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The Talent Code: Greatness Isn't Born. It's Grown. Here's How. Hardcover – April 28, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Journalist Coyle travels the world to discover the truth about talent in this fascinating account that studies how individuals can unlock their full potential and bring their talents to light. The discoveries put forth by Coyle come down to three main elements: coaching, motivation and practice. While these hardly seem like breakthroughs, Coyle's discovery process proves fascinating. Providing detailed examples from a variety of different sources, Coyle's work becomes as motivational as the stories he presents. John Farrell reads with a voice that is at once firm yet highly identifiable. The resulting recording serves as a fine instructional guide for those searching for how to fulfill their dreams. A Bantam hardcover (Reviews, Apr. 6). (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Preloaded Digital Audio Player edition.
"I only wish I'd never before used the words 'breakthrough' or 'breathtaking' or 'magisterial' or 'stunning achievement' or 'your world will never be the same after you read this book.' Then I could be using them for the first and only time as I describe my reaction to Daniel Coyle's The Talent Code. I am even willing to 'guarantee' that you will not read a more important and useful book in 2009, or pretty much any other year. And if all that's not enough, it's also 'a helluva good read.'"—Tom Peters, author of In Search of Excellence
"This is a remarkable—even inspiring—book. Daniel Coyle has woven observations from brain research, behavioral research, and real-world training into a conceptual tapestry of genuine importance. What emerges is both a testament to the remarkable potential we all have to learn and perform and an indictment of any idea that our individual capacities and limitations are fixed at birth."—Dr. Robert Bjork, Distinguished Professor and Chair of Psychology, UCLA
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Using powerful case studies, Coyle has identified three distinct key elements that determine how individuals achieve greatness: Deep Practice, Ignition, and Master Coaching.
Deep Practice involves short burst of energy - perfecting, identifying errors, repeating. Each time an individual - violinist, tennis player, soccer player - engages in this kind of Deep Practice, the nervous system generates new layers of myelin to further insulate and streamline the flow of electrical energy within neural synapses.
In order for an individual to have the motivation, persistence, and determination to engage in this level of Deep Practice, there needs to have been an Ignition event. In the case of Korean women who now dominate the LPGA, the igniting event was Se Ri Pak winning the McDonald's LPGA Championship in 1998, and becoming a visible symbol and role model for young Korean girls. Five years later - enough time for Deep Practice to have made a significant difference - Korean women began to dominate women's golf.
The third key element is Master Coaching.. Mr. Coyle calls these master teachers "The Talent Whisperers." Common traits are patience, nurturing spirit and the ability to use years of observation and pattern recognition to know just the right word to say to encourage and motivate the person being coached. IConic UCLA coach John Wooden is cited as a prototype for this kind of Master Coach.
The implications of these three key elements that lead to greatness are far reaching. They can be applied to the realm of parenting, teaching, coaching, and business leadership. This is a MUST READ book for anyone who aspires to greatness or to lead others in achieving greatness.
After writing a draft of this glowing review, I decided to read the most helpful critical review of the book, as penned by Ronald Forbes. In many ways, his review was accurate, and also somewhat persuasive. In light of his review, I have tempered my own review and rating, down from 5 stars to 4 stars. To summarize, Forbes rightly points out that Coyle's book is more "pop journalism" (which I have no problem with...it helps keep this book interesting, and from being bogged down in scientific jargon), and he says the book's claims are nothing new. But if an author can present old ideas in a fresh way that can help us change our behaviors, then he should be commended for it!
This is the kind of book that you cannot help telling your friends and family about. Over the several weeks during which I read this book, I brought aspects of the book up in at least half a dozen conversations. It's a fun book. And you learn a lot.
I'm not skilled in science, so I'm not going to try to summarize what the heck myelin is. Basically, it's stuff in your brain that grows as you develop skill in ANY given area of life. So, Coyle tries to help us explain how to grow more myelin in our brains.
Coyle's three keys to growing talent:
1) Deep Practice - when I go out and play 18 holes, this is about as far from deep practice as you can get. Why? Because deep practice is all about fixing mistakes. You can do that on the driving range or the putting green, but not on the course (well, not easily, anyway). Think about it: how much time does the average golfer spend playing vs. practicing? 5-to-1? 10-to-1? Or any other sport or skill, for that matter.
The concept of deep practice is not about practicing for countless hours each day; instead, most of the talent hotbeds profiled in the book had pupils training less than e hours per day. But the 3 hours of practice at these hotbeds has exponentially greater yield than regular practice.
Deep practice is about struggling to get better. When we have to grapple with a weakness in our game, we can get to a point of breakthrough. "Experts practice differently and more strategically. When they fail, they don't blame it on luck or themselves. They have a strategy they can fix." (p 86).
2) Ignition - at some point in each of our lives, we watch a friend or colleague shoot to the moon (in some specific area of life or work), and we wonder, "how did he do that?" What switch was flipped in his brain? When we see it happen to someone just like us, it gives a sense that we could acquire that particular talent, whether it be a tennis swing, an ability to remodel a home, or learn to play the violin.
Coyle writes, "Ignition 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." He looks all over the globe to study how talent hotbeds were ignited: South Korean female golfers, Russian tennis players, Brazilian soccer players, Curaçaon baseball players, to a charter school that started in Houston. These are great stories; fun to share with friends.
3) Master Coaching - this doesn't mean you need some expensive, elite, impossible-to-access, famous coach. Nope, you just need a coach that has loads of experience, plenty of passion, and a knack for connecting interpersonally with his students.
"Master coaches aren't like heads of state. Their personality--their core skill circuit--is to be more like farmers: careful, deliberate cultivators of myelin." (165)
My 3 greatest takeaways from the book:
1) Praise your children for their hard work, not for their intelligence or their innate abilities. If they make the connection between hard work and increasing skill, they will be increasingly motivated to work hard, which therefore leads to more talent. An upward cycle, if you will.
2) Savor the struggle. When my slice is really acting up on the golf course, view it as a mountain to be conquered. Zone in and do whatever it takes to correct that circuitry.
3) Don't complain and envy those with more talent than me. Instead, use it as motivation and say, "If he can do it, so can I."
Coyle examines how talent is grown by going all over the world to investigate myelin and skill development. In areas such as sports, music, and education, the author shows why talent hotbeds appear in unlikely places and that myelin is utilized in both mental and physical tasks.
"The Talent Code" reminds that skills are not built overnight, requiring what Coyle calls "deep practice." The author looks at the issue of motivation and discusses the traits that successful teachers and coaches have in guiding their pupils. Myelin production becomes more difficult with age, Coyle observes, but it can still be built in our later years with constant practice.
This volume notes that scientific work concerning myelin is still in its early stages. As it is, there are profound implications for learning and self-improvement set forth in "The Talent Code," so it will be fascinating to learn of new discoveries in this area in the years to come.