself and half may go about doing that in order to climb the hill, one way to do this, that's really become popularized in the last few years, is this idea of the 10,000 hour rule. So the 10th and 10,000 hour rule basically says that if you pursue something for 10,000 hours, you know, you will eventually become world-class at that thing. And, and, you know, you'll have the rewards associated with that. This idea was first popularized by Malcolm Gladwell. And we've got him here to explain that for you. This is something actually, I spend a lot of time on and in outliers, um, this notion of how long it takes to be good. Cause a lot of psychologists have actually attacked this question and have discovered something. The 10,000 hours rule, which says that when we look at a wide variety of cognitively complex activities, we find a very consistent pattern. And that is, it seems to be impossible to achieve any kind of true expertise unless you have practiced for 10,000 hours and 10,000 hours. If you think about it, think of that as four hours a day is 10 years. The 10 year rule shows up in almost everything. For example, um, chess, grandmasters, there's only ever been one chess Grandmaster in history who has achieved that level without having played chess for 10 years. And that was Bobby Fischer who became a Grandmaster after nine years, you can take, um, lovely studies of classical music composers. Uh, you take the whole, and you, you see what is the first piece of music they wrote? That was truly great. That was one of their kind of signature pieces. And it is never been in the. That a truly world-class please piece of classical music has been composed before the composer was composing for 10 years and people always say, well, what about Mozart? Well, was Mozart composing in his, uh, 10 and 11 years old. Absolutely. Have you ever listened to the things he was playing? He was composing at 10, 11. They're terrible. He wasn't any good until he was 23 and writes concerto number nine to seven So the core understanding and learning that we get from listening to Malcolm talk about the 10,000 hour rule is that if we want to achieve really high levels of success in a certain area, we need to be really focused on one thing for 10,000 hours. And this roughly quite stew, about 10 years of working on just that thing. So the examples he gave were in music. You know, certain musicians had been working on their craft at least 10 years before they produced something that was truly, truly incredible. You know? And how do we apply this to careers? Well, perhaps according to this methodology, you know, it's going to take 10 years in your, in your job. So w whether you're a program or an analyst, or whatever, 10 years of you to become like a world class at that thing, is this the right approach? And does the 10,000 hour rule kind of apply across these fields like music and chess into something that is a little bit less well-defined uh, you know, like the word. You know, it's interesting to think about because certainly there is some merit, you know, if, if you're going to do the same thing for 10 years, you're going to be good at it. Right. Um, and it's interesting to think about that, but I want to follow Malcolm's pace up with some little paces now for bill gates and Tim Ferris, and they have some interesting comments on the 10,000 hour rule. And we can start with bill gates and hear his thoughts. And then we'll hear from Tim. if somebody reads the book to say that if you spend 10,000 hours doing something, you'll be super good at it. I don't think that's quite, uh, it's quite as simple as that, what you do is you do about 50 hours and 90% drop out because they don't like it, or they're not good. You know, you do another 50 hours and 90% drop out. So there's these constant cycle. And you do have to be lucky enough, but also fanatical enough to keep going. And so the person that makes it to 10,000 hours is not just somebody who's done it for 10,000 hours. There's somebody who's chosen and been chosen in many different times. And so all these magical things, uh, came together on cleaning who I know and that, that timing that, yeah. Um, you know, that's very important when you look at somebody who's good and say, could I do it like them? Uh, they've gone through so many cycles that it may fool you that, you know yes, yes. You could with the, with the right lock imagination and, and some, some talent So what I pick up from what bill gates said, there was some things around, you know, 10,000 hours is a nice way of packaging this, but really if you're going to spend 10,000 hours doing something, you probably have some high level of interest in doing something in that people might see you out for a certain amount of time, but then they're just going to drop off and pursue something else. And it says more about them and their interest in their skills and abilities in this thing to just persist for that long. Um, rather than it just being around a simple number and that anyone, anyone can do it, So I think it's interesting now to hear from about what Tim Ferris has to say. Um, cause again, he has some interesting thoughts and critiques about the 10,000 hour rule. if you are through God-given skill, uh, capable of becoming the best in the world at X, I have, I feel typically people in the. Early on. I mean, if you're tiger woods and you're, you're you're instead of drawing pirate ships, you're drawing trajectories of different irons. I'm not kidding. I saw this drawing. It's like, yeah, that that's not normal. That's not normal. Uh, but for most, for most people, I feel like they have the capacity to be exceptionally good in the top 5% in the world in many