The Drive with Peter Attia — David Epstein

On: How a range of experience leads to better performance in a highly specialized world

Episode: 96

Date: 9 Mach 2020

Investigative reporter and author of “The Sports Gene” and “Range“.

Key Subjects

  • Sports, playing games: the voluntary acceptance of unnecessary obstacles.
    • Intentionally doing something inefficient in order to facilitate a certain experience.
    • Merging of “doing things for the end purpose” and “doing it for the doing”.
    • There is an end that you’re going for, but the love of difficulty in the middle is what’s really important.
    • So, you don’t always want to be as efficient as possible.
    • The rapid appearance of short-term progress can undermine long-term development.
  • 10,00 hours…
    • Looking at averages obscures individual variation (“The End of Average”).
    • The more complex a task, the more people diverge (impact of practice, etc.)
  • Kind and wicked environments.
    • The more wicked the environment, the higher the degree of uncertainty (about outcomes) and the lower the quality and speed of feedback.
    • Higher need for:
      • Breadth of training (versus specialization): breadth of transfer -> higher ability to deal with unexpected situations (example of Roger Federer versus Tiger Woods – golf is a “kinder” environment).
      • Making connections knowledge (versus using procedures): matching a strategy to a type of problem.
      • Interleaving (varied, mixed practice).
    • Perhaps makes learning tougher and less fun (for kids).
      • Find balance between maintaining enthusiasm and optimal development.
  • Is there a “critical learning window”.
    • Probably for sports: you want your perceptual expertise to coincide with your peak physical maturity.
    • Maybe for language.
    • Though for many things, people can get better than they think they can at older ages than they think they can.
  • Diversify your interests.
    • Unravel your identity from the thing you “do”.
  • Be an outsider.
    • Specialists are important, but don’t rush to be one.
    • Delay selection, improve match quality , broaden your conceptual basis.
      • Better understanding of what you’re good at, interested in, etc. – see “Prepared”.
    • We learn who we are in practice, not in theory.
  • Higher education.
    • Issues: student debt, poor match quality, likely more about signaling (selection).
    • Fixes: online courses, flexibility to sample (competencies and skills, see also “The End of Average”).
  • Parenting.
    • Encourage sampling (“curate the buffet” – see “Prepared”).
      • Help to understand what’s out there and available.
      • Help to get maximum signal about yourself out of activities (what do you like, what are you good at).
    • Understand that for some things there may be a critical window.
      • At a young age, more time to commit and more to make mistakes and learn.
    • Quitting:
      • Perhaps not an a bad day.
      • If no longer motivated, take a break or switch things up.
      • Try to keep a foot in / leave the door open if it makes sense.
  • Leadership.
    • How to be, not what to do: about being a good example, not having to know everything.
    • Beginner mindset: you can always learn something new.

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