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The Talent Code: Unlocking the Secret of Skill in Maths, Art, Music, Sport, and Just about Everything Else: Unlocking the Secret of Skill in Sports, Art, Music, Maths and Just About Everything Else Paperback – 7 May 2009

4.4 out of 5 stars 93 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Books (7 May 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847945104
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847945105
  • Product Dimensions: 13.4 x 1.9 x 21.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 995,646 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"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, Dist) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

A completely new perspective on the way in which people acquire skill and talent

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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'.
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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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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.
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This is an attempt at popular psychoscience in style of Malcolm Gladwell, but far less convincing. The theme of the book is learning, particular practical skills. The author, Daniel Coyle, clearly travelled far to meet with practitioners of 'deep learning' and I feel that a book with hard conclusions just had to follow.

An unfortunate example cited early in the book of a success case is Lance Armstrong. Subsequent revelations do not disprove Coyle's central hypothesis but, let's face it, the Armstrong example is not a good start to the book. As for what 'deep learning' is I can't say I'm wiser for having read this book. Another early example in the book, a young music student apparently capable of packing the equivalent of 1 hour's practice into 6 minutes, seems to contradict the book's main idea. Throughout, reference is made to recent research on myelin, the insulation that builds up around nerve fibres to speed the transmission of messages and so build strong memories, for example, for practical skills involved in music and sport. As the author acknowledges, myelin takes time to build up and there can be no short cut to this. From the perspective of teachers and students building strong neural connections is the objective and the myelin theory Coyle describes doesn't change the fact that practicing in the right way is the route to effective learning.

Of more interest, are the parts of the book devoted to how individuals, particularly youngsters, can be inspired to learn and practice a new skill.
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