Over the years, there’s a question that has been asked frequently: Are leaders born or can they learn the skills to become great leaders? Recently I read a very interesting book that argues, with scientific proof, that talents (whether they are leadership, playing a music instrument, public speaking skills or whatever) are developed and learned.
The book, called The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle, is good news for anyone looking to develop skills or get better at something. Coyle describes a substance known as myelin, which wraps around nerve fibers in the brain and creates a sort of insulation which helps increase “strength, speed and accuracy.” In addition, when it comes to learning, Coyle says, “the more we fire a particular circuit, the more myelin optimizes that circuit, and the stronger, faster, and more fluent our movement and thoughts become.”
“I am willing to guarantee that you will not read a more important and useful book in 2009, or any other year.”
– Tom Peters
In the book, Coyle writes a lot about “deep practice,” which consists of intense learning that includes making mistakes. It is in making these mistakes and correcting them that we develop myelin and learn at a faster rate. In other words, it is okay to make mistakes.
What I really like about The Talent Code is how Coyle enlightens us with some real-world examples of how numerous individuals found success through deep learning. We learn that it was no coincidence that noted musicians including Yo-Yo Ma, Joshua Bell and Itzhak Perlman came from the same program at a music program in upstate New York. One might think that this school was fortunate to have many famous alumni. Closer examination reveals that the secret lies in how the school teaches its students how to engage in deep practice.
He shares the three rules of deep practice and tells us that energy, passion and commitment are all required in order to engage in it. So if we’re trying to learn something we are not passionate about (e.g. a job we don’t like or an instrument we don’t enjoy playing), it is going to take us much longer to improve.
I also found “The Talent Whisperers” and “The Teaching Circuit” chapters very interesting as he revealed some of the secrets used by great coaches and teachers. If you coach your child’s little league team, teach in an academic setting or teach a musical instrument, you will want to read this book.
In my heart, I’ve always believed that each of us can learn the skills to become great, but this book confirmed for me (with proof) that all of this is possible.
So, what have you put off learning? What have you been curious about?
For more information about this book, including longer videos and a profile of Daniel Coyle, check out his website.