The Best Book About Finding Your Path From 2019
Forge’s pick for the year’s best read on picking the right parachute
2019 perfectly encapsulated the disorienting, occasionally dystopian decade it capped off. Amid economic uncertainty, political upheaval, and the looming shadow of climate catastrophe, we searched for answers. We grasped for mentors. And we read books — many, many books. Within the flux of chaos, these books showed us new approaches for our work, our relationships, our minds, and our moods.
Every day this week, we’ll offer you one of our favorite personal development books of the year, as well as a runner-up in each category.
Forge’s favorite book about finding your path from 2019:
RANGE: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein
Whether we realize it or not, we begin absorbing our culture’s misleading baggage about specialization practically as soon as we exit the womb. It isn’t long after a child begins nursery school that they’re prompted to answer the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
A three-year-old kid, of course, has a very limited sense of what the working world entails, let alone the demands of adulthood. What they do understand, by virtue of the question being asked, is that they’ll be expected to pick one thing and stick to it.
In RANGE, the journalist David Epstein pushes back at that idea, offering a scientific defense of the world’s samplers and dabblers. He points out that the children who grow up to be elite athletes “typically devote less time early on to deliberate practice in the activity in which they will eventually become experts.” Instead, they go through a phase of trying out a bunch of different sports (in researcher-speak, a “sampling period”) and eventually focus on the one they’re best suited to.
The same is true of careers. “A raft of studies have shown how technological inventors increased their creative impact by accumulating experience in different domains, compared to peers who drilled more deeply into one,” Epstein writes. Instead of seeing our professional pivots or pursued interests as risks and diversions, we could — and should — embrace the possibilities of range.