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Customer Review

366 of 391 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good, but there are some frustrating contradictions, May 31, 2009
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This review is from: The Talent Code: Greatness Isn't Born. It's Grown. Here's How. (Hardcover)
"I'm going to practice it a zillion million times," she said. "I'm going to play super good."

"The Talent Code" by Daniel Coyle is a book on how to grow talent. The author is against the wisdom that talent is natural. The book is around the belief that talent come from Myelin. Myelin is the "insulation that wrap these nerve fibers and increases signal strength, speed, and accuracy." When the certain signal is sent down the nerve system, myelin wraps around the nerve fibre. The thicker the myelin, the better the signal. Thus, "skill is myelin insulation that wraps neural circuits and that grows according to certain signals."

The book is divided into three parts of talent growing; 1. Deep Practice 2. Ignition 3. Master Coaching


Part 1: Deep Practice

Chapter 1: The Sweet Spot
This is the first chapter to familiarise us with the deep practice. Coyle wrote about Brazilian football (soccer) and why it is the world's talent hotbed. He had an amazing story of Edwin Link and how his unusual device transformed the training of the Air Force.

Chapter 2: The Deep Practice Cell
This chapter surrounds the idea of myelin and how it might be the holy grail to talent. It is very scientific. To sum it up, "deep practice x 10,000 hours = world-class skill."

Chapter 3: The Brontës, the Z-Boys, and the Renaissance
The author started with the Brontë sisters from England in the 1850s who wrote fantastic children books. He also wrote about the group of skaters by the name of Z-Boys and the guilds during the renaissance and how they produced highly talented people.

Chapter 4: The Three Rules of Deep Practice
This chapter, Coyle gives us three rules of Deep Practicing. 1. Chunk It Up 2. Repeat It 3. Learn to Feel It
Part 2: Ignition

Chapter 5: Prima Cues
It is merely things that get you interested, that excite you and bring you passion. Coyle wrote on how the success of Se Ri Pak, a Korean golfer, had an impact on the next generation of female Korean golfers and how young Russian tennis players wanted to be the new Anna. "If she can do it, why can't I?"

Chapter 6: The Curaçao Experiment
The remote Caribbean island, Curaçao, did a miraculous work at producing lots of talented baseball players because the ignition sparked when an island hero, Andruw Jones, hit a home run. However, the real success of Curaçao is that it keeps motivational fire lit, Doyle tells you how they did it.

Chapter 7: How to Ignite a Hotbed
This chapter is about KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) by Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin. The story of success of KIPP is like a miracle but the core of it is to constantly ignite the students with just a word, college. No,... "COLLEGE!!"

Part 3: Master Coaching

Chapter 8: The Talent Whisperers
Talent does not come alone, the talented people in their fields need a coach, a mentor, or a master. Coyle wrote about Herman Lamm, the originator and teacher of modern bank-robbing skill! He wrote about Hans Jansen, a cello teacher at Meadowmount Music School in Chicago and how he personalised his teaching method. There is also a wonderful story of John Wooden, a great basketball coach and his amazing coaching techniques.

Chapter 9: The Teaching Blueprint
The author elaborated the four virtues of teaching 1. The Matrix or a task-specific knowledge of the teacher (He wrote a nice story of Linda Septein who taught Jessica Simpson and Beyonce Knowles) 2. Perceptiveness - how to perceive students individually 3. The GPS Reflex - the just-in-time informative directives 4. Theatrical Honesty which is the ability to connect with students.

Chapter 10: Tom Martinez and the $60 Million Bet
This is a chapter about Tom Martinez, a retired junior college American football coach, and his teaching method on a promising young quarterback, JaMarcus Russell.


I would like to compare this book to an ideal book: a book that is easy to understand, distinct, practical, credible, insightful, and provides great reading experience.

Ease of Understanding: 8/10: The book is written in simple language albeit some scientific information. The structure is very simple with the three parts, Deep Practice, Ignition, and Master Coaching. Minor drawbacks are some uses of unnecessary ambiguous words such as Matrix, Threatrical Honesty, etc. but they are minor, though.

Distinction: 7/10: There are many books on this subject already and it reminds me of a recent book, "Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell and the two have some similarities and some differences. However, The Talent Code is excellent at instilling the knowledge of Myelin making us view talent from a different perspective.

Practicality: 8/10: This book is practical especially in the field on Deep Practice. Daniel Coyle explained nicely on this issue and it is not difficult to implement it to our daily life. Chunk It Up, Repeat, and Learn to Feel It are pretty much straightforward and Deep Practice is the best part of the book because the other two, Ignition and Master Coaching are more difficult to implement.

