Generalist is a book that came in response to Grit where everyone is crazy about obsessive specialization.

I was initially conflicted. This book smelled new-agey and self-fulfilling; "I want all my hours spent on reading random books to be worth it". Or an old age who wants to believe the hours of Netflix documentaries or Internet scrawling must have accounted for something meaningful. Sometimes we need to swallow a bitter too-generalist pill.

But he didn't touch enough on the danger of overgeneralization in the age of Internet. Check out Reddit's 16 million "philosophy specialists". Or highschool students who's a science expert by watching 2 or 3 Youtube videos. In balancing the 2 extremes, I concluded this book is valuable targeted only for those who attained PhD or in a well-tracked career path.

Now, we've got the skepticism out of our way, David brings out interesting points that are independent of one another. Early specialization that praises child prestige. The lurked danger is humans' interest changes. Difficult skill building is a long term goal that last for 10+ years. David warns us of deciding too early what you want to spend your decade of life. The perfect analogy is to marry the first person you go out with. In it, he demonstrates beautifully of the difference between Tiger Woods vs Roger Federer. Roger, the legendary tennis champion, sampled many sports before he settled on tennis in 14, while Tiger did since the age 2.

Another benefit of wide sampling is the power of analogy. When facing noble challenges, you need to know what solution is the best at that particular situation. When you have a hammer everything looks like a nail. I guess heuristic lateral thinking lets us realize something is a screw. He says in an increasing complex world, focusing on narrow domain leaves us further and further behind. It turns out many great predictors, business leaders, and noble prize winners have had a wide range of hobbies and jobs.

His Nintendo example is similar to the concept of disruptive innovation by Clayton Christensen. You don't need to focus on the best of the best to make a breakthrough technology. Use the existing technology, combine them all, and make good enough solution for customers. The end result was the mega-hit Gameboy: inferior graphic, yet durable and low cost game for ordinary young kids.

My key takeaways are take on any job that comes on for 3-5 years as sample period with a potential career path in mind. Once you've understood that, settle on building expertise in one path for the 5-20 years. Make lots of analogy and solve complex problems.