Patton's Picks from the PMA Library: Range

February 2021


If you're looking for book recommendations in the productivity and professional development genre, Patton offers a weekly summary of some of the essential and emerging titles from the PMA Library.

Much has been written about the "10,000 hour rule" popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers and the supposed benefits of a hyper-focused specialization that led athletes like Tiger Woods to the elite status of their sport. But David Epstein's fascinating book Range offers a different path to success, and suggests we do not have to begin specializing as toddlers to achieve long-term success. In fact, there are distinct benefits to taking our time and experimenting outside of our life-long comfort zones. I was struck by several applications of Epstein's work to the nonprofit field, as well as many of the supposed truisms of career development. 

  1. Do we consider nontraditional candidates when we are hiring at our nonprofit? Clearly a candidate has to have the requisite skills to accomplish the job, but must that always be from the nonprofit sector? Do they have to be from your community? Range would suggest new perspectives can have a valuable impact on your organization. 
  2. Seek creative pursuits outside of your primary career path. It's hard to imagine spending limited free time pursuing any learning that does not appear focused on a direct career-improving topic. However, your brain craves creative associations, and you might benefit more from a historical biography than the latest fundraising book, or learning a new language or musical instrument instead of spending another Saturday focused on your organization's social media. 
  3. Expand your network. While building your connections with colleagues at your organization and within your sector are important, Epstein would suggest you should seek connections with colleagues completely outside of the nonprofit community. What can your healthcare foundation learn from the local symphony? What can your education nonprofit learn from a national environmental organization? Your best ideas may emerge from these conversations, not to mention creative partnerships!

Range provides a great motivational message in that you're never too late to expand your creative and intellectual pursuits, and that you are in fact better off experimenting outside of your primary career path. 

David Epstein is an investigative reporter at ProPublica. He is the author of two books: Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, a #1 New York Times best seller; and The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance, a New York Times best seller.