The Little Book of Talent

If you are new to leadership, teaching, coaching, or parenting, you should pick up Daniel Coyle‘s book, The Little Book of Talent. I made the mistake of borrowing it from the library; you will want to buy a copy. You will speed through this book, but you will want to return to it often to remind yourself how important key ideas are.

This book is a collection of 52 short tips, each about two pages, on how you can improve your teaching and training to become more skilled at your practice. Throughout his tips, Coyle makes connections between sports, education, coaching, and parenting which make the research-based tips very easy to follow.  One of the tips that reoccurs through his book is slowing down a skill and practicing it until it is perfected. Slow down playing music, practicing a tennis swing, or reading a book. Reduce distractions and focus on the skill. Repeat the skill often, in slow motion, and create the memory of a perfect approach. Coyle uses multiple examples from “hotbeds” of talent (sports training facilities, schools of music, etc.) to show how this works. Coyle also includes research about why this works. What is great about the book is the examples and the research do not get in the way of the tips. Rather, they reinforce his point without weighing down the reading.

Coyle also reiterates breaking down a skill into its most essential component, then practicing that component slowly and repeatedly. For educators, this requires identifying exactly what a student needs to be successful and ensuring he or she masters that skill before adding new content. Even in high schools, a teacher must recognize mastery of basic skills is important before adding complexity.

Much like Jonah Lehrer and Carol Dweck note, talent (or creativity, or intelligence) is not something one is born with. Talent, creativity, and intelligence are skills one practices repeatedly, continually pushing into new levels of experience. Effort, hard work, and practice make one talented. Talent is not a natural gift.

The Little Book of Talent will be an easy read, but it is meant to inform your approach to learning. Much like Coyle suggests to cultivate talent, the reader must slow down and study, practice, and reflect on his 52 tips. Reading the book in one sitting and moving on will not make you a better cultivator of talent, but returning to his ideas and implementing them will. You will definitely want to buy this book.

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