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The Talent Code: Greatness isn't born. It's grown
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on 1 September 2012
Daniel Coyle's thesis is fairly basic. Talent is not inherent, but can be grown. This puts him fairly firmly on the side of the nurture side of the nature/nurture debate. But that's not what's central, as he says; that debate is pretty unproductive. He's trying to define what kinds of nurturing factors can grow talent, and splits them into two main groups: ignition and learning.

The learning techniques he describes well, calling the most successful process he identifies 'deep practice'. With examples, he demonstrates how even the most successful talents have put huge amounts of carefully coached effort into becoming great. As he quotes Michelangelo as saying, if only they knew how much work it took. This is something like 3-5hrs a day for 7-10years, to reach the 'magic' figure of 10,000 hours. Coyle does fall into the pop-science trap of fixating on one particular element of building neural skills patterns - myelin - and repeating that word as often as he can throughout the book. However, the neurological theory which explains the process of skill-building is explained clearly.

So far, so clear. But then the book moves on to talk about the second factor - ignition. It is fairly easy to explain and have your readers accept that huge amounts of hard-working-practice can develop great skills. It is much less easy to show the factors which enable people to develop and maintain the motivation and focus to keep working at that level for such a long time. Randomly disconnected facts are thrown at us: a disproportionate number of successful politicians and scientists lost a parent at a young age; 100m mens' sprint champions are nearly all younger sons; there is an ignition effect when 'someone like me' achieves, enabling me to believe that 'I can too'. There's a strange chapter in praise of a charter school system with a single-minded academic focus and high levels of discipline which seems at odds with Coyle's approval of a basketball coach's speech earlier that 'I'm not going to treat you all the same... because you're all different.' The whole thing doesn't take us much further than the current London 2012 Olympic slogan, imploring us to 'inspire a generation'. That's a wonderfully positive sentiment. But it pretty much begs the question of how we get (and more to the point, keep) people positively motivated.

Perhaps it's a little unfair to ask for a book this size to answer that question, but it is disappointing, after the clarity of the first part of his thesis, that the author doesn't advance a coherent theory of the second part.
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47 of 50 people found the following review helpful
on 2 September 2009
An interesting read about how "talent" develops. Apparently in most cases, such a thing as talent does not exist, and it is more down to how hard you work and practice.
First, you need "ignition", an event that makes you want to become great at something.
Secondly, you need mentoring, a teacher who can support you and correct your errors.
Thirdly, you need deep practice, a state of deep focus where you analyse what you are doing in the finest detail and correct your errors.
The purpose of practice is to strengthen the myelin strand coatings in the brain to strengthen brain connections made during practice.
Overall, a good book, useful to parents, and anyone involved in studying and learning of any kind.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 10 November 2009
This book is definitely worth reading. It's got quite a lot of good research-based information, some other interesting ideas, and it's easy to read.

Most of all it's a very useful book. You don't have to be an aspiring world champion to be interested in how to get lots more benefit from time you spend practising, and the book has lots of specific stuff on this topic.

I read sections of it to my children and they actually seemed interested.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 27 March 2014
This is a book about how to become really great at skills such as sports or music performance.

As a pro musician and music coach, I was obviously highly interested.

Coyle breaks down the three principles into the coding/practice part, "ignition"(broadly, inspiration) and coaching.

In essence there is no surprise here for anyone who spends their professional life in music practice and teaching.

True, it is interesting to read how the neuroscientific mechanism of myelin works (a sort of fatty reinforcement mechanism to nerve circuits needed for skills).

But in practical terms, knowing this doesn't to my understanding change much about how skills are acquired.

There are some very interesting detailed observations about individual master coaches and what makes them good.

Definitely an interesting and thought provoking book. Just-to be fair like most books of its type, like Malcolm Gladwell's-a bit of a padding out exercise. There are three key concepts. Good. Tell me succinctly how they work. Done. Next book.