different areas, but they may not have, or be able to identify the raw attributes. Are going to push them into, you know, bobsledding because there are only so many things that you can try. Uh, and, and, and for me, I just to, to try to become, I could try to become perfect in Japanese, which of course will never happen because I'm not, I won't be perfect in English, uh, or I could, I could get to the point where I can converse like this in maybe, you know, 20 languages by the end of my life. And it's just more appealing I thought that was really interesting that Tim said, you know, most people can be pretty good at most things. Uh, you know, it's just about deciding which ones and we can't sample all of them. So I'm just going to pick a few and do it that way. And then I liked what he said about that. He, he thinks that becoming the best in the world at something is, is something that, you know, early on. And it's something that he personally is not really that interested in doing it. You know, like with the language example, you know, he'd rather be. Conversational in many languages rather than, or really deep specialist on one language. I thought that was an interesting idea way, rather than, you know, Good at a lot of things rather than really good at one particular thing. And that's what we're going to talk about now is this idea of range and range. Is this idea that kind of, um, P like partially runs counter to the 10,000 hour idea. But what we're talking about now is, well, we've previously discussed, you know, music and chess. And how people that. Uh, successful in these fields have been working at them really hard for, for 10 years. And what we're going to talk about now is more of a Tim Ferriss kind of approach, where instead of being really specifically, really good at one specific thing, we're going to be kind of good at at more things and see how that, uh, that approach plays out. And, and someone has done a lot of research on this, on this idea of range Is David Epstein. And so he has a book called range. It's a range, David Epstein. It's a fantastic book. It's one of my favorite books. And I've mentioned it in some of the podcasts episodes that I've done, we're going to skip to him in a second. And he's going to explain this idea and kind of how he, how he thinks about it. And, and it really one of the, one of the, one of the main examples that he uses to describe this idea. Okay. Build out Roger versus target. Cause there's a beautifully simple way of illustrating this argument. Okay. So tiger woods, probably even, even for people who don't know his story, you've probably absorbed at least the gist of it, which is seven months old. His father gives him a putter, not trying to train him to be a golfer, but just gives them a putter. He starts carrying it around in his baby Walker. At 10 months, he starts imitating a swing. He was physically precocious, two years old. He's on national television. Two years old, the CDC development benchmarks are stands on tiptoes and kicks a ball. And he went on television. Showed is driving off in front of Bob hope basically. Um, by three, his father was media training him. Um, at four, he started hustling people, basically, you know, he's famous as a teenager by 21. He's the greatest golfer in the world. Roger Fetter, maybe the most famous development story in the history of anything. Um, Roger Fetter, meanwhile played about a dozen different spas, skiing, skateboarding, badminton, tennis, basketball, soccer, all these things. Um, mother was a tennis coach, refuse to coach him because he wouldn't return balls. Normally she said it was no fun. Um, when his coach has tried to bump him up a level, he declined because he just wanted to talk about pro wrestling with his friends after practice. Uh, when he finally got good enough to warrant an interview with a local newspaper and the reporter asked him if he ever became a pro, what he would buy with his first paycheck, he said a Mercedes and his mother was appalled and asked if she could hear. Yeah, interview recording. And he'd actually said mirror CDs and a Swiss German accent, you can just want it more CDs. And, and so then she was like, okay, we're doing okay. His father had no rules just said, don't cheat, don't care, anything else? And he specialized year, he continued playing badminton, basketball, soccer, specialized years after, um, Roger Federer really only playing tennis. Um, mid-teen years basically, where he's only doing tennis, but he still continues to non formally play soccer, even when he's doing that. Um, and, and other informal sports continues with them even after that. Um, and the question basically was which one of these models is the norm. Like which one should we extrapolate from Some really interesting ideas there from David and this racer to the shed is, is really, really important, important for us. And when he talks about, you know, which, uh, which of these two scenarios should we extrapolate from kind of build our lives around, one of the common mainstream ideas is really this early specialization, 10,000 hours rule, right. Where we've got a specialized early like tiger woods. I mean, that's maybe too early. He's special. Lucky's he knows this is going to be a golfer from when he's quite young. Uh, you know, when he's like a couple months old, basically. You know, should we take this approach where early specialization or should we wait and do sort of more of the Roger Federer approach where we play around with a bunch of different things, and then we specialize lighter. You know, it's an interesting, interesting idea. And one that I spoke about with Adam Ashton on episode 12 of the podcast, and he is his thoughts on this idea of range compared to the 10,000 hour rule.Adam Ashton:
