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.
Certified softball maniac
I agree Ken excellent book . The Matrix drill that Howard uses, fits right into what the book says how you should train.
I didn't know about this book. Thanks. It is interesting to me, because I talk about writing one called "You Can't Teach Talent." I have my chapters titled, but that is all.
A very enjoyable, insightful, and easy read in which the author argues that most talent is created by deep practice, ignition (motivation), and master coaches instead of superior skills someone is born with. As has been written in other books, most notably The Outliers, in order to master a skill you need to spend approximately 10,000 hours of practice / study to achieve.
The Talent Code goes even further and argues that one must perform "deep practice" in order to build Myelin which is the white matter insulation that surrounds nerve fibers and increases signal strength, speed, and accuracy. The more the athlete fires a particular circuit (practices), the more myelin optimizes that circuit, and the stronger, faster, and more fluent our movements and thoughts become. Another key concept of deep practice is that the "struggle" is very important, you need to challenge yourself (fail, correct, fail, correct, etc.) to optimize the skill you seek to obtain.
One of the most interesting examples in the book of deep practice and the hotbeds of talent is illustrated in why Brazil churns out so many elite soccer players. From a very small age, Brazilian soccer players play a game called "futsal" which uses a small, heavier ball; there only 5 or 6 players on each side; and is played in a small area. It's a fast-paced skills game where the player relies on individual passing skills and controlled ball movement and less on long passes. The result is that the player touches the ball six times more often per minute than what takes place at traditional soccer practices, played on larger fields. Futsal takes soccer's essential skills and compresses them into a small box, puts players in a deep practice zone, making and correcting errors, and generates solutions on the fly.
So how can this information be used in the context of softball? Instead of just going through the motions of practice, break down the fundamental softball skills like throwing, catching, hitting, fielding, etc. Into small drills focusing on proper mechanics and making sure the player does the drill correctly. For example, if you are running a soft toss drill, make sure that the batter's mechanics are correct and consistent before every swing. If you see a flaw, correct it immediately. Often we try to get through each drill station as quickly as possible and forget the whole purpose of doing the drill in the first place. If it's not being done correctly, it's not effective in producing a good swing.
Another key aspect of developing talent is aligning yourself with a master coach. The important qualities of a master coach are knowledge, perceptiveness, giving lots of information, and honesty. In order to create talent and skills in players, one must work with a master coach who is very knowledgeable about the sport and shares that information in an intense environment, understanding each player's skill sets, and making a personal connection with them is critical.
In summary, the book uses great examples and anecdotes about how deep, focused practice creates talent and debunts the myth that talent is only something that someone is born with. I personally feel that exceptional skills and real talent is 90% environmental factors and only 10% innate.