There is a growing movement among smarty pants types that talent, as we have traditionally conceived it, doesn’t actually exist. The Talent Code, by Daniel Coyle, is an exploration of why certain places seem to be hotbeds of talent and why our old model of talent as “divine spark” may be outdated.
Part mystery book, part personal development book, The Talent Code explores our most contemporary understanding of what happens in the brain when we learn new skills. Coyle also studies “Chicken Wire Harvards”, modest establishments around the world that somehow consistently turn out world class performers. Coyle makes a compelling case that mastery and world class performance of any skill is basically a matter of applying a specific type of practice (deliberate practice) for around 10,000 hours.
While I have to say Coyle has sold me on his hypothesis, my only mild complaint is the book left me a little fuzzy on just what constitutes “deliberate practice.” I know that the phrase refers to a specific type of study or practice that puts you right at the edge of your ability, but within the realm of possibility. Although this is actually something I try to do with clients as a trainer, it makes me again consider that I should hire a trainer if I’m really serious about my fitness goals. Because while I believe I’m adept at putting my clients right on that edge, it makes me wonder if I can honestly say I’m doing that as effectively as I could in my own training.
That said… I’m hard pressed to complain when a book makes me think harder.
So I think The Talent Code is a great read, but only if you want to be good at anything or help anyone else be good at anything. So if you’re psyched to be mediocre, don’t read this book. Read some fiction. I hear the Babysitter’s Club is pretty good.