The Little Book of Talent – 52 Tips for Improving Skills

This book is a great handbook of inspiration for improving career nurturing skills for young professionals.

The Little Book of Talent is authored by Daniel Coyle. He is the author of several books. Four of them named bestsellers: The Little Book of Talent, The Talent Code, Lance Armstrong’s War, and Hardball: A Season in Projects. He also manages a blog, though it is not very active anymore.

The Little Book of Talent is a compilation of 52 tips. He spent five years of research around talent hotbeds in various forms. He concentrated his efforts on sports more than anything else, but the findings are applicable outside the world of sports. I guess the reason for the overweight of sports-based research can be found in the fact that talent in that area are very easily identifiable compared to the world of business, where luck regularly plays a vital role as well. In sports everything is measured and the high-performers are so easy to spot.

The book is structured around three sections Getting Started, Improving Skills, and Sustaining Progress. I have picked my personal top 10 favourite tips from the book:

  1. Steal without apology – Take skills from the best and make the skill your own. Younger members of families have a tendency to be better than the older siblings because they have more time to observe and steal the skills.
  2. Buy a notebook – Write down observations and reflect upon it. It works like a map – it creates clarity. Richard Brandson for example always carries around a notebook.
  3. Be willing to be stupid – Being willing to be stupid allows you to reach, fail, reach again to grow the brain and form new connections. Be willing to take risks and make decisions that scare you – it will provide opportunities to reinterpret mistakes.
  4. Choose spartan over luxurious – If your surroundings are too luxurious it sends a signal to your brain “You’ve made it!” Unconsciously more spartan surroundings will keep you on your toes.
  5. Choose 5 minutes a day over an hour a week – Have a high frequency of practices to nourish the process of learning by again and again putting the brain in a “catch-up” state. The key is total focus and being ruthless about noticing and fixing every tiny mistake from the start.
  6. Practice alone – Word class performers spend 5 times more time practicing on their own. There are two reasons: 1) It allows them to get into the sweet spot and 2) it develops discipline
  7. Take a nap – The science behind taking a nap is that it improves memory scores by 10% when taking a nap after lunch. The list of nappers include Einstein, da Vinci, Napoleon, Churchill, Thomas Edison, Regan, JFK, and JD Rockefeller.
  8. To learn from a book, close it – Stop memorizing by repeating over and over, instead read it once, understand it and then start taking notes where you reflect on the content. This increases the amount that you learn.
  9. Use the 3 x 10 technique – Dr. Douglas Fields, a neurologist, found that the brain connections are the strongest when practicing three times with 10 minutes break in between.
  10. Stop before you’re exhausted – Exhaustion causes mistakes, lack of concentration and laziness that builds bad habits.

The book extends the explanation and provides the scientific evidence for why they help nurture your talent. So the book is a great laundry list of potential areas to put on your development plan in 2016.

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