How does a penniless Russian tennis club with one indoor court create more top 20 women players than the entire United States? How did a small town in rural Italy produce the dozens of painters and sculptors who ignited the Italian Renaissance? Why are so many great soccer players from Brazil?
Where does talent come from, and how does it grow?
New research has revealed that myelin, once considered an inert form of insulation for brain cells, may be the holy grail of acquiring skill. Journalist Daniel Coyle spent years investigating talent hotbeds, interviewing world-class practitioners (top soccer players, violinists, fighter, pilots, artists, and bank robbers) and neuroscientists. In clear, accessible language, he presents a solid strategy for skill acquisition - in athletics, fine arts, languages, science or math - that can be successfully applied through a person's entire lifespan.
©2009 Daniel Coyle; (P)2009 HighBridge Company
"I only wish I'd never before used the words 'breakthrough' or 'breathtaking' or 'magisterial' or 'stunning achievement' or 'your world will never be the same after you read this book.' Then I could be using them for the first and only time as I describe my reaction to Daniel Coyle's The Talent Code." (Tom Peters)
If you enjoyed the well supported and interesting concepts presented in such books as Predictably Irrational, Outlier, The Drunkard's Walk, you will find this book VERY unsatisfying. First, the author who is clearly quite talented writing in non scientific areas presents a series of anecdotes as if they were data and overly focuses on theory with little support. The writing does not present a strong case for any of his beliefs nor does he consider that success has many facets - not just the one he chooses to write about. His nonscientific background and thought process is clearly evident. Most annoying is his presentation of the concept that the production of myelin is the key to such things as memory, physical skills. This is an interesting theory but as he himstates, our knowledge of myelin is only a few percent of our knowledge of neurons - which we still don't completely understand. Yet, he raises the myelin issue throughout the book without support or evidence. He also thinks that certain methods of learning in select training center are what makes them extraordinary producers of successful atheletes. However, he does not address or acknowledge any other factors that may have played a role. The way he presents it, if you go to one of these training centers, you will become a world class athelete.
The Book Conjurer
To attribute mastery of certain skills solely to myelin is reductionism to the point of absurdity and is not backed up by the research (much of which has yet to be been done). After giving a brief description of myelin and myelination, nothing different that I learned in high school biology 20 years ago, he jumps directly to unsubstantiated claims using only a few quotes from neuroscientists in the field, one of which is "wow", as the bridge.
You can tell this book is targeted less to readers of science popularization and more to the self-help crowd by Coyle's snappy selection of terms like "Ignition" and "Matrix". The music used in the audiobook between chapters provides further evidence.
At times Coyle talks about myelin as if he invented it and was making it available to you as a special offer on late night television for only 14 easy installments of $19.95.
This book is at its best when discussing talent "hotbeds" and the teaching strategies used by master coaches. I would have preferred it to be suplemented by an insightful overview of the current literature written for those with a basic education, as Stephen Pinker does for Linguistics. But instead, Coyle sells a worldview mostly of his own invention.
There has been a rapid growth in the field of neuroplasticity over the past few years. Much of that has not been available to the unintiated with a few exceptions. Now, Daniel Coyle has aptly filled that gap in "The Talent Code." This is a remarkable survey and application of the current research in the field. Don't let the topic keep you away from this valuable introduction to this field.
Individuals with children will find benefit for their offspring, adults trying to acquire new skills will find hope, and everyone will be informed by this wonderful book. The dynamic shift in neuro-theory and practice has dramatic implications for every area of our lives.
Otherwise, the book is well written and the reading is just excellent. A companion book which listeners might also enjoy covering tangential issues is "Outliers: The Story of Success" by Malcolm Gladwell.
I enjoyed listening to this very much.
Full of elucidating anecdotes that support the author's theory that talent (i.e. the talent code) is due to 3 facets of learning: deep practice, ignition/motivation, and master coaching. And a heavy handed dose of talk about myelin, the stuff that wraps around neural pathways.