Credibility: 3/10: Although this is a very good book, it has a major flaw. This book is like a qualitative research. It is deep in the subject and in the examples and stories in the book. However, it lacks generalisation. You might say "That's the way it is" to a story but that might not be the way the rest are. There are some contradictions in the book as well.

For example, in the Chapter 9, the author stated that teaching soccer is different from teaching violin. Teaching soccer must be free flowing because the soccer circuitry is "varied and fast, changing fluidly in response to each obstacle." So, the coach rather lets the players perform. On the other hand, the violinist has to be accurate, precise, and stable. The coach, thus, has to stop and make sure that the circuitry is correct.

The argument is convincing and sensible until we noticed the way the legendary John Wooden, a basketball coach, coached. It's undisputed that basketball is more similar to soccer than violin that it requires fluidity in the game but Coyle wrote that John Wooden constantly issuing informative corrections of movements to players. He might not stop the game but he surely keeps correcting players, not letting them flow. Coyle wrote "[The soccer coach] occasionally smiles ot laughs or says oooooooo for a close play as a fan would. But he doesn't coach in the regular sense of the term, which is to say he doesn't stop the game, teach, praise, critique, or otherwise exert any control whatsoever."

There are some other contradictions or, at least, an overlap. In the chapter 8, Coyle wrote that some coaches coach love or make the children love what they are doing. The quote from the research of Dr. Benjamin Bloom in the chapter is "Perhaps the major quality of these teachers was that they made the initial learning very pleasant and rewarding. Much of the introduction to the field was a playful activity, and the learning at the beginning of the stage was much like a game."

However, in chapter 7, regarding KIPP, the process is not really similar, if not opposite. The new students will be introduced to "discipline" from the first day on everything; how to walk, how to talk, how to sit at a desk, how to look at a teacher or classmate who's speaking, and so on. Students, on the first day, sat on the floor without a desk because "...everything here at KIPP is earned. EVERYTHING is earned. Everything is EARNED." This is a much tougher game than the piano class in Dr. Bloom's research. Likewise, at Spartak, the tennis hotbed in Russia, they did not "play" tennis - they preferred the verb borot'sya - "fight" or "struggle."

There are many minor contradictions and overlaps in this book and make it much less convincing and credible and much of them are in the parts of "Ignition" and "Master Coaching."

Insightful: 7/10: Daniel Coyle had done a very good work with his interviews in the so-called talent hotbeds around the world. Those examples are backed with stories from those involved. However, more researches with less depth would be great to confirm the findings of the deep and insightful ones.

Reading Experience: 6/10: At first, this book is very promising with the first part, "Deep Practice." It gives you intriguing knowledge and very practical methods. However, the book fades out in the later parts I discussed above. While the "Deep Practice" part is very scientific, the other parts are not as solid. The general theme of the whole book is nice but the contradictions can frustrate you.

Overall: 6.5/10: This is a good book with a different perspective on how we look at talent. It will provide you with inspiration and sufficient guidelines to make you more talented in your fields. The Deep Practice part of the book is simply invaluable. The other two parts are not bad but some unclear messages might hold you back.

(I have done this kind of review for some months; if any of you have a comment or suggestion, please do tell)
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Tracked by 7 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 11 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 16, 2009 1:13:19 PM PST
John Riedl says:
The first part of this review was a bit too fanboy-ish for my taste ... but the evaluation along individual dimensions is terrific. Great job!

Posted on Jul 17, 2010 7:17:11 AM PDT
Biblio says:
I appreciate the time and detail you have put into your review. The breakdown of chapters was helpful and your ratings were interesting. I always like it when people are able to make a comparison to other similar books, which you did a little. Since you are looking for feedback, if I had to search for a criticism of your review I would say that I did not come away with a strong feeling one way or the other about the book - "Yes this is the book for me" or 'No, I'll pass on this book". Although I wouldn't want you to compromise the honesty of your critique, it might be worth trying to weave in a little more of your enthusiasm or non-enthusiasm for the book. Just a few thoughts since you appear to be looking for feedback. Once again, I know that it takes a lot of time and effort to write such a detailed account and as a frequent reader of amazon reviews, I am grateful for the effort you put forth for people like me. :-)

Posted on Jul 2, 2011 8:38:18 AM PDT
Emily Dickenson didn't have a coach - I beg to differ that judgment is always needed for talent to spawn and grow and come to fruition. Sometimes being left alone to do what all of us do best IS BEST. Deepak Chopra says this: we are all born with a unique talent - something we are better at doing than anyone else in the whole world, and through meditation and connection to Source (God), we can find what that is. Listening to other people TELL us is usually them telling us to be THEM, which is not us being US. So I'd say coaching isn't necessary, but if you are led to it by your intuition, then a temporary coach may just be getting you unstuck from a rutt or improving you - but always BE YOU. You are a country to discover!

