Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle

The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle

One of my English school teacher is fond of repeating, “Talent is what you posses. Genius is what posses you” and would continue “you know and the world will know soon if you are a genius. Hence forget that part. Focus on acquiring talent”. Perhaps, he did sow seeds accidentally for talent focus that, when I saw this book “Talent code” without any homework (like checking in reviews or with my friends etc) I picked up the book. Thanks to my luck, I was not disappointed. This book is not “how to” or “work book” kind of a book. It is a why book with an excellent examples plus a new theory with a fine explanation for talent.

Any Psychology books or cognitive science books would neatly put the topology of ignorance in six terrains.
1. Explicit Ignorance: We know that we don’t know (Known un-knows)
2. Hidden Ignorance : We don’t even know that we don’t know (unknown unknowns)
3. Mis-knowns : We think, we know but we don’t know (ignorance masquerading as Knowledge)
4. Unknown knowns : We think we don’t but actually we do (Knowledge masquerading as ignorance)
5. Taboos / Off limit ignorance: It persists due to social conventions against asking certain type of questions itself in the first place
6. Blinkers or persistent ignorance: It persists due to refusal to look in to some type of answers to a perfectly legitimate question
Now, I asked myself about which ignorance terrain I can place my understanding of “talent”. Boy, I was in for many surprises. You could do your own exercise after reading this book.

Key points of this book are:
1. The way you practice determines how effectively you learn and master a given skill.
2. Myelin (it is dealt in detail, also check Wiki and other sources) is the insulation that wraps the nerve fibers, increases signal strength, speed and accuracy. The more we use, better we get at a given skill. It is well described to the point, you can say skill=Myelin.
3. Deep Practice, Ignition and Master coaching are the critical inputs for Talent / Mastery.
4. He also gives the famous equation but in a different format : Deep Practice X 10,000 Hours = WorldClass Skills

My childhood days, I was brought up with stories of Buddha, Arunagirinaathar (religion), Kalidasa (poetry), Newton (Science) and so on. In every case, the turning point is a split-of-a- second. Hence, I yet to fully reconcile with an idea, it can be done by deep practice without providence provided gift.

The value of the book resides in subscribing to the paradigm of “deep practice”. Don’t consider this book as an exhaustive one, but a pointer to focus in the Myelin direction. If you are less than 50 years, there is more hope – apparently it ceases to grow after that age band.

Dan has toured all over the world to be with various talent “hot spots” and sums up his observations. It includes Tennis Academies, Music training centers, Soccer trainings at Brazil, specific basket ball coaching centers, Vocal fine tuning centers etc. From a sampling perspective, perhaps, it could have been a little more “science” focused also to be robust – for example, some of the institutes admit precocious students in Math and other disciplines at very young age. I have no way to know if that would have altered the overall message. I am sure Dan would consider in his next edition.

Let me end this commentary with a story. A preacher was walking past a very well maintained and a lovely garden brimming with variety of flowers and other imposing trees. He commented to the owner of the garden, “ You and the Lord have created a beautiful garden”, “ yes” replied the owner with a smile and said “you should have seen this when he was maintaining this all by himself”. Point taken – Lord’s gift can take us only so far, work (minimum 10,000 hours please) is a must before one can see the garden. This book is all about how do you productively spent that 10K hours on what you want to acquire.

Thanks for reading this far…..