Book review: The Talent Code
Here we go, as-promised, my review of the book The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle. Its premise is that talent isn’t something you’re born with — it’s something you acquire over time. High performers are the result of practicing a particular way (deep practice) for 10,000 hours, or roughly 10 years.
I had heard about the book a couple of years ago, and then again recently. Howard Carrier (aka Hitter) recommended it to me too, so I figured it was time to take the plunge and added it to my Christmas list.
The book examines three parts of being a high performer. The first is the deep practicing I just mentioned. High performers tend to practice differently than most. They break down a skill into pieces, and work through the individual pieces. When they practice, the part of their body that is most fatigued at the end is their brains because of the effort they go through to understand what they’re doing. They make mistakes as part of the learning process, and each mistake takes them closer to their ultimate goal of performance.
The second part is ignition — getting the performer to perform. Getting him/her excited in a way that leads to the desire for that performance level. The final part is master coaching — someone pointing the way and helping them along.
It really is a fascinating study of the way people learn, and the way performance is brought out in some and not in others. Coyle spent a lot of time visiting talent hotspots — Brazillian soccer training, musicians on the east coast, baseball players in the Caribbean — in an attempt to look for the commonalities and see if there are particular things that make it happen.
He also looks at research that has been done on how people learn as additional datapoints. Some of it is the same as I read in Talent is Overrated, which covers some of the same ground. But each book presents a facet of the jewel, helping the reader gain a better understanding of the factors behind great performers.
The book is an easy read. Coyle’s style is to illustrate by telling stories rather than lecture, and he makes it easy to move from one topic to the next. He also adds some personal insights from his own life and family that show he not only took the intellectual pursuit, but also applied the principles himself.
If you are interested in what drives high performers to achievement, or you want to improve your own coaching to help your players, I highly recommend this book. It will give you a whole new perspective on practicing.