If you want to be really, really good at something, you should practice a lot. A whole lot. Right?

Not so fast, says David Epstein, author of Range and the guest on this week’s episode. Epstein leads off with the intriguing story of what he’s called the Roger versus Tiger problem, contrasting the childhoods of each athletic superstar. Why isn’t the ‘deliberate practice’ model that seems to have been employed by Woods successful for more people? We’ve all heard the admonition to put in 10,000 hours. Instead, Epstein tells us, Federer’s path is the more common, and the better bet. (Plus, his mom sounds really cool!) Perhaps the biggest lesson I took from Epstein this week is that there are many ways to attain elite performance; there’s no perfect path. Indeed, as Epstein says, maybe quitting IS okay. (Now I’m not sure what my mother would think!)

So what did you take away from this week’s episode? Here are some questions to get you started:

 

 

1- What does Epstein mean when he says, “…society has overvalued specialists and undervalued generalists?” What is ‘match quality” and how does this concept help explain Epstein’s point?

 

2- Why do Roberts and Epstein recommend making changes in jobs more often that you might think? ‘We learn who we are in practice, not in theory.’ Why does Epstein suggest that when we feel we’re ‘stuck in a rut’ it’s really more like being ‘stuck’ in a hammock? What would constitute a  credible fear of change in decisions such as job changes or moves?

 

3- What is analogical thinking, according to Epstein, and how is it different from what Daniel Kahneman calls ‘the inside view’?

 

4- Recall the tragic story of wildfire fighters who die getting overtaken by fire. What are we to learn from this story? How did this lesson apply equally in the story about NASA? Can you think of an example from your own life in which this lesson might apply (hopefully much less tragically)? Explain.

 

5- Epstein reminds us you can’t have perfect safety, and that in fact you don’t really want it, either; you have to have some kind of risk. What’s the difference between “mindless conformity” and “reckless deviance?” How can these two concepts help illustrate a better way to make important decisions? Again, can you think of any other examples- from your life or others’- that help illustrate these two types of errors?