The Little Book of Talent (Anglais) Broché – 6 septembre 2012
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- Don’t fall for the prodigy myth
- Take off your watch
- Embrace struggle
- Take a nap
- To learn it more deeply, teach it
The Little Book of Talent is packed full of 52 simple, practical, proven tips that will help improve any skill. Whether you want a better singing voice, a more powerful golf swing or success in the business world, The Little Book of Talent’s method will help you realise your potential.
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C'est remarquablement concret, rédigé de façon simple, bourré de conseils astucieux.
Bien que les compétences "hard" (du type "acquérir le geste parfait" pour la réalisation d'une tâche, en sport par exemple) soit plus largement développées que les "soft skills", ce livre devrait être lu par toutes les personnes s'intéressant à la formation et à l'entraînement, dans quelque domaine que ce soit.
Ces conseils sont basés sur l'étude des plus grands centre d’entraînements dans des disciplines plus variées les unes que les autres.
Le livre, court mais efficace, est en trois parties :
- getting started
- improving skills
- sustaining progress
Je le conseille vivement à toute personne qui a envie d'apprendre. C'est pourquoi je le mets dans la sélection des meilleurs ouvrages en développement personnel : l'Homo Endo.
It's not as good a "standalone" book as The Talent Code, and I think should be regarded mostly as a companion book, so I rate it slightly lower that The Talent Code.
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Tip #3 - Steal Without Apology - Build on other's work
Tip #11 - Don't Fall For The Prodigy Myth - Early success is poor predictor of future talent (see Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Michael Jordan, etc)
Tip #12 - 5 Ways To Pick A High-Quality Teacher Or Coach - This is great - some of the best advice in the book
Tip #30 - Take A Nap - Science says so . . .
Tip #33 - To Learn From A Book, Close It - Great advice. Don't read to retain information. If you follow this tip you will retain more information, much faster. Valuable advice.
Tip #46 - Don't Wast Time Trying To Break Bad Habits - Instead, Build New Ones - Great advice
Tip #51 - Keep Your Big Goals Secret - Why you should not share your newest dream with your friends - very interesting and helpful as well.
There are plenty of gems here that make this book a worthy buy. Just about anyone can read it in a few hours, and it could potentially change every day of the rest of your life. Hard to ask any more than that from a 120 page book - Recommended.
So, if you want guidelines for developing a talent, buy this one. If you want a good, informative read, but which will not be so actionable, buy The Talent Code.,
The book is broken into 3 broad topics: Getting started, improving and continuing improvement. Each topic takes about 1/3 of the book although some tips are very short one paragraph type things and others are a few pages long.
The source material for the tips originate from notes made while researching his other book The Talent Code. Since that book has a decided tilt towards measurable performance activities (sports/music/etc) this book can't escape those confines and thank goodness it doesn't really try to awkwardly create generalities to fit specific observations. That is, Coyle spares us endless attempts at applying his observations to stuff he thinks his readers might use the information. I found that refreshing because any effort on his part along those lines would only create artificial boundaries to how you or I might proceed.
I haven't read the other book yet but so I am not sure how much of a companion this small book is to the other. From the blurb on the other book it seems like there is a lot of duplication. Of course, this book is distilled down and physically printed in 'fit in your back pocket' size.
It was interesting to me that, in broad terms, a whole lot of what Coyle talks about is also the sort of things that Zig, Tracy and Hopkins talk about too. A nice affirmation of their work through Coyle's independent research.
There's bad news all throughout the book. It takes hard work to be successful. It takes commitment. The good news is that if you have those traits the tips will give you a great path to follow and advice on how to turn your drive into a better chance for success.
Are you having a tough time admitting that hard work and commitment are not your strong suits? I think you need to read this book more than the other crowd. One thing that discourages hard work and commitment is poor initial performance. Right? Well, you can address that by applying these tips. I think. It is up to you.
That said, I have not read Coyle's Talent Code. It may well be that in conjunction with The Talent Code book, the Little Book of Talent is more helpful.
I doubt it though.
[Note (10/16/2012): since writing this review, I have read Coyle's The Talent Code and have now posted my reveiw. I do not feel that the information within The Talent Code added anything that would change this review, so I have let this review stand as is. After reading The Talent Code and researching the evidence for myself, I admit that I had severely underestimated the role of deliberate practice when it comes to developing talent. Even so, there is enough evidence for me to believe that there is still a significant component to talent and expertise that goes beyond deliberate practice. My opinion would be that this is an innate component, but this is only my opinion. See my review of The Talent Code for further details.]
Part of the problem lies in Coyle's method of discovering his tips to success. He does research, he speaks to educational scientists, and--most importantly--visits actual training grounds for successful musicians and athletes. He makes observations and takes meticulous notes. He then distills it all down and provides us with the tips--the very tools--for success.
Although the observations ring true, the problem is that the method is inherently flawed. We are left with an assortment of tools that might help us succeed; the problem is that knowing the tips isn't the tricky part. The secret to success is the way you put them together. You could put me in Leonardo's studio, hand over the master's actual paints and paint brushes, and put me in front of a canvas, but this won't mean that I can paint the Mona Lisa. You could give me every musical note used in a Beethoven symphony but I still couldn't replicate the works of the master...
The components of successful coaching and mentoring are not elusive or magic. In many ways they are well known and axiomatic. Knowing the tips may be a prerequisite for starting out, but the magic happens in the way master puts these components together and becomes successful.