The, yeah, so for me there was a real eye-opener and just seeing him. The specialist and the, and the generalist. Rebranded it into like going wide versus going deep. Like, yeah, if you want to S if there is an area that you want to specialize in and it does make sense that it is like more of a golf or more of a chess type of profession, where there is a clear. Answering a clear way to do it. The way to achieve success is to be the best person at that, which means working the hardest at that one niche should a field and getting going really, really deep. And the books that kind of link with that is like that outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, talking about Anders Ericsson's the 10,000 hours rule saying like that the violent violinists who had practiced for 10,000 hours achieved mastery So it's saying, okay, if you want to go deep in something, get your 10,000 hours work really hard. Work more than everybody else learn more than everybody else achieve better things than everybody else. We also kind of LinkedIn grit by Angela Duckworth saying that, okay, well, along the path, it's going to be bloody tough. So you need a bit of grit to get through. You need to be picking the right thing to go deep at, and then using grit to get through to those 10,000 hours. And really the end of that journey, you do become a master in your field and you do become successful. If that's the path that you choose. And it's a very viable path to success, but it's not the only path to success. I think a lot of people probably think that is the only path is to work really, really hard at one thing and become the best at that. But there is another way to achieving success, which is going wide, the generalist approach which we like the books range. As I said by David Epstein and originals by Adam Grant saying that it's not just the one who works the hardest. Maybe it's the one who's done. Two years in this three years in this two years over here, another four years over here. And at the time it kind of looks like a weird path They're jumping around from different things. They're learning different skills that seem somewhat unrelated at the time, but then sort of magically at the end, they come around to this point where they find the intersection of all these different skills. They find the synergies, they find the ways to stack all these things together so that they become the best in this one sort of niche intersection of all these different things that nobody else could possibly do. Because they haven't built up all the different skills. And yeah, as you say, you've probably a bit more biased towards that. Cause that's kind of the path you're on and that's definitely made as well. But I think that it holds a lot of merit and I think that just knowing that there is a different path rather than just the peak one thing and work really hard at it, knowing that there is, if you do want to jump around from different things, make sure don't just like jump around, quit something. Cause you don't like it, then try something else and quit it. Cause you don't like it. You need that bit of intentionality around it around what different skills are you building? That then one day at the end. It seems like you might be a failure at the start. And then at the end you magically have stacked all these different things together to achieve your, your different.
So Adam did a great job. They're breaking this problem down into kind of the specialists best vested generalist. So the specialist is kind of the tiger woods and the generalist is more of a Roger Federer type approach. And that's not to say that the generalist doesn't have actual skills cause certainly Roger Federer is still the best in the world of tennis, but he has more of that background. Whereas tiger woods is still sort of only a golfer. Whereas Roger Federer could probably play a few other sports and still be quite good. And so I want to dive into this idea further, you know, and, and, and the reasons why specifically this range idea and the idea of having some broader experiences. Is it a better approach than specializing early? Okay. Cause there are quite a few and we're going to go through them now. So the first of these is something that David Epstein calls match quality. And then we're going to talk about how, uh, long-term success requires a broad base. So, you know, being able to succeed in the long term requires a broad, um, you know, range of experiences. And the most is going to talk about, you know, short term thinking and how this plays out. In the, in the context of range. So again, we're going to hear from David a lot throughout and we're going to hear from, from Malcolm Gladwell as well, who's the guy behind the 10,000 hour rule. Uh, and the first thing we're going to dive into is this idea of a match quality. And so a match quality is decided. You know, let's say, I, I play a sport, I play soccer and I start playing and I don't really know which position I'm best at. So maybe I'm a good goalkeeper. Maybe I'm a good defender. Maybe I'm a good striker at another site. Maybe I start off as a defender. Yeah, I kind of go. Okay. Um, you know, maybe a specialist approach would be start as a defender the best way to be good as a defendant is just to deploy. Only as a defender and get better. And the reason why I'm not good at it, it's just because I haven't spent enough time doing it, but alternatively, we can take the range approach and play a few different positions in the team, work out where the highest match quality of myself would be. So that might mean I play in the midfield applies. I