The little book of Talent by Daniel Coyle is a short book that gives 52 tips to improve your skills.
Book in one paragraph
This little book gives you lot of practical and proven techniques if you want to learn any new skills. Most of the tips derived from science-based studies and lot of research. Even though the book says little book but the tips that provide requires lot of efforts if one wants to implement which is not practical. Even if one can follow few tips from the book, that will be helpful in acquiring new skills. Some of the tips provided are questionable and unconvinced. But overall a good book if one wants to learn and master any new skill.
We all possess talents but we’re unsure how to develop those talents to their full potential. The best way to develop your talents is to follow the proven techniques of the talent hotbeds. This book falls in to below 3 categories with each category consisting of a series of tips.
1. Getting Started: Ideas for igniting motivation and creating a blueprint for the skills you want to build.
2. Improving Skills: methods and techniques for making the most progress in the least time.
3. Sustaining Progress: strategies for overcoming plateaus, keeping motivational fires lit, and building habits for long-term success.
Below are the tips for improving your skills:
Stare at who you want to become
Ignite your motivation by using pictures of your favorite person and stare at them every day. Studies have shown that even a brief connection with a role model like sharing a birthday can vastly increase unconscious motivation.
Spend 15 minutes a day engraving the skill on your brain
If you want to learn any new skill, create an intense connection by watching or listening so closely that you can imagine the feeling of performing that skill.
Steal without apology
The best source of information is top performers. Steal it. When you steal, focus on specifics, not general impressions. Identify their critical moves and perform those moves into your method.
Buy a notebook
A high percentage of top performers keeps some form of daily performance journal. Write down daily and reflect on it. It creates clarify.
Be willing to be stupid
Take risks and make decisions that scares you. It’s okay even if you fail and that’s how you will improve by pushing your boundaries.
Choose spartan over luxurious
Simple, humble spaces help focus attention on the deep practice task. Eliminate distraction by working in a simple environment.
Before you start, figure out if it’s a hard skill or a soft skill
Every skill falls into two categories: hard skills and soft skills
Hard skills: Hard skills are about ABC (Always be consistent). These are hard and high precision skills that are performed correctly and consistently. these skills needed a teacher or coach in the early stages.
Soft skills: Soft skills are about the three R’s (Reading, Recognizing and Reacting). These skills are not about doing the same thing perfectly every time, but rather about being agile and interactive; about instantly recognizing pattern or possibility.
To build hard skills, work like a careful carpenter
when you learn hard skills, be precise and go slowly. Make one simple move at a time, repeating and perfecting it before you move on to next. Pay attention to errors and fix them at the start itself.
To build soft skills, play like a skateboarder
Seek new ways of challenging yourself. When you practice a soft skill, focus on making a high number of varied reps, and on getting clear feedback. You don’t need to worry too much about making errors – the important thing is to explore. Soft skills are often more fun to practice, but they’re also tougher because they demand that you coach yourself.
Honor the hard skills
Since most of the skills are a combination of hard skills and soft skills, prioritize the hard skills because in the long run they’re are important to your talent.
Don’t fall for the prodigy myth
Success is a combination of hard work, smart work and luck. If you have early success, do your best to ignore praise and keep pushing yourself to the edges of your ability, where improvement happens. If you don’t have early success, don’t quit. Instead, treat your early efforts as experiments, not as verdicts. Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint.
Pick a high-quality coach or teacher
Pick someone who is action-oriented, honest and watches you closely, Pick someone who gives short and clear directions, someone who loves teaching fundamentals.
Find the sweet spot
There is a place, right on the edge of your ability, where you learn best and fastest. It’s called the sweet pot. Find that craft between your comfort zone and survival zone where you are fully engaged in an intense struggle. Seek out the ways to stretch yourself. Mark the boundary of your current ability and aim a little beyond it. That’s your spot.
Take off your watch
Deep practice is not measured in minutes of hours, but in the number of high-quality reaches and repetitions you make. Measure your progress by what counts: reaches and reps.
Break every move down into chunks
Every skill is built out of smaller pieces called chunks. Practice one chunk by itself until you’ve mastered it, then connect more chunks, one by one. Then combine those smaller chunks into bigger chunks. No matter what skill you set out to learn, the pattern is same. See the whole thing. Break it down to its simplest elements. Put it back together. Repeat.
Each day, try to build one perfect chunk
Set a daily SAP: Smallest achievable perfection. In this technique, pick a single chunk that you can perfect-not just improve but 100% consistently correct. Don’t look for the big, quick improvements. Seek the small improvement one day at a time. That’s the only way it happens, and when it happens, it lasts.
Deep struggle can be summed up in one word “Struggle.” Most of us instinctively avoid struggle, because it’s uncomfortable. It feels like failure. However, when it comes to developing your talent, struggle isn’t an option- it’s a necessity.
Choose five minutes a day over an hour a week
According to research, building a new habit takes about thirty days. With daily practice, our brains grow incrementally, a little each day. Daily practice has the advantage of becoming a habit than practicing occasionally for an hour or so in a week.
Don’t do “Drills.” instead play small, addictive games
Skills improve faster when they are looked like fun, connectedness and passion. If it can be counted, it can be turned into a game. Score it, track it and beat it.
