Monday, July 8, 2013

Book Review: The Talent Code

Daniel Coyle’s The Talent Code, explores the origin and construction of talent in humanity. Within the roughly 200 pages of text, Coyle explores a variety of modern talent hotbeds, Brazilian soccer players for example, in an effort to isolate the factors behind greatness. Coyle begins his exploration by starting with the biological facilities possessed by all humans—the building of neural pathways through the addition of myelin, a compound that serves as insulation and thus allows the neuron to fire more effectively and efficiently. In this section, a section that breaks scientific expertise down into basic terminology, Coyle allows the reader to understand how practice literally makes perfect through the extended construction of improved neural pathways.
Coyle then heads to the hotbeds themselves, observing the world’s best becoming the best. First providing an analytical breakdown of their deep practice, and then expanding upon this explanation, Coyle breaks down genius and greatness into the combination of deep practice, practice in which students engage in their field of study in an intense, driven manner, a manner that allows them to expand their abilities rapidly, and the ignition of said practice. Deep practice does involve and in fact thrives off of frequent and repeated error, error that is corrected and built upon by master coaches. Yet such practice requires a key component: desire. Desire comes through an area that Coyle terms as ignition, something that lights a fire among the youth and creates a desire to be great. For example Anna Kornikova’s early success in her tennis career ignited a desire for young, Russian girls to play professional tennis.
Lastly, Coyle explores those behind talent hotbeds and everyday talent growth: Master Coaches/Teachers. He provides extensive examples of these individuals in action—not only describing their methods and pedagogy, showing them in action, but also digging deeper, demonstrating how they became who they are. The skills of the master, what he terms as a Matrix of skills, are the product of years and years of practice, of trial and error, of undergoing the very same deep practice in the method of instruction that their pupils undergo in terms of their desired craft.
Overall, the text is a quick read, one that all teachers, coaches, and parents should invest in so that they can understand those they influence.

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