I guess it would be more of a booklet or pamphlet but insofar as this is in the "how to" category -tell me his to and then let me go do it!

In any case, worth the money and worth reading, if perhaps selectively.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 13 May 2011
Hello, i read this book as it was mentioned into an article of a scientific newspaper.

In my professional life I am a network marketer and I always wondered if becoming proficient in my career would be possible for me. I see top earners in my company earning +30,000 euro a month in passive income, and wanted to explore a little bit more about how I can do that too.

In my personal life I am a good partner, loyal and a tennis player. In my tennis, again, I wondered if I could dramatically improve my game.

This book has helped me to understand that dramatic improvements both in my professional and personal lives are possible and within my control. Since reading this book, I put some of its teaching into practice

1) Coaching
- I hired the best network marketing business coach and the best local tennis teacher to guide me and correct both my tactics and strategy

2) Environment
- for my professional career, I got in touch with the most performing team of my company and I am teaming up with them, even if this requires some travelling

3) Increase my practice
- both for my profession and sports, I dramatically increase the amount of practice I do.

I would highly recommend this book if you like to compete in any aspect of your life and you want to be the best in your field.

Great read!

Danilo
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 11 February 2010
This is written by a journalist, and so it is really a fast moving overview and inspirational, but you would need to go elsewhere to find the details if you wanted to apply specific techniques.

The basic premise is that people get more skilled at doing something because they have increased the myelin shield on the neurotically pathway that applies to that skill. This myelin degenerates if it is not used, so you cannot lose a habit you can only use a new habit that eventual takes over.

Therefore you to be skilled at something you have to practice it. What build the shield is practising at the edge of what you know, making mistakes and correcting them. He calls this deep practice. That's it basically. He also gives examples of coaches or teachers who did bring success out of people, i.e. the Russian tennis club, John Wooden, but you would need to go elsewhere to get depth on what they did.

He points out the need for a spark phase, like the first Korean WPGA winner encouraging other Koreans, but that's not something you can control, and in any event anybody who has watched Kdrama will know that things are different over there.

Some of his examples turn out to be wrong or dubious. As of this year, JaMarcus Russell is the worst quarterback in the NFL, and has been criticised going off to Vegas and missing a team meeting, so clearly that didn't work. Wiki has also identified some controversial points about the KIPP schools
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33 of 37 people found the following review helpful
In recent years, there have been several books and even more articles written in response to research conducted by Anders Ericsson in these subject areas: the structure and acquisition of expert performance, experts' ability to expand working memory and access to long-term memory with training, and use of Protocol analysis as a rigorous methodology for eliciting verbal reports of thought sequences as a valid source of data on thinking. These books include Geoff Colvin's Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else and Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers: The Story of Success. In The Talent Code, Daniel Coyle gratefully acknowledges the importance of Ericsson's research, agreeing with Colvin and Gladwell that greatness isn't born; rather, it is developed by a combination of luck (i.e. being "given" opportunities); ignition (i.e. self-motivation activated by one or more "primal cues"), what Coyle calls "deep practice"(i.e. 10, 000 hours of focused and disciplined repetition, requiring an energetic and passionate commitment), and master coaching provided by "talent whisperers" who "possess vast, deep frameworks of knowledge, which they apply to the steady, incremental work of growing skill circuits, which they ultimately don't control."

