The Talent Code – Daniel Coyle
Greatness isn’t born, it’s grown.
First published in 2009, the Talent Code has been one of the ‘must read’ books, talked about at the school gate ever since. Daniel Coyle is an American journalist and author and his aim on writing The Talent Code was to investigate what makes some people truly great, whilst others fall by the way and why some schools or small geographical areas produce more than their share of stars, often with very little natural resource.
What does he find? What is the secret of talent? And how do we unlock it?
In a nutshell, Coyle identifies three key elements that research show allows individuals to develop elite skill and optimise performance in sports, art, music, math, or just about anything. The necessary components he identifies are:-
• Deep Practice— The idea that specific kinds of practice can increase skill levels up to ten times faster than if you are just going through the motions and doing conventional practice.
• Ignition or motivation– High achievers have a higher level of commitment, passion or unconscious desire. They also have a deep belief that success is possible and this is often due to their proximity to other high achievers.
• Master Coaches-– All top performers have an inspirational coach or mentor and these individual coaches or “talent whisperers” have a number of identifiable things in common.
As well as looking at the common factors linking successful individuals across many varied fields, The Talent Code also looks at how these factors may be linked to brain function and the science of learning. Coyle looks at how the neural insulator, myelin has been shown to strengthen nerve impulses along commonly used signalling pathways. The idea is that all human skill, from knocking a hockey ball to playing the trombone is created by tiny electrical pulses carried along specific chains of nerve fibres. When these circuits are repeatably used, as in deep practice, myelin responds by wrapping layers of insulation around that neural pathway, each layer adding precision, strength and speed.
I really enjoyed The Talent Code and feel the idea of deep practice is more realistic than the straight 10,000 hours rule often cited as being the answer to elite performance and the idea also gives room for the findings that practice across a range of related fields can benefit performance, ie more than one sport, more than one instrument, more than one language.