I just finished reading an amazing book called The Talent Code (I recommend it to any person wanting to further develop their talent).
The author Daniel Coyle visited the the talent development programs responsible for some of the top talent in the world, such as:
But you don’t have to attend one of these talent pools to improve yourself.
Coyle says that the key to talent development is a neural insulator that we all have inside us called myelin.
He argues that every human skill — whether its leadership, computer programming, sports, music or anything else — is created by chains of nerve fibers carrying signals.
And it is myelin that wraps layers around these fibers…and there are certain things we can do to increase the thickness of this myelin, resulting in faster and more accurate movement and thoughts.
He recommends a few approaches to increasing your myelin (and thus your talent).
Focus your practice on repeating core skills, attend to your mistakes, practice those skills again.
“Struggle is not an option: it’s a biological requirement.”
The “Ten-Year, Ten-Thousand Hour Rule” is indeed valid — This finding from 1899 stated that world-class expertise in every domain (whether it’s cello, chess or tennis) requires roughly a decade or 10,000 hours (that would be about 3 hours a day, every day for a decade).
It’s the Ten-year rule that is often used in developing talent in young people (many parents try to time the beginning of a child’s practice of a skill to be about 10 years before that child will peak physically.
That’s why some children are best to start practicing certain skills when they’re 5 to 10 years old).
Did you know that comedian Jerry Seinfeld practiced his first Tonight Show set 200 times beforehand, according to this awesome profile of Seinfeld in the New York Times.
Overall, Coyle identifies three tips for improving practice:
Coyle points out that ignition is key to developing talents — it’s a secret source of energy that we can tap into.
“I Want To Be Like Them”
There are examples of entire countries being “ignited” by the display of talent of one individual.
For example, in South Korea’s case it was on May 18th, 1998 when Se Ri Pak won the McDonald’s LPGA Championship — she was the first to do so from her country.
Pak “ignited” many women in her country as shown by stats over the following 10 years later: by 2007, 45 players from South Korean had one about one-third of the LPGA Tour events.
Anna Kournikova is Coyle’s other example of “I want to be like them.”
That same summer of 1998, Kournikova reached the Wimbledon semifinals and became an overnight sensation (her good looks certainly helped).
Russia was ignited and within 10 years the World Tennis Association Top 100 was home to five times as many Russian tennis players.
Ignition can come in other forms — one study showed that an extremely high percentage of political leaders (Ghandi, Caesar, Napoleon, Bill Clinton) had one thing in common: they had lost their parents at a very early age.
Coyle reasons that the leader group’s loss of a parent triggered a primal cue that they were no longer safe…and that unlocked a massive energy source for them to tap into.
He points out that of history’s fastest runners, for example, they were on average the fourth child of 4.6 children — in other words, there is a pattern of the younger you are in your family, the faster you can run.
In this case, the primal cue is” You’re behind, better keep up!”
Finally, Coyle says that a “master coach” is key to developing talent.
He says that a master coach possesses the following virtues:
I was thrilled that Coyle identified John Wooden, my favorite coach/teacher, as an example of a master coach.
I hope you enjoyed these highlights on developing talents…but I only just scratch the surface of Coyle’s amazing book.