I recommend this for anyone working with children or anyone interested in improving/honing skills.
I just don't get why the author wasted a sizeable chunk of his book on the topic myelin. "We are myelin beings," he said. To which I would say, "What??!!" It's like saying "We are water beings." We're made up of 75% water, right? I really find it inane.
However, I appreciate the research that he did. Old stuff, really. I also appreciate the three components of talent he mentioned: deep practice, ignition, master coaching. However, I find deep practice (which is actually based on Anders Eriksson's "deliberate and effortful" practice) and master coaching more useful than ignition and all that stuff about myelin.
The book is not supposed to be a scientific treatise on myelin. Just mentioning the importance of myelin is enough.
The real gems of this book are those parts where he describes his visits to the talent hotbeds. The information he presented is practical and solid examples are indeed more useful. Readers can glean their own insights from them.
I would still recommend buying this book because of the information and the anecdotes from the talent hotbeds. This book, however, could have been written better.
Sorry but I could not get into this book.
Interesting points, but poor support for his theseus.
Reads and sounds like a Phd Dissertation supported by a bunch of anecdotal examples but no true substance.
Throughout most of the first half of the book, the author POUNDS and REPEATS and noodles you to death repeatedly about Myelin. I wish he would have just mentioned this once or twice instead of repeating the same theme 20 times in essentially the same words. sorry but just plain lame. I have a science and medical background. What is says is true, but it sounds like a broken record stuck in the same groove. The anecdotal tales are mildly amusing. However, I would NOT recommend wasting your time with this one.
starts a little slow but has valuable real world advise toward the end
what seems like small issues to you can be large factors toward your employees
This book has the potential to transform the way you study and teach. There is no silver bullet when it comes to learning but this book has the potential to make you significantly more effective, like many of the people the author uses as examples.
Have you ever wondered what causes a bell curve in a classroom full of very intelligent pupils? The answer is so unexpected yet obvious at least for a group of students learning to play an instrument. I won???t spoil it for you by giving you the answer.
Whether you are instructing yourself or someone else the principles in this book apply. Understand why having a desire to learn and the passion to follow through are essential but only part of the equation. Learn what it takes to not just study or practice but truly use deep practice to its fullest. See how you can be more productive and reduce the time required to practice at the same time.
Max Fisher of Rushmore Academy
I find Chinese food has a way of being great, bit by bit, but less than satisfying as a meal.
That's also how I would describe this book: a series of truly interesting anecdotes which fail to hold together when considered as a complete work, when examined through the lens of science.
The link between talent and myelin may or may not be solid, but here the case in favor of it feels like pseudoscience, with the same depth of examination you'd expect to see on the Discovery Channel, or some other outlet for science-as-entertainment.
Many people may find that this mode of presentation suits them. But those who demand a bit more rigor will probably be dissatisfied.
In essence this is what Coyle seeks to answer. In our day talent is a sort of frustrating "catch all" phrase. Why are people good at certain activities? Talent. Why do some excel and others fail? Talent. What determines what I do with my life? Talent. Maybe you're like me and deep inside you never felt this answer was really right.
Does it seem right that the genetic lottery determines my whole life? If I'm good at something I will be rich and famous and if I'm not (have no talent) then I will be a meaningless plebeian with no purpose or mark on the world? I never accepted this reasoning and so reading this book was like fresh air for my thinking.
First off the author shows how many people who we would consider talent-less outperform others who have all of the talent. Second, he shows the process whereby this ability and skill is formed and how you can have it too.
As a teacher of guitar, as well as other things light bulbs were going off in my head as I read of how people around the world are turning normal people into major talents.
If you are a coach you will love this book, it has great example throughout much evidence and science to back up each careful conclusion and much to say about how to achieve skill at any kind of task.
The only drawback is the reader. Not the best, but the material so interesting you won't even notice.
Bottom Line: EVERYONE should listen to this book!
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