At one point is his narrative (Page 72), Coyle declares, "We are myelin beings." OK, but so what? When tapping into a neurological mechanism in which certain patterns of targeted practice builds skills, we create entry to "a zone of accelerated learning that, while it can't quite be bottled, can be accessed by those who know how. In short, they're cracked the talent code." What about myelin? According to Dr. George Bartzokis, professor of neurology at U.C.L.A., it is "the key to talking, reading, learning skills, being human." It is a neural insulator that, Coyle claims, some neurologists now consider to be "the holy grail" of skill acquisition because every human skill "is created by chains of nerve fibers carrying a tiny electrical impulse - basically a signal traveling through a circuit. Myelin's vital role is to wrap those nerve fibers the same way that rubber insulation wraps a copper wire, making the signal stronger and faster by preventing the electrical impulses from leaking out. When we fire our circuits in the right way - when we practice swinging that bat or playing that note - our myelin responds by wrapping layers around the that neural circuit, each new layer adding a bit more skill and speed. The thicker the myelin gets, the better it insulates, and the faster and more accurate our movements and thoughts become." Better yet, "we are all born with the opportunity to become, as Mr. Myelin [viewed as broadband] likes to put it, lords of our own Internet. The trick is to figure out how to do that."

As Coyle's uncommonly detailed "Notes on Sources" on Pages 223-232 indicate, he consulted the results of dozens of different surveys. Moreover, he seems to have read almost all available books and articles in which those who conducted the research share their insights. It should be noted that he also traveled extensively, conducted dozens of interviews, and engaged in hundreds of on-site conversations, thereby supplementing others' research data with his own first-hand observations. For example, he visited inner-city schools involved in the Knowledge Is Power Program (aka KIPP) and spoke at length with the program's co-founders, Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin. When the program was launched, most of the students ranked far below average and only 53% of them passed the state English and math tests. At the end of the first year, 90% of them passed.

Coyle provides a rigorous and thorough analysis of KIPP in Chapter 7. Here is a brief excerpt: "One way to look at KIPP is as a unique tale of goodhearted underdogs who caught lightning in a bottle. If that were all it was, our interest in the story would end now. The other way to look at it, however, is an example of pure ignition: the art and science of creating a talent hotbed [in each school, in each class, and in each student's mind] from the ground up, without the assistance of a World Series homer or another magical breakthrough. That's why it's useful to look under this remarkable jalopy to see what makes it go." No gimmicks and no shortcuts. Currently, there are 66 KIPP public schools in 19 states and the District of Columbia enrolling more than 16,000 students. Across the KIPP network, 65 of the existing 66 schools are charter schools. The majority of KIPP schools (more than 85 percent) are middle schools designed to serve fifth through eighth grade students. The remaining schools include seven high schools, six pre-kindergarten/elementary schools, and one pre-kindergarten through eighth grade school.

As Coyle suggests, "it's time to rewrite the maxim that practice makes perfect. The truth is, practice makes myelin, and myelin makes perfect. And myerlin operates by a few fundamental principles" that explain where extraordinary talent (defined as "the possession of repeatable skills that don't depend on physical size") comes from and how it can be developed. Although it is possible to "overlay research such as Ericsson's with the new myelin science to formulate a universal theory of skill" (i.e. deep practice X 10,000 hours = world-class skill), it is important to keep in mind that "the truth is more complicated than that." I am grateful to Daniel Coyle for providing such an entertaining as well as informative book, that that has increased substantially my understanding of how to "grow" talent. His is a brilliant achievement.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 22 October 2010
I found this one of the best books on sports coaching I have ever read although it covers any talent/skills development. It is convincing as each chapter is backed up by academic research papers and it confirms why many of our current coaching techniques work. As a coach educator for British Rowing I have put together a few slides on the coaching ideas it contains and developed them into specifics for rowing coaching and had a good reaction from audiences. My only disappointment is that older people (>50 years) are less able to develop the myelin that is key to the process of talent development and I'm way over 50!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 24 May 2009
Much better than Gladwell's book. This is a very well written and interesting book about developing skills and education. Based on up to date research rather than platitudes.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
I heard about this book from a friend and was intrigued enough to buy it for myself. It is well written and easy to read without oversimplifying the concepts the author is exploring. It looks at the existence of skill hotbeds and then looks at why these occur and in particular the relationship with deep practice. Anyone who is a trainer or educator or who is interested in how humans develop expertise should read this great little book
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