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on 10 April 2017
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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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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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on 2 November 2012
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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on 20 July 2009
Coyle's argument is reasonably easy to summarize--a catalyst "ignites" someone's passion to learn a skill (tennis, soccer, violin, piano), the skill is acquired by the hard work of "deep practice," abetted by "master coaching," with the outcome being "talent"--as Edison said of genius, it's more about perspiration than inspiration. To put it in the context of the old joke about how to get to Cargenie Hall, if you are asking about how to get there, your passion has been ignited--now you need to "practice, practice," and find a good coach to help you practice well.

The "Talent Code" explains the neurological process by which talent develops--every signal produced by "deep practice" adds a sheath of myelin to the brain's neural pathway for the signal, increasing the speed and strength of the transmissions across many myelin sheathed pathways. Master coaches reinforce the construction of these pathways by giving their charges large volumes of targeted, relevant information rather than praise or criticism--the information and the deep practice work together in a feedback loop until "talent" emerges at the macro level in the form of, say, a Lance Armstrong or a Michael Jordan. The success of one person from a given context (a city, a country, or a school, for example) will then ignite the passions of others similarly situated ("if she can do it, I can do it better"), which results in the emergence of the "talent hotbeds" that Coyle describes.

One take home concept for me is the idea that organizations that systematically identify and fix problems are more likely to succeed in the market place than those that do not. The poster child for this idea is Toyota, which has successfully implemented "kaizen" (continuous improvement) as a strategy. Kaizen is the process of finding and fixing small problems--no magic bullets, just one incremental improvement at a time, over and over again. Any employee is empowered to stop the Toyota assembly line if he or she spots a problem, and most of the company's solutions come from employees. Thousands of improvements over many years add up, and Toyota is now the largest auto maker in the world while the the Detroit Three teeter in and out of bankrupcty.

In a book of this length, of course, there's always a certain "just so" quality to the argument. We hear of all the examples of "talent hotbeds" and processes that tend to support the author's thesis, and we're left to wonder about how much contrary evidence might be out there. I'm sure that point will be well-debated in the years to come--in the meantime, the "Talent Code" will make me consider how I and the organizations I work with can become more "talented."
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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!

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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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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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on 19 June 2010
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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on 6 October 2009
I bought this book on the recommendation of my brother. I have to admit that I wasn't expecting too much. I was wrong. The book is surprisingly good. It takes a number of different elements that you may have read about in other books (e.g. that to become an expert in any discipline takes a minimum of 10,000 hours practise) and extends them much further. I was impressed.
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