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 6, 2011 8:45:14 AM PDT
Darren B. says:
I thought the bit about depth levels of research was a bit off overall, as I find there is generally a good mix of research in this book (not much particularly ground-breaking but it was presented relatively well). There was a lot of broad generalized research simply by researching hotbeds of talent, studying their methods and studying the broad talents of coaches like Wooden. None of that is particularly hard evidence but rather anecdotal and qualitative. He had more in-depth research related to specific research studies as well. Could he have done a better job? Probably, but overall not too bad.

I was glad you pointed out some of the biased random thoughts in the book that do contradict other elements of the 'key components of talent.' Authors have a tendency to do this sometimes unknowningly as researching anything for a period of time, that often gives someone a biased opinion towards repeated patterns that they see. This is why it is often easy to find research to support a pre-existing bias (most science-based dissertations or thesis') or in the case of more art-oriented thesis writing, you research until you find a pattern that presents itself as a bias when you write your thesis.

Emily Dickenson learned from someone, somewhere. She may not of have had an actual 'coach' sit down and work with her specifically on writing but she had many mentors both directly and indirectly. Actually looking it up quickly, it was Benjamin Franklin Newton who exposed her to the writing of William Wordsworth and Ralph Aldo Emerson. She was also apparently influenced by the work of Lydia Marie Child, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Charlotte Bronte and William Shakespeare.

You need to first think of 'coach' as a more broad term than someone who simply sits down one-on-one with you. It includes mentors and people of influence over your life, as stimulus is necessary for growth. Most of what you read from other people is indirect coaching, you are studying someone elses work though. It's also important to note that the true role of a coach is never to 'tell' anyone to do anything, but rather guide them towards self-discovery.

In fact, by quoting Deepak, you've actually shown the value you've personally found from a coach, you may never have sat down with him one-on-one, but through reading his work you have been influenced and guided towards a personal conclusion. Deepak has clearly influenced 'being you' without you really even recognizing it (which to me is actually the sign of a good coach), as you would not be quoting him if that thought was your idea alone. Quite frankly it would be next to impossible to develop your own personality, without external influences of some kind be that studying the work of others, peers, family, reading, having a mentor, a knowledgeable friend or a coach.

The use of coaching sessions are a surefire way to speed up your development in every aspect of skill aquisition. Sure you can get really good at something through reading, talking with other people and practice alone, but you can speed up the process by hiring an actual coach 9 times out of 10.

Posted on Nov 16, 2011 3:09:14 PM PST
Thanks for your detailed review.
However, you rated the book 6.5/10 overall. If we convert that, we get 3.25/5. Shouldn't the rating have been three stars instead of four?

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 12, 2012 1:05:37 AM PDT
Adel Anwar says:
Jane Lois Lane: who the heck cares what "Deepak Chopra" says ? Come on ! This (Talent) is not about mysticism but science. There is huge world of difference . This book is science put across in a lay man's way (and leave Chopra out of this)

Posted on Jan 5, 2013 1:44:20 PM PST
Joy Casey says:
I liked this book, and I did not think that the book declined in value as you got farther into the book. In fact, I tound it even more interesting. I thought it was a great book!

Posted on Jun 2, 2013 6:29:31 AM PDT
Andy Hewitt says:
I find this type of review very helpful. Clear, informative, relatively objective and well-written. I especially like the ratings - great idea! Keep up the good work! :-)

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 29, 2013 1:02:02 AM PST
The research shows what is, or has been, present in creating World class performance. Nobody was identified at the highest levels without a set of basic conditions having been present. Not having a teacher would be a basic condition missing. We can muddy up the measurement of what is World class very easily though - i.e. "The Beatles are World Class Musicians". Well actually playing like they did isn't that hard and we are not trying to mix up astounding income or popularity with core skill.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 6, 2014 3:06:51 PM PDT
LMK says:
RE: The Beatles. I agree. Skill level is a very muddy concept. In terms of musical complexity, the Beatles weren't anything special. In terms of creativity and ability to connect with an audience, they were definitely world class. But maybe that proves the point anyway, which is that talent comes in many forms and flavors, and success can be measured in myriad ways.
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