Epstein spends a lot of words on learning and education because he worries that people are not being educated in the right way. He starts by noting that the modern workplace demands knowledge transfer across different knowledge domains but laments that such is not happening at the rate it should. People will lose jobs and not learning in a manner that allows for cross-pollination of ideas is dangerous.
He says education should foster general intelligence and stop the obsession with overspecialization. To counter over-specialization, he advocates for a sampling period during the early years of talent development, and only later should deliberate practice and specialization be incorporated.
He also advises schools to allow students to fail because when later they are presented with the right lessons, they are more likely to stick in what he terms as “Hypercorrection effect”. Epstein also makes the point of saying that when you are not learning, things come easy, and to foster great learning, you have to make them difficult. On this he writes:
“it is difficult to accept that the best learning road is slow, and that doing poorly now is essential for better performance later. It is so deeply counterintuitive that it fools the learners themselves,”
Finally, he advises that students should learn the same thing in different contexts because the more contexts something is learned, the easier it is for students to build abstract models.
Want to develop range? Here are a few actionable tips and strategies:
- Don’t worry about the headstart. Research shows that even if your three-year-old learns to read and write, others will catch on with time. In other words, a headstart is hardly a lifelong benefit.
- Perform a wide sampling of ideas for creativity.
- Reflect on past situations when you should have quit faster
- Learn who you are through practice. To better understand your strengths, weaknesses, and interests, try different stuff. Epstein says trying different stuff may feel like wasted time but in reality, it maximizes what economists call ‘match quality’. Your growth rate will be higher if the match quality is good.
- Be a deliberate amateur. When learning, wander off in ways and pretend as if you have just begun. Being a deliberate amateur also means reading outside your field in search of new connections.