Late blooming, resetting, and risk-taking

What We're Reading: June 2019

There’s a long-accepted myth that we all have to find that one thing we’re good at, be recognized for our talents early, and work tirelessly until we retire.

Welcome to What We’re Reading. Each month, we’ll curate a list of books—from perennial classics to new releases—chat with authors, and review titles with the hope of co-creating a community of well-read makers. Discussions around work, creativity, and entrepreneurship are constantly evolving; here, we aim to create a space for different ideas and approaches to be in conversation with one another. Whether you’re already an avid reader or wish you read more, we hope you’ll feel inspired to read along with us.

This month, we’re reading three books about late blooming, resetting, and risk-taking. Each title interrogates—and redefines—what it means to thrive in one’s professional life, challenging us to reconsider what work and success can look like.

There’s a long-accepted myth that we all have to find that one thing we’re good at, be recognized for our talents early, and work tirelessly until we retire. These ideas are constantly perpetuated across media, in films, books, and television shows. It’s really no wonder that most of us believe them.

But what if we reconsidered what it meant to find ‘the right path’? And what if that path isn’t actually a straight shot?

The modern economic system profits off of our belief that we should specialize in one thing. On top of this, many of us think that if we don’t ‘make it big’ before our thirties, there’s something wrong. It’s the same reason why many of us hear whispers that suggest it’s best to stay put in a stable job or career path—even if it bores us to tears.

Whether in a traditional workplace or the entrepreneurial space, there is often a deep-rooted fear that if success does not materialize by a certain point, it might not happen at all. But in reality, most people have to try several different things and take a lot of risks before finding something that clicks.

If you've ever felt like you’re behind the rest or can’t seem to find a sustainable career path, profitable business idea, or creative practice that you can stick to and want clarity around what you’re meant to be doing, then look no further.

These three books take a close look at our world’s obsession with early success, relentless work, and hyperspecialization and shed much-needed light on how to free ourselves from these limiting beliefs. Reading them helped me to see things differently, and I hope they will inspire you to rethink your own path, too.

Late Bloomers: The Power of Patience in a World Obsessed with Early Achievement by Rich Karlgaard

Let’s be real, most of us have been impacted in some way by our society's obsession with early achievement. Maybe we chose the expensive college instead of a more affordable state school and now we’re saddled with debt. Or maybe we pushed ourselves too hard to become the next 25-year-old to start-up founder and wound up burned out. Whatever the case, we are constantly being swayed by the media attention centered on well-known early achievers.

Enter Late Bloomers. This book gives us an honest look into why the U.S. (and most of the world) is obsessed with early achievers and why so-called late bloomers actually have a comparative advantage over their early blooming peers. According to Karlgaard, those who find their calling in life and actually give themselves time to ‘bloom’ find deeper meaning in the paths they ultimately choose to pursue. Why, then, do so many of us feel we’re behind on some imagined timeline?

We’ve all read those 30-under-30 lists––some founders have even been accused of fudging their birth year in hopes of making it––and yet we rarely take the time to consider that each person might have a unique developmental timeline. In Late Bloomers, Karlgaard, a journalist at Forbes, makes a case for anyone who has taken longer to find their way. Ultimately, not every person will be a prodigious serial entrepreneur before their 25th birthday—this book invites us to consider why, maybe, that’s a good thing.

How To Not Always Be Working by Marlee Grace

The beauty of this little book is in the title. Initially, I picked it up thinking it was going to be a how-to manual for intentionally disconnecting from my phone. Instead, I found a meditation between the pages.

In How to Not Always Be Working, Grace reminds us of the simple joy in doing things that have nothing to do with work. While reading this book, I found myself wondering about the long-term cost of buying into a work-obsessed culture. So often, we rationalize our lives by telling ourselves the ends justify the means. And yet, though pursuing and working to achieve our professional goals is admirable, there is ultimately a fine between working hard and creating a life that is filled with work.

How to Not Always Be Working is a pulse check for all of us who have ever worried we are spending too much time on our phones, answering emails, or trying to figure out how to monetize our next idea. The ideas contained in this book aren’t exactly new, but they are presented in an interactive, meditative, and creative way. It’s more than just a book, it’s a tool that can be used in everyday life.

In today’s gig economy, where many of us value ourselves based on how well we accumulate, reincorporate, and market our skills, it’s become increasingly difficult to carve out moments where we can just be. These days, even self-care somehow ends up on our resume. How to Not Always Be Working offers a refreshing perspective and invites us to reconsider our relationship to work, and ourselves.

Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein

By now, the 10,000-hour rule is deeply rooted in the popular imagination thanks to Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers. In the book, Gladwell brought Anders Ericsson's research about the theory into mainstream consciousness. For those who haven’t read the book, Ericsson’s science of peak performance suggests that if you want to be world class at anything it takes 10,000 hours, or the equivalent of 10 years, of deliberate practice.

In Range, Epstein pulls us away from this idea. Instead, he argues that early specialization and overspecialization can actually lead us further away from innovation. The problem with widespread hyperspecialization, according to Epstein, is that it often prevents people from understanding with other fields and ways of thinking. Instead of everyone going deep, he suggests there is much to gain from in going wide and having range.

There is often anxiety tied to dabbling in too many things. For most of us, being a ‘jack of all trades’ comes with a sense of inadequacy or lack of focus. Those who have many interests can sometimes be painted as hobbyists or dilettantes, but Epstein encourages us to reconsider the potential in having a diverse range of knowledge and experiences.

Much like Late Bloomers, Range not only questions our society's obsession with early achievement but also interrogates the impulse to specialize so early that we don’t get the chance to be curious and explore all of the things that intrigue us.

Hello, bookworms! 📚

What books or podcasts have had your attention this month?

Email us, or send a DM on Instagram!

-Jaime Schmidt, Supermaker Co-founder

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