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on July 16, 2014
Coyle brings an empowering, exciting message to us: that we can grow our own greatness. That our skills are not fixed; they're not inherited or inherent inside of our DNA. I can't help but wish my parents had known the concepts of this book when I struggled with my baseball swing in 8th grade. But, I'm thankful to have this message known to me as a 31-year old -- both for my own growth of talent, and for how I will raise my future children.

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."
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on August 16, 2009
With 34 reviews already written for this book I can only justify writing another if I think I have something to say that hasn't been said by other reviewers.

I have spent most of my adult life teaching, in universities and in industry. Through it all I have always sought better ways to perform the task of getting a concept or a bit of understanding from my head into that of someone else. And I've also often struggled with getting it into my own head, and many times I have struggled with getting from the novice stage to one of mastery of a concept or skill.

Bear with me as I attempt to set the stage for your understanding what I am trying to say. Being a scientist I'll approach the topic from the viewpoint of a scientist. In science research, or the organization of existing research, is usually done either to (a) support (i.e. to "prove") a hypothesis or (b) to disprove a hypothesis. Coyle's approach in "The Talent Code" is the former - he is assembling evidence in an attempt to prove that myelin is the "key" to developing talent. That's fine, but what I am most interested in is that he has assembled a large amount of data concerning development of talent. We don't have to accept his hypothesis to make use of his data.

The myelin sheath effectively makes some neuronal connections more effective than others; that is undeniable. Thus it is unarguably an important factor in speed of transmission. That, along with details of the chemistry of neurotransmitters, neuronal connections, the function of glial cells, and an infinitude of factors unknown collectively make up the "key" to developing talent.

I'm heading toward a strong recommendation of this book. How can I get there when I've just buried the author's theory, the basis for the book, in a pile of other factors that I consider to be of potentially equal or greater importance? The answer is simple. Coyle has assembled a sequence of steps that he argues does lead to maximization of talent. And he backs up that assemblage of steps with enough examples to leave little doubt about the general "correctness" of his argument. Whether one accepts or rejects Coyle's explanation the steps that he argues leads to talent development clearly work.

Who will benefit from reading this book, and why? If you are a teacher or a learner you can benefit greatly in the direct application of his observations to your daily work. If you want or need to develop a talent in yourself Coyle gives a blueprint for how to do that. If you are interested in the "myelin viewpoint" you'll get a reasonably complete view of that. If you want to know the "answer" to the question of the biology/chemistry of how talent is developed, this isn't the place to find it though you'll see one such hypothesis developed in some detail.

In short, I recommend reading the book with the mindset that if you follow the prescription you'll get the desired results. If he's correct in that myelin is the magic ingredient so be it. If he's wrong, you'll still have the results, and that's nothing to sneeze at.
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on January 26, 2018
Daniel Coyle does a great job of research on this topic and enlightens us about how talented people in many fields have come to be and how there are ways to insure that the future holds better than average chances that more talented people will be developed by the teaching and coaching methods explained in the book. He also shows how we can be our own teachers and coaches to develop our own talent in areas we are passionate about. I very much enjoyed the information, which was presented in an easy to understand way.
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on January 31, 2018
Really enjoyed the writing style. Book flowed very well. Examples were superb. I just finished a book that was mentioned in this one so it made it even better. As a parent, I believe it made me better, as a coach, it definitely did. I would highly recommend it for teachers of young kids, and even old. Deserves a 5 probably but it wasn’t a cant put down book. It will definitely be referenced for me frequently though.
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on November 25, 2017
Anyone who's read any Malcolm Gladwell book will recognize the narrative strategy (seemingly diverse vignettes illustrating different steps in an allegedly unified process), but author Coyle makes it more than a rip-off by using his breezy charm to skate through each anecdote before it gets preachy or overstays its welcome. Any reader who (like me) is in the teaching or coaching field will come away with some new approaches to consider. Special note for football fans: there is a brief JaMarcus Russell section that aged hilariously, though that's not the author's fault.
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on January 10, 2015
In this book, Daniel tires to explains some very well known adages like practice makes a man perfect and thus genes do not play a role in talent through some scientific contexts, sprinkled with an abundance of real life cases

The first thing is the introduction to myelin. We all know that to master any topic, the level of difficulty needs to be progressively increased and practice s much as possible . . But if you want to know what it does to your brain cells , read this book and probably one would start to make oneself uncomfortable by choice. (Remember who moved my cheese ). While Daniel gives evidences of how this impacts formation of myelin, but the overall discussion on myelin remains limited and narrow

This book also gave me some key insights on efficacy of longer study schedule versus shorter study schedule and frequent testing. And also the role of commitment in learning progress. The need to adapt coaching methodology (suzuki violin method to GPS method) highlighted the different ways in which the brain looks at various skills.

The methodology around KIPP was also interesting. While Malcolm Gladwell had introduced us to it in his book 'Outliers ' , but Daniel gives us a good DNA of the same.