play, uh, you know, scoring the goals and, and then from there we can say, okay, which of these was the best stat. Now we can start to specialize and start to take things a bit more serious. Then now that I've experienced a different variety of, you know, I've experienced the game more fully in the I've, I've seen what it's like to be a defender. I've seen what it's like to be a midfield. I've seen what it's like to be a striker. I can put the position I'm in, in the broader context of the game. I understand all the different roles. And now I've also worked out where my skill was best suited. Okay. So let's say I play as a striker and I find out that I'm really good at scoring goals. I can, you know, I can score goals quite easily. Okay. Then we've worked out that my match quality for being a strike is very high. I'm like, um, my skills and attributes, uh, matched are very high match for being. And so that's what sampling allows you to do is it allows me to work out okay. Which position in the team am I actually best up and, and, you know, and, and then we can go from there. And so this is the first thing we're going to talk about it. And David has his explanation on this year. So having seen this sort of surprising pattern in sports and music, I started to wonder about domains that affect even more people like. And the economist found a natural experiment in the higher ed systems of England and Scotland in the period. He studied the systems were very similar except in England. Students had to specialize in their mid-teen years to pick a specific course of study to apply towards in Scotland. They could keep trying things in university if they wanted to. And his question was who wins the trade-off the early or the late specializes. And what he saw was that the early specializes jump out to an income lead because they have more domain specific. The late specializes, get to try more different things. And when they do pick, they have better fit or what economists called match quality. And so their growth rates are faster by six years out, they erase that income gap. Meanwhile, the early specializes start quitting their career tracks in much higher numbers, essentially because they were made to choose so early that they more often made poor choices. So the late specializes losing the short-term and wind in the long run. I think if we thought about career choice, like dating, we might not pressure people to settle down quite so. Really interesting to hear that early specializes actually, you know, uh, less likely to enjoy what they do and like less likely to continue doing that thing. Um, whereas people that specialize later or choose the thing that they're going to do to a deeper level later end up earning more and end up persevering more down that road as well, really, really interesting stuff. And the next part we want to talk about today is how success like building successful long-term success requires building a broad base, and then this idea we're going to go deeper into. This specialization, vest, general specialists and generalists ideas. Um, we're going to understand that there are two kinds of environments. One is called a kind environment, and these are things like chess and music we're specializing early is actually beneficial. The tasks are repetitive. Uh, the tasks can kind of be easily automated. Um, and it and practice is really, you need to practice at that thing. Quite a lot. The rules are quite, um, well-defined, you know, things are quite, uh, set out quite well. Whereas if we look at wicked environment and this is what David Epstein calls, wicked invited. These are environments where the rules are that clear things are constantly changing all the time. It's not really a set field of play this, the stuff happening. Like the rules are changing. The game is changing all the time and, and in each of these environments, there's certain strategies that work better. So in a kind environment, things like. Uh, golf music in these environments. You know, the early specialization method is something that is, is, it is really useful and it isn't necessary to achieve a high level of. But in environments that are wicked, the environments where the game is less well-defined, that's where it's important to have more of a breath, because you're going to be applying skills in unique and novel ways. And so it's important that you then have a larger amount of experiences, a larger amount of different experiences to draw on rather than just the same set of experiences. But yeah, here is that Epstein explaining this concept in more detail. Like, there was some recent research from LinkedIn that showed like people who become successful executives. One of the best predictors is the number of job functions they've worked across within an industry. Or again, to go to this obsession with precocity when mark Zuckerberg was 22 and he said, young people are just smarter and MIT, Northwestern. And the census bureau just has research out showing that the average age of a founder of a blockbuster startup on the day of founding, not even when it becomes a blockbuster is about 46. Yeah. Um, but like the tiger story, we just focus on the Zuckerberg story, but actually people have to zigzag usually quite a bit before they find that that grant, because the goal isn't initially clear, like it is in kind learning environments David also has some thoughts on planning your career with this kind of mindset. Like if we are saying, okay, we're going to try a bunch of different stuff. How does this actually work in terms of planning? You know, how do we go about thinking about things like a five or a 10 year plan and then kind of a longterm vision