The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle
One Line Summary
Talent comes from little white sheaths
Why it’s Awesome
Picture a person you know who is extremely talented. A person who just seems to crush it no matter the circumstances in their given endeavor. Do you have a person in mind? Good.
Now imagine there’s no difference between you and them.
I don’t mean literally. Obviously they may have talents and abilities you can’t even come close to. They may have a different personality type. But fundamentally, they are the same as you.
The Talent Code, a book dedicated to finding out where talent comes from, shows us that talent comes from an extremely predictable set of circumstances. You’re not born with it. You’re not given it by God. Where talent comes from is….drum roll please…myelin.
What’s myelin? Apparently it’s some kind of white sheath that insulates around nerve fibers and controls the speed at which those fibers fire. How does it work? Shit man, I’m not a scientist, don’t ask me. That’s why we have Wikipedia.
All I know is that more myelin = the ability to perform actions faster. Good enough for me. So the question is how do we get more myelin?
Coyle goes in depth explaining that myelin comes from a process he calls “deep practice”. This “deep practice” is very different from the way most people practice. In deep practice, you
In deep practice, you are constantly at the edge of your ability. You fuck up a lot.
In deep practice, you are intensely focused on something specific.
In deep practice, you do it again, again, and again. The more you perform this action, the more myelin you build.
What’s awesome about myelin is that anyone can build it for any skill. This means that science has shown that every person is of essentially unlimited potential.
I’ll repeat that: every person has unlimited potential. If you truly grasp what I’m saying this is life changing stuff.
Every story you’ve ever made up in your head about why you can’t obtain a certain skill level is a lie. Every person who ever told you that you couldn’t ever succeed at becoming great was wrong. And not just wrong, scientifically wrong. Myelin has no preferences and makes no judgments. It simply comes to people who work.
This would also require you admitting that the vast majority of your problems are largely under your control. Scared yet?
Potential is also the key word here. Most people will not actually build high levels of myelin because they won’t do enough deep practice. But hey, it’s fun to dream right? That new episode of Game of Thrones is sooo good.
This where the second part of the book kicks in, and it has to do all about personal motivation and coaching. I won’t go into all the different ways in which they explain for motivation and great coaching but suffice to say it’s hugely important.
Why Does It Suck
Wow, so practice and having the motivation to practice is how people build skills. Who would have thought? This book is cool to understand the science behind talent and shattering some limiting beliefs but beyond that there weren’t a lot of groundbreaking ideas.
His description of motivation is also way too simple. Basically, he chalks motivation up to a combination of evolutionary and social factors. Probably not a bad starting point but definitely not exhaustive.
The Wrap Up
If you’ve been feeling like a victim or stuck on a certain plateau, this book could be what you need to get your head straight. And although this is a science book, it isn’t altogether scientific so don’t expect PhD level analysis. The audiobook version will be good enough to get what you need out of this book.
Here is the link to buy it on Amazon: