Note: The book I’m currently reading will be listed as a drop down on the menu. I encourage knowledge seekers to follow along, to agree to disagree, and to add insight about the themes and concepts of the book. My first post further elaborates on this process.
For most of my life, I considered myself to be subpar, physically and mentally. I didn’t believe that I had any physical or mental gifts.
Things did not come easy for me. I struggled academically in school and on the field in sports.
Nothing was given. Everything was earned.
My life experience proves that there is more to success than superior genes or a natural knack for things like numbers and words. Perhaps that is why The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle is so compelling to me. It speaks to me on a deeper level and it whispers, “this was written for you.”
Greatness Isn’t Born, It’s Grown
The premise is simple. You can become great by becoming great. You can have a goal, work towards that goal, and achieve it. I think that everyone inherently knows this, but there are so many things that tell us otherwise and it is simply easier to agree with those things and settle for whatever mediocrity comes our way.
This book, and my subsequent summary of its most valuable pieces of information, will prove to all that there is indeed a way to acquire the necessary skills required to achieve success.
There is indeed a way to acquire talent, the one thing that we always thought inborn to those that are “naturally” great.
From Coyle, “In the interest of clarity, we’ll define talent in its strictest sense: the possession of repeatable skills that don’t depend on physical size.”
Repeatable skills= Talent
And talent is what makes you money. It is what makes you noticeable in a world of regulars. It is makes you round a world of obedient squares.
And most importantly, Talent can be learned.
Then [David] took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached Goliath.” – 1 Samuel 17:40
July 07, 2016
The underlying premise of this book is this statement: all skills grow by cellular mechanisms. The ability to become better is a built in biological phenomenon and not an inherited gift or special blessing. It is something that we can have and something that we can build.
The Talent Code deconstructs this premise by examining three overarching ideas:
- Deep Practice
- Master Coaching
Deep practice is how you build talent; it is the constant struggle that one goes through before becoming a master. No one has been or ever will be exempt of this basic congruent fact. No one.
♦ Brazil’s soccer dominance: generations of kids play a similar game called Futsal with a smaller ball in small confined spaces (like cities) that enable them to transition easily to the wide, open game of soccer with years of built up skill.
♥ The artist’s from the Renaissance period were apprentices that learned the craft from the bottom up, years before revealing the work that we know today. Michelangelo lived with a stone cutter from ages six to ten learning how to handle a hammer and chisel before he could read and write.
♣ The Z-Boys of skateboarding,that catapulted the sport onto an international stage, spent years skating inside of empty swimming pools. They did this when they weren’t surfing, which in itself provides skills that transfer well to skateboarding.
♠ The Korean professional golfers of the LPGA. The world class Russian tennis players to follow in-step behind Anna Kournikova. These two instances of “sudden” word class talent booms, were in fact a deliberate process in which the talent was grown. Brick by brick, line by line, amazing world class athlete at a time, it was built.
Read More: The Outwork Book Club
We look to each of these occurrences like something special happened. We think they are geniuses or outliers, when all they did was tap into a neurological mechanism that was building with each practice session. The mechanism is composed of hundreds of living circuits that grow. and grows. and grows. and grows with each deep, intense session.
It becomes thicker with each exposure. It is the physical act of building skill: (1) every human act is a precisely timed electric signal traveling through a chain of neurons; (2) there is a microscopic substance called Myelin that acts as insulation and it wraps around these nerve fibers increasing signal strength, speed, and accuracy; (3) the more times we fire a circuit, the stronger, faster, and more natural our movements and thoughts become. It is constant, reoccurring act of talent building.
July 27, 2016
Ignition is simply the motivational fuel that enables people to ascend to great things. Without it, mastery is not possible. It takes 10,000 hours of deep practice to build Myelin and without an external source of motivation, many people (and kids) just won’t be able to sustain the necessary work output to be truly great.
Ignition is also something happens internally. It is “about the set of signals and subconscious forces that create our identity; the moments that lead us to say that is who I want to be.”
Read More: Why I Read a Book Every Week
In essence, it begins externally, something happens that causes someone to become ignited. It could be rise of Andruw Jones in Major League Baseball that ignited an entire island of aspiring young baseball players on Curacao; it could be a productive school environment that constantly reinforces the value of a college education; it could be the simple fact that there is a coach that promotes excellence (Saban, Wooden, Walsh).
It then becomes internal, where a person strives to build their talent. Self-discipline and a commitment to success is now the driving force behind a person’s journey towards that elusive 10,000 hours. When this process begins to unfold in a kid, a parent might call what they are seeing a “rage to master.” Think of golf for Tiger Woods, writing music for Mozart, and the creative process for so many entrepreneurs today. This part of the equation cannot be ignored, it must be ignited.
