This book had been recommended to me a few times and ended up being a pretty interesting read. Epstein starts off by slamming the 10- hour rule, where we are all made to believe that success requires highly specialized training in a specific domain. The premise of the book however is that foregoing a head start, to develop personal and professional range is often worth it.
The Cult of The Head Start: Epstein talks about kind vs. wicked learning environments. A chess game, with defined rules and immediate feedback is a kind environment. A wicked learning environment is the opposite, where some information is hidden and feedback is delayed. Domains that involve human behavior and where patterns do not clearly repeat are wicked learning environments. In these areas, repetition does not cause mastery. Creative achievers tend to have broad interests, rather than obsessively focusing on a narrow topic.
How The Wicked World Was Made: In the modern world, the more constrained and repetitive a challenge, the more likely it will be automated, whilst great rewards will accrue to those who can take conceptual knowledge from one problem or domain and apply it in an entirely new one. The more contexts in which something is learned, the more the learner can create abstract models. As a result, they become better at applying their knowledge in a situation they’ve never seen before, which is the essence of creativity.
Learning, Fast and Slow: Learning with hints produces better early practice results, but results in worse lasting learning. Knowledge with enduring utility must be composed of mental schemes that can be matched to new problems. This is often done by learning without frequent hints, which is not the way most early education programs are set up.
Thinking Outside Experience: Wide range analogical thinking provides a breeding ground for creative problem-solving. This skill is developed through having varied experiences and working in a team with diverse backgrounds.
The Trouble With Too much Grit: In the wide world of work, finding a goal with high quality in the first place is the greater challenge. Persistence for the sake of persistence can get in the way.
Flirting With Your Possible Selves: Maximize match quality throughout life by sampling activities. Sample social groups, contexts, jobs, and careers and then reflect and adjust accordingly. I think some people do this very well, and others do it very poorly. Many people get stuck in the same job or with the same group of friends. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but trying new activities can lead to a better life.
The Outsider Advantage: A key to creative problem solving is tapping outsiders who use different approaches. In doing so, the “home field” for the problem does not end up constraining the solution. Basically, when you’re stuck with a problem, having people who can provide a new perspective is often very valuable. This is why many employers love new grads and interns.
Lateral Thinking with Withered Technology: A T-shaped person has breadth and depth. An I-shaped person only has depth. It’s better to be a T-shaped person because the T-people can easily go to the I-people to create the trunk for the T. In uncertain or wicked environments, breadth of experience is invaluable.
Fooled by Expertise: Too much depth in a specific domain puts blinkers on and can prevent you from seeing other solutions. This is highly related to the previously mentioned Outsider Advantage.
Deliberate Amateurs: Exploring fields outside your immediate work can broaden thinking and allow you to find solutions in ways that others wouldn’t. Gaining knowledge from disparate domains where you are not an expert may seem useless, but it is often what can lead to differentiated thinking. Mental meandering and personal experimentation are a source of power, and head starts are often overrated.