for our career and kind of the things that we want to be doing, the problems that we want to be solving for the longterm. And David simply says that from. He's he's purely a short-term thinker. He doesn't actually consider much in the long-term and the short-term thinking and jumping to the kind of the thing that he's most interested in or the next, you know, allows him to just naturally create this range along the way, and naturally allows him to have unique and really cool experiences. But here's him talking about it now? One program, um, that I learned about was researching it's called career academies that targets kids who, you know, are, are by traditional measures, not, not really headed to college and give them some sort of vocational training, basic or early exposure to types of work. And surprisingly, even when they often do not decide to go in to do anything with that career, they still do better overall, like in income wise, going to do something totally, totally different. And I think a little bit of that has to do again, they're getting more significant sort of signal about themselves and about match quality than you often do in traditional classes. Yeah. Yeah. When is, um, speaking of match quality, uh, presumably you can keep saying. Forever. I mean, I have no idea what I'm gonna do when I grew up. I literally have no idea what I'm gonna do now. Like no idea. I mean, when I was a teenager, I thought was gonna be the air force academy, be a test pilot and be an astronaut. And I've gotten like linearly less long-term goal directed. I don't know whether, um, uh, whether you're your particular position right now as a best-selling author is generalizable to the general public. Oh no. I mean, but, but this was in the, the, the, the dark horse project in the book, the common trait of people who find fulfillment in their careers, is it focused on short-term planning. And that resonated with me so much such that I ended up as a subject in the study, which I disclosed in the book. Um, what they do is they all came in and would say, well, you know, don't tell people to do what I did. I came through this weird path where I thought I was going to do one thing. And then I tried, I didn't like it. So Zig and zag and, and they all view themselves as having come out of nowhere, which is why the researchers called it, the dark horse project and their common trait is this short-term planning where they don't look around and say, here's, who's younger than me and has more than me. They say, here's who I am right now. Here are my skills and interests. Here are the opportunities in front of me. I'll try this one. Here's my hypothesis about what I'll learn. And a year from now I'll change because I will have learned something new and they just do that until they get to a spot where they can kind of uniquely succeed and feel fulfilled. And so I've totally abandoned that, that longer-term planning in favor of these short-term proactive experiments. And, and why would you have to stop? You can keep doing that your whole life. Really interesting stuff there from David this idea of short-term planning almost runs a little bit contrary to modern career advice or, you know, things where it's like, you know, plan out the next five years and then, you know, work out where you went from there, plan your next one year. And then from there plan this'll this or whatever, like, and, you know, everyone wants to have that sense of security almost of, you know, where that kind of general life direction is headed. But I think this is really interesting, um, for him to raise that, you know, that a lot of people that actually find. You know, success and fulfillment, et cetera. I really only thinking about what is the next best thing for them to do. And then that doesn't necessarily have to be in the same field or in the same, in the same industry or whatever it might be. But, you know, jumping around and pursuing exciting opportunities is, is. You know, is encouraged and it's not necessarily the case where w where was saying, you know, disregard all else and continue down the path of specialization that you're on. Cause, um, certainly it sounds like certainly from the research has shed, that's not the most effective. Another really, really interesting piece to come out of this whole concept is this idea of skill stacking. And this is something that I spoke about with, uh, with Dan Brockwell and episode 15 of the podcast. We were talking about the benefits of range and kind of when you have these skills, It's similar to what Tim Ferris was talking about earlier in this episode where we've got certain skills booked up to a certain point, we might not necessarily be the best in the world at either at each of these individually, but if we can bond them together, then we can create something really special. And his dad explaining this for us.Dan:
