Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Talent Code

Sharing a few personal highlights from The Talent Code: Greatness Isn't Born. It's Grown.  Here's How by Daniel Coyle.

The surprising answer is that Brazil produces great players because since the 1950s Brazilian players have trained in a particular way, with a particular tool that improves ball-handling skill faster than anywhere else in the world... call this kind of training deep practice, and as we'll see, it applies more than soccer

Deep practice is built on a paradox: struggling in certain targeted ways—operating at the edges of your ability, where you make mistakes—makes you smarter

Or to put it a slightly different way, experiences where you're forced to slow down, make errors, and correct them—as you would if you were walking up an ice-covered hill, slipping and stumbling as you go—end up making you swift and graceful without your realizing it

You have positioned yourself at a place of leverage where you can capture failure and turn it into skill. The trick is to choose a goal just beyond your present abilities; to target the struggle. Thrashing blindly doesn't help. Reaching does

Q: Why is targeted, mistake-focused practice so effective? A: Because the best way to build a good circuit is to fire it, attend to mistakes, then fire it again, over and over. Struggle is not an option: it's a biological requirement

Struggle is not optional—it's neurologically required: in order to get your skill circuit to fire optimally, you must by definition fire the circuit suboptimally; you must make mistakes and pay attention to those mistakes; you must slowly teach your circuit

Apprentices learned the craft from the bottom up, not through lecture or theory but through action: mixing paint, preparing canvases, sharpening chisels...  In short, apprentices spent thousands of hours solving problems, trying and failing and trying again, within the confines of a world built on the systematic production of excellence

Deep practice, however, doesn't obey the same math. Spending more time is effective—but only if you're still in the sweet spot at the edge of your capabilities, attentively building and honing circuits

“We instinctively think of each new student as a blank slate, but the ideas they bring to that first lesson are probably far more important than anything a teacher can do, or any amount of practice,” McPherson said. “It's all about their perception of self. At some point very early on they had a crystallizing experience that brings the idea to the fore, that says, I am a musician. That idea is like a snowball rolling downhill