The process of teaching skills to individuals is a very important part of the skill acquisition hierarchy. Yes, it is true that you can learn things on your own today by leveraging technology. But, the old model of having a master coach is unmatched and will always be the primary way that individuals rise to become masters.
According to Coyle, there are four virtues of master coaches:
1. The Matrix: basically the way a master coach goes about teaching their skill. It is partially instinctive, because master coaches usually have a lot of experience. It is, in essence, a playbook for teaching and implementing their system. It is a proven system that have been refined several times over and seamless in execution.
2. Perceptiveness: when John Wooden, the legendary UCLA basketball coach, starts a season, he begins by teaching his players how to properly put on their socks and tie their shoes. Why? Because improperly worn socks leads to blisters, which lead to missed shots, which lead to games lost. He also announces to his players that he will treat each of them differently. Wooden relies on a customized approach and he makes it clear to his players; do not expect equal treatment across the board, that is not how we are going to win games.
3. The GPS Reflex: the ability to adjust and modify an approach for each situation that arises. This requires lots of experience and knowledge; essentially master coaches have built up talent for this part of their job. The reflex in action produces a “series of vivid, just-in-time directives that zap the student’s skill circuit, guiding it in the right direction.”
4. Theatrical Honesty or “Cultivating your own Legend”: master coaches seem to have an aura of expertise and influence. They carry themselves knowing that they have spent the time necessary to ignite their students, players, etc. We look at these individuals as authorities and what they say carries a lot of weight within their perspective fields. Master coaches will then leverage their authority to continue their success.
Read More: General George Washington on Being Bold
The core principles of ignition, deep practice, and master coaching can be used in many different settings and within a multitude of diverse fields. Actually, it normally exists under a different name or mantra. The core principles, along with the idea of building myelin, is important to keep in mind when tackling complex problems, especially when overall improvement is the desired end state.
It is pretty easy to draw parallels to talent building and business. Essentially, when each individual member inside of a business masters their role (marketing, management, budgeting, etc.), the business will ultimately become more efficient and effective as a result. Toyota calls this process Kaizen, which is Japanese for “continuous improvement,” which sounds very much like deep practice. Toyota focuses on small improvement, tiny little tweaks to every process of their production, which eventually adds up to big changes over time.
Things that we struggle with, things that reside inside of our minds, are actually skills that we can practice and learn. Shyness, for instance, can be beat by practicing inside of that bubble of perceived discomfort. “The key is that people have to linger in that uncomfortable area, learn to tolerate the anxiety. If you practice, you can get to the level you want.”
The idea that we can build talent; that greatness isn’t born, it’s grown is a mindset that can change the way we view the world and attack problems within our lives. If, for instance, I want to learn to tango, I can do it knowing that I just need to spend the time building the skill and that I am not simply cursed with bad case of “two left feet.”
When you make the challenge a skill, everything changes.
Definition of terms:
- Deep practice: Also called deliberate practice is the form of learning marked by (1) the willingess to operate on the edge of your ability, aiming for targets that are just out of reach, and (2) the embrace of attentive repetition.
- Ignition: The motivational process that occurs when your identity becomes linked to a long-term vision of your future. Triggers significant amounts of unconscious energy; usually marked by the realization That is who I want to be.
- Reach: The act of stretching slightly beyond your current abilities toward a target, which causes the brain to form new connections. Reaching invariably creates mistakes, which are the guideposts you use to improve the next attempt.
- Rule of Ten Thousand Hours: The scientific finding that all world-class experts in every field have spent a minimum of ten thousand hours intensively practicing their craft. While this number is sometimes misinterpreted as a magical threshold, in reality it functions as a rule of thumb underlining a larger truth: Greatness is not born, but grown through deep practice, no matter who you are.
- Shallow practice: The opposite of deep practice, marked by lack of intensity, vagueness of goal, and/or the unwillingness to reach beyond current abilities. Often caused by an aversion to making mistakes; results in vastly slowed skill acquisition and learning.
- Sweet spot: The zone on the edge of current ability where learning happens fastest. Marked by a frequency of mistakes, and also by recognition of those mistakes.
Definitions come from The Little Book of Talent, a companion to The Talent Code. I write about 10 tips for building talent here.
PS- I enjoy audio books just as much as a traditional book. It is helpful for commuting and long trips, but most importantly, it will allow you to continually feed your mind!
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