Scott Adams was, you know what? He was a funny guy. He could tell jokes, but he wasn't the world's best. He was a decent, honest, he could draw, but he wasn't the world's best, you know, artists. And he worked in kind of like in a corporate culture and offices and all that, but like, it wasn't like the best corporate worker, but the intersection of those three things allowed him to create a really unique intersection. It allowed him to create like a humorous comic about office culture and. So just by being better than average at several things, he found the intersection of those things and then was able to get a really big win on the board. And so when it comes to being a generalist, like, okay, the range thesis, and I haven't read Ryan trust. So forgive me if I misinterpreted the thesis, I think like, yes, like it's great. Like start off early, explore a lot of things, but you'll find some things that you more naturally gravitate towards or some things that really, you really enjoy things really energize you. I think the magic comes from finding like, Two to three things you're best at maybe three to four and thinking about, okay, what's the intersection of those. And when I say best at it could be a skill or it could be an knowledge about a certain area. So maybe you've spent a lot of time in the sustainability space. Like you've been working on sustainability and maybe you also love making tick talks, right? As in like, you know, you're a very avid users of social media. You're, you're good at like, you know, short form content creation and go to doing funny stuff. You might then create like a sustainability Tik TOK channel. So it's about like, I always think about intersections intersections in. Every person has such a beautiful, rich and complex story in a life. And we will all encounter different things and we'll all be great at certain things. And so it's like, how do you just tap into, you know, what your strengths are and combine them into? I think what's a unique offering that no, one else can do it because no. one else has you like James, you're the best at being you, James specifically, there are other good James is. I don't want to insult them. I have several friends named James But I, I think it's such a, it's such a fascinating pace that, right.
Really interesting insights there from Dan. And it's a great way to think about your career, right? And in terms of what are the things that I'm both interested in and good at, and where's the intersection between those things. Um, and you know, what is something unique that I can provide to the world and it, and if you can think about those things, uh, you know, and, and perhaps grow certain skills, then you can really build something that is quite unique. And it's something that only you can do. And so I thought that's really good. And, uh, and that, that is enough. Another element of this, this idea of range and building a set of broad experiences so that we can bring unique insights and things that differentiate us into new areas. We're coming close to the end of this episode now, and I want to finish off with a piece from David Epstein's, Ted talk on this topic, and I'll highly recommend watching the Ted talk and lots of the other content that I've shared. If, if you'd like to go deeper on this concept, but. In this last pace he talks about. How often in society, we are kind of pressured to become specialists early. You know, we're often we're told, you know, go and do this thing and, and become really great as fast as possible in this one specific area when in reality, what the world needs and what is often a better approach is to sample many different. Um, pursue multiple different things. And then, um, and then that way you'll be able to see new new problems in unique ways. And you'll be able to make the world a better place. Yeah. Here is David Epstein in his Ted talk. I think in the well-meaning drive for a headstart, we often even counter productively. Short-circuit even the way we learn new material at a fundamental level in study last year, seventh grade math class. In the U S were randomly assigned to different types of learning. Some got what's called blocked practice. That's like you get problem type a BBB BB. And so on. Progress is fast. Kids are happy. Everything's great. Other classrooms got assigned to what's called interleaved practice. That's like if you took all the problem types and threw them in a hat and drew them out at random progress is slower. Kids are more frustrated. But instead of learning how to execute procedures, they're learning how to match a strategy to a type of problem. And when the test comes around, the interleave group blew the block practice group away. Wasn't even close. Now I've found a lot of this research, deeply counterintuitive, the idea that a headstart, whether in picking a career or a course of study, or just in learning new material can sometimes undermine longterm. And naturally, I think there are as many ways to succeed as there are people, but I think we tend to only to incentivize and encourage the tiger path when increasingly in a wicked world, we need people who traveled the Roger path as well, or as the eminent physicist and mathematician and wonderful writer, Freeman Dyson put it, and he Dyson passed away yesterday. So I hope I'm doing his words honor here. As he said, for a healthy ecosystem, we need both birds and. Frogs are down in the mud, seeing all the granular details, the birds are soaring up above not seeing those details, but integrating the knowledge of the frogs. And we need both. The problem Dyson said is that we're telling everyone to become frogs. And I think in a wicked world, that's increasingly short-sighted. Thank you very much So then we go, I think that's a nice note to end this episode on. Specializing early can be useful. I mean, need people that do that, but certainly if you, if you aren't specializing early and you're taking more of the range route at taking in a diverse range of experiences in your career, that is certainly a very valid path to take. I want to thank you so much for listening to this episode today. It's been great. being able to share this with you. If you did enjoy this episode. Give it a, like, give it a share. and what you can do is you can subscribe to the graduate theory firstname.lastname@example.org, where you can get emails every single week with at, with each episode and my takeaways. thanks again for listening to this episode today, and we'll see you next week.