But the bottomline which Daniel wants to drive is that greatness is not a matter of genetics. It arises from a development of commitment (how that is triggered is still an enigma in this book) and practice. And if one is lucky enough to get a master coaching (like Ms Mary ) , a talent would be borne.
Some the ironies in the book (or maybe in life) was the approach of some of the masters towards prediction of individuals. While Jensen says it is difficult to say how an individual will end up, Linda Septien and for that matter even Mertinez feel that they can size up the talent pretty fast (like 20 seconds !!). The approach of Martinez to chat with the family to get a sense of commitment was interesting, but could be controversial. It would take a real master to separate the wheat from the chaff from such interaction.

My personal take away from this book is about the appropriate language and approach for motivation- as a mentor to team and as a parent.
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on October 22, 2013
I like this book because it informs about what is actually experienced in life (myself being kind of old) - this being that one has to work at something to succeed. And not only that, one has to work at something in a particular way to gain full benefit from one's effort. This is somehow reassuring, considering I now don't have to feel so bad about not having any real talent. However, through the course of reading, considering what Mr. Coyle is saying, between the lines one might be tempted to ask "If all there is to talent is patterning, why really bother? After all, the benefits are really narrow in the great journey of life - and the benefits are not even permanent." I can't help but think perhaps the truth informed in the The Talent Code provides contrast to older wisdom. For example, the Oriental religious practice (e.g. Buddhism, Taosim, etc.) informs one to return to the Primordial - presumably prior to myelination occurring as in a newborn infant. The Buddhist path to enlightenment could also be construed to argue against the premise of 'The Talent Code' (i.e. trying to be good at something in a systematic manner), where, for example, the Buddhist Heart Sutra (Red Pine translation) says (something like):

Here! Shariputra, everything that one experiences in this existence is defined by emptiness [i.e. will eventually be meaningless];
Therefore, in emptiness there is no knowledge, no attainment and no non-attainment [i.e. the talent one is seeking will eventually dissipate with no lasting effect];
Therefore, without attainment [i.e. not seeking a talent], seekers of enlightenment take refuge in [universal wisdom];
And live without walls of the mind;
Without walls of the mind and thus without fears;
They see through delusions and finally, enlightenment!

I don't know what to think about this - so will study it more deeply! Maybe one goal - the one most prevalent in current society of seeking attainment as The Talent code espouses - is not at all what we as sentient beings should be doing. Who can really say.
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on April 4, 2015
 I first heard of myelin - at a Tony Robbin's seminar. Ironic, I know. However the book brought to life this clear substance in our brain which automates many habits - in particular, super-athletes (or at least the elite ones). The author traveled the world figuring why small towns in Brazil (soccer), Russia (tennis), Puerto Rico (baseball), and South Korea (women's golf), produce such a high rate of world class athletes. The examples are good, the book, ehh. I wouldn't recommend it as the end all, be all. Buy if it's cheap and don't spend more than 2-3 days reading.
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on June 28, 2016
 “The idea that all skills grow by the same cellular mechanism seems strange and surprising because the skills are so dazzlingly varied. But then again, all of this planet’s variety is built from shared, adaptive mechanism; evolution could have it no other way. Redwoods differ from roses but both grow through photosynthesis. Elephants differ from amoebas but both use the same cellular mechanism to convert food into energy. Tennis players, singers, and painters don’t seem to have much in common but they all get better by gradually improving timing and speed and accuracy, by honing neural circuitry, by obeying the rules of the talent code— in short, by growing more myelin.”

~ Daniel Coyle from The Talent Code

The sub-title of The Talent Code says it all: “Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How.”

Fact is, Michael Jordan and Michelangelo weren’t born great. They *created* their greatness.

In this book, Daniel Coyle gives us a brilliant, fun, inspiring look at precisely how extraordinary performers became so extraordinary.

And, more importantly, how we can shape our own destinies (and that of our kids and loved ones and communities) through rockin’ the three basic elements of the talent code: deep practice, ignition, and master coaching.

The book’s extremely well-written and is packed with great stories and Big Ideas.

Here are some of the Big Ideas:

1. It’s All About the Myelin - The secret sauce to awesomeness.
2. Deep Practice - How deeply are you practicing?
3. Deep Practice Q & A - Get the low-down.
4. Muscles & Myelin - Time to grow!
5. Cosmic Dice - vs. Working hard.

More goodness— including PhilosophersNotes on 300+ books in our ​*OPTIMIZE*​ membership program. Find out more at brianjohnson . me.
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on May 25, 2016
I am a Suzuki Method music teacher and I love this book and recommend it to all of my student's parents. It's no coincidence that Brazil makes the best soccer players, and Cuba makes the baseball players, Russia makes great gymnasts, or the Suzuki Method produces many music prodigies. It's that they figured out a system that works.
As Daniel Coyle outlines in his book, and as Dr. Suzuki also believed that " Knowledge + 10,000 repetitions = Ability (Talent) "
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