Seek out that sweet spot and hone your discipline by demanding the best of yourself when no-one else is watching
Think in images
Whenever possible, create a vivid image for each chunk that you want to learn. The images are easier to grasp, recall and perform.
Pay attention immediately after you make a mistake
People who pay deeper attention to an error learn significantly more than those who ignore it. Develop the habit of attending to your errors right away. Take mistakes seriously, but never personally.
Visualize the wires of your brain forming new connections
The more you pay attention to mistakes and fix them, the more of the right connections you’ll be building inside your brain. Visualizing this process helps you reinterpret mistakes
Shrink the space
Smaller practice spaces can deepen practice when are used to increase the number and intensity of the reps and clarify the goal. Ask yourself: what’s the minimum space needed to make these reaches and reps? where is extra space hindering fast and easy communication?
Slow it down (even slower than you think)
When we learn how to do something new, our immediate urge is to do it again, faster. This is known as the Hey, Look at Me! reflex. Super slow practice works like a magnifying glass. It lets us sense our errors more clearly, and thus fix them. It’s not how fast you can do it. It’s how slowly you can do it correctly.
Close your eyes
One of the quickest ways to deepen practice is also one of the simplest: Close your eyes. Closing your eyes is a swift way to nudge you to the edges of your ability, to get you into your sweet spot. It sweeps away distraction and engages your other senses to provide new feedback.
Take a nap
Science says napping is good for the learning brain because it helps strengthen the connections formed during practice and prepare the brain for the next session. Most of the famous nappers include Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, Winston Churchill, and John F Kennedy.
From my personal experience, most of my friends who I believe are successful in their life have this napping habit.
To learn a new move, exaggerate it
Yes, there is a good reason for this. Going too far helps us understand where the boundaries are. Go too far so you can feel the outer edges of the move, and then work on building that skill with precision.
Make positive reaches
Whenever you are faced with a choice just before every rep: you can either focus on what you want to achieve, or you can focus on what you want to avoid.
Positive framing affects your subconscious mind.
To learn from a book, close the book
Learning is reaching. Most of us read books passively i.e., letting the ideas go blank after completing the book. Less reaching equals less learning. On the other hand, closing the book and writing a short summary forces you to remember the key ideas (one set of reaches), process and organize those ideas so they make sense (more reaches). More reaching equals more learning.
Use the sandwich technique
Deep practice is about finding and fixing mistakes. So, what’s the best way to make sure you don’t repeat mistakes? Use the Sandwich technique like this.
- Make the correct move.
- Make the incorrect move.
- Make the correct move again.
The goal is to reinforce the correct move and put a spotlight on the mistake
Use the 3 X 10 technique
To learn something most effectively, practice it three times, with ten minutes break between each rep. Neurologists discovered that our brain makes stronger connections when they are stimulated three times with a rest period of ten minutes.
Invent daily tests
Always ask yourself: what’s one key element of this skill? How can I isolate my accuracy or reliability and measure it? How can I make it fun, fast and repeatable so that you can track your progress?
To choose the best practice method, use the R.E.P.S. gauge
How do you identify the best method to practice the new skill?
R – Reaching and Repeating: Choose the practice that operates on the edge of your ability, reaching and repeating?
E-Engagement: Choose the practice that is more immersive, that commands your attention? Always chose the method that is intensively engaging.
P-Purposefulness: Choose task directly connect to the skill you want to build?
S-Strong, Speedy feedback: Choose the best one where you receive feedback about your performance – where you succeeded and where you made mistakes.
R.E.P.S provides a way to measure practice effectiveness. Pay attention to the design of your practice.
Stop before you’re exhausted
When it comes to learning a new skill, exhaustion is the new enemy. Fatigue slows brains. It triggers errors, lessens concentration and leads to shortcuts that create bad habits. Just stop practicing before you’re exhausted.
Just before sleep, watch a mental movie
A useful habit you can do is before falling asleep, play a movie of your idealized performance. This is like the tip ‘Staring at who you want to become’. Watching a mental movie helps you in in improving your performance, motivation and confidence.
Repetition is the most powerful tool that we must improve our skills. It uses the built-in mechanism for making the wires of our brains faster and more accurate.
Don’t waste time trying to break bad habits- instead, build new ones
Bad habits are tough to break. The solution is to ignore the bad habit and put your energy towards building new habits that will override the old one. To build new habits, start slowly. Initially you will feel stupid, clumsy and frustrated at first because all new wires have not been built yet. Build the new habit gradually by increasing the difficulty, little by little. It takes time but that’s the only way to make new habits to grow.
To learn it more deeply, teach it
The only way to learn anything more deeply is to teach it. When you explain your newly learned concepts, you will understand the gaps in your learnings. You can then go back and refer to the same concept. This is how you will fill the gaps and learn deeply.
Give a new skill a minimum of eight weeks
When it comes to learning any new skill, eight weeks seem to be an important threshold. Again, this doesn’t mean that you can be proficient in any skill in eight weeks. The main point is to give your talent the time it needs to grow.
Keep your big goals secret
Telling other about your big goals makes them less likely to happen because it creates an unconscious payoff. It tickles your brain into thinking that you’ve already accomplished the goals. Keeping your big goals to yourselves is one of the smartest goals you can set.
“Think like a gardener, work like a carpenter”
Talent grows slowly. we cannot improve our skills quickly. You must build it with daily practice.