Ep. 330: How to Get Better at Anything—The Talent Code

Do You Have a Hidden Talent?

Or One You Want to Improve?

Who should listen: If you’re looking for a scientifically proven way to improve a skill or talent, with examples that hold true, then this episode is for you.

Key idea: There is a neurological change in your brain that you can directly initiate to improve your performance.

Action item: Find your ignition point and use it to fire action and achieve your desired goal.

In this week’s Silver Dollar episode, we talk about The Talent Code, a book written by Daniel Coyle. Within its pages, Coyle describes 3 things you need to build up more myelin (the insulating sheath that forms around nerves) in your brain.

Why would you want to build more myelin?

As it turns out, the more myelin you have in your brain, the easier and faster you can do anything—including selling goods and services.

It’s fascinating stuff because neuroscience has proven what we’ve all been told—practice makes perfect.

But you need more than just practice to develop your talents.

1. You need deep practice

According to scientists, you can develop any talent if you repeat a task, make mistakes, and correct those mistakes.

  • Break a task into smaller tasks, and repeat them. In an activity called “chunking,” you master a larger task by first mastering its components. For example, if you want to improve your golf swing, you’d first name all the movements that go into making a perfect swing. You’d examine your stance, the placement of your hips, your backswing, and how the head of the golf club meets the ball. To perfect your swing, you’d perfect each part along the way by rehearsing it over and over.
  • Make mistakes. This may be the most important aspect of building myelin: you need to make mistakes. Myelin won’t grow without the learning process. If you’ve ever seen a baby learning to walk, you instinctively know that you have to let them fall down so that they try again.
  • Correct mistakes. The final part of the learning process is correcting the mistakes. Each time you adjust your golf stance, or a baby regains its balance, a correction is being made and a little bit of new myelin is being laid along the network of nerves that control that part of the overall task of swinging a golf club or walking. The more mistakes and the more corrections you make, the easier the task becomes.

2. You need an ignition moment

An “ignition moment” is an external cue that triggers our desire to become skilled at something and convinces us it’s possible to achieve it if we work hard at it.

Sound familiar? It should.

Such a moment is a combination of inspiration and motivation, and it serves as the energy that converts into the deep practice we use to develop our talents and skills.

According to Coyle, ignition is “the famously potent moment when a young person falls helplessly in love with their future passion.” For an example of such a moment, Coyle turns to Walter Isaacson, author of Einstein: His Life and Universe, who writes about the time when Einstein’s father presented him with a compass:

Einstein later recalled being so excited as he examined its mysterious powers that he trembled and grew cold…. [Einstein wrote] “I can still remember – or at least I believe I can remember—that this experience made a deep and lasting impression on me. Something deeply hidden had to be behind things.”

A second example is described by Shinichi Suzuki, who created the Suzuki Method for learning to play the violin. Suzuki wrote that when he was 17, he heard a recording of Schubert’s Ave Maria played by the violinist, Mischa Elman:

[The] sound of Elman’s violin utterly enthralled me. . . It made a tremendous impression on me….I brought a violin home … and, listening to Elman playing a Haydn minuet, I tried to imitate him. I had no score, and simply moved the bow, trying to play what I heard.

The same type of experience describes what happened to those who watched Roger Bannister break the unbreakable 4-minute mile. Today, more than a dozen high-school students have run less than a 4-minute mile. And prior to Se Ri Pak (Pak Se-Ri in the South Korean style), not one South Korean woman had won a major golf event. Since her momentous win in the 1998 LPGA Championship, South Korean women have won over 200 LPGA tour events.

Of these moments, Coyle writes:

  1. The moments are serendipitous. Nobody sets it up; there’s no mediator. It happens by chance, and thus contains an inherent sense of noticing and discovery.
  2. They are joyful. Crazily, obsessively, privately joyful. As if a new, secret world is being opened.
  3. The discovery is followed directly by action. As the Suzuki example shows, the point is not merely listening to the song, but in trying to play that song – to be the player. Like the others, he didn’t just admire – he acted.

Listen to the episode to discover how you can find your ignition moment.

3. You need expert coaching

We’ve spoken extensively on Stay Paid about the importance of coaching and mentoring, and their ability to help people become the best versions of themselves. In this instance, coaching can help enable deep practice and inspire moments of ignition. But to receive help from coaching, you must be willing to show up, listen, and apply what you hear.

Please enjoy this episode, and we’d appreciate it if you would give us a 5-star rating and leave a review on Apple Podcasts. (Not sure how to leave a review? Click here.)

Connect | Resources

The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How. by Daniel Coyle


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