In this charming New York Times essay, new dad David Epstein looks at the somewhat pervasive idea that our kids should specialize early in something -- anything. But in researching superstars in their fields from physics to tennis, he found that, as kids, they were often allowed to play lots of different sports, or different instruments, or simply tinker with no external reward.
If this sounds familiar, maybe you saw the terrific movie, "In Search of Greatness," where Epstein is interviewed extensively about the career trajectories of people like Wayne Gretzky and Jerry Rice. Now he has a book out about the same idea, "Range." In the Times piece he writes:
Consider Roger Federer. Just a year before Woods won this most recent Masters, Federer, at 36, became the oldest tennis player ever to be ranked No. 1 in the world. But as a child, Federer was not solely focused on tennis. He dabbled in skiing, wrestling, swimming, skateboarding and squash. He played basketball, handball, tennis, table tennis and soccer (and badminton over his neighbor’s fence). Federer later credited the variety of sports with developing his athleticism and coordination.
The book is not just about sports heroes. It's about people who find themselves at the top of some field they love, having taken the scenic route to get there. And by no means is it saying that if your kid does not make it to the tippy-top, it was all for naught.
So now: Think back on your own childhood. Were you interested in a breadth of things? Do you see them weaving together in any way in your adulthood? How did you get good at whatever it is you're good at?
And if you're too busy enjoying Memorial Day Weekend to respond -- we understand and that's great, too!