This is why we can get opposing notions like 'slow it down' (tip #26) and 'speed it up' (tip #49) or that we should fix mistakes using the 'Sandwich Technique' (tip #34) but that it is important that we 'don't waste time trying to break bad habits--instead, build new ones' (tip #46).
The above pairs may seem paradoxical, but that does not mean that one tip of each pair is right and the other is wrong. There are some tips that directly contradict each other and other tips that merely clash. Nevertheless, each tip has its merit. You may need to apply different techniques in different situations or at different points in training. The laundry list of techniques is useful in terms of opening your mind to different approaches that might help you acquire and improve your performance, but the list doesn't tell you which technique to use for a particular situation or when it is best to use that technique. This is often where a coach or teacher comes in.
Additionally, it is important to realize that drawing concrete conclusions from the great incubators for talent that Coyle visits can be misleading. For example in tip #6 we are told to 'choose spartan over luxurious.' Coyle sites The North Baltimore Aquatic Club, which produced Michael Phelps and four other Olympic medalists and the "world's highest performing schools in Finland and South Korea" which are apparently dark and dreary places.
The problem is threefold: 1) There are plenty of world-class musicians, for example, that have emerged from pretty plush quarters, say the Julliard School of Music; 2) No matter where you go, there are far fewer break-out success stories from ANY school than there are mediocre students; 3) Success often breeds success, once one graduate of a school is successful, talented students will come in droves to that school to get a piece of the magic.
We may find it remarkable that a place with seemingly few resources can boast that they trained great people. Realize, however, that the surroundings--plush or spartan--are less important than simply having the appropriate tools at hand to train people. You might site the math genius who developed his technique in a spartan surrounding in Communist Russia. But that doesn't belie the fact that there plenty of math geniuses have trained in the ivy covered halls of Harvard. We love a surprise success story, but that's not how all success stories happen. The bare-bones training centers are more remarkable to us. They evoke Hollywood images of a Rocky, emerging from a small inner city gym, and so they are more momentous. It's not so romantic, but plenty of people at the top of their game get there through more conventional ways.
Moreover, all schools that train highly successful individuals can be thought of as pyramid programs. Many students will 'try out', few will pass to intermediate levels, and even fewer will make the final cut of greatness.
Spartan or plush, schools that graduate highly successful students actually select students before they enroll. The deck is stacked with raw talent during the admission process. They then whittle down the number of students until the most successful students reach the highest levels. Finally, once they have achieved a pattern of success, they actually attract more talented students to their ranks. And, don't forget, having the right coaches/teachers is important too.
If the book has an overarching theme it would be that raw talent is somehow overrated. I think that this sentiment is very encouraging to many of us average Joes out there but it is slightly off the mark. I am not a researcher in the field and I don't have the depth of experience that Coyle has, but I think that the overarching theme should really be that "practice and experience are usually underrated."
Here's what I mean. Michael Phelps didn't win 22 Olympic medals by sitting around. He put years upon years and hours upon hours of training. That said, Phelps may not have been a celebrated athlete had he chosen to become a power lifter or a gymnast. He may have been able to excel in any number of sports, but ended up picking one that worked well with his genetics.
Part of Phelps' greatness is no doubt the superhuman effort that he put into his sport, his laser-like focus of his practice habits, his work ethic, his dedication, and expert coaching . But because Lochte didn't win as many medals as Phelps, does that mean that Lochte didn't practice enough or wasn't focused enough? How about the guy that is still consistently one of the top 10 swimmers in the world, puts his heart and soul on the line for his sport every day of his life, but never even gets a medal? Please don't tell me that Lochte or that our top-ten-never-medaled athlete just didn't work hard enough or smart enough. They worked plenty hard and worked plenty smart.
Success in any field is both nature and nurture. You can almost certainly exceed all expectations if you dig in 100%, put your heart and soul on the line every day, and work smart every day. But there are still people out there who may exceed your abilities (and sometimes with far less effort than you put in) because they have a natural aptitude for something. That's sometimes hard to swallow but it is almost certainly true.
I don't know if Phelps has enough aptitude for math to become a mathematical genius. I don't know if he has enough latent musical ability that he could become a proficient violinist. And even if he took all the practice and dedication that he put into swimming into math or the violin there is no guarantee that he would be a top performer in either area. We like to trivialize the importance of our inherent, natural abilities because they aren't modifiable. We'd rather believe that success is simply due to working smart and working hard, but even perfect work habits do not ensure success.
That said, Coyle's tips when used correctly might help you maximize your natural abilities, but you will still be limited by your innate talent. So it is vitally important to carefully choose the skills that you want to improve upon if you really want to be 'the best' in a given field.
Then there is luck. Coyle doesn't directly address this. I suppose that this is one of those things that is mostly non-modifiable, but there are ways of persisting and making sure that you are frequently in the most favorable situations that can at least improve your chances to succeed in certain fields.
That said, there is a lot of sound advice in Coyle's book. The tips are generally well spelled out and reasonable. However, because there is no real advice as to how to put it all together, the tips often degrade into aphorisms. The book is at times compelling and interesting, but is really too general to be all that helpful. It does, however, review options of how one might approach practice or study and gives the reader some food for thought.
It's written for those who dream of becoming really good--expert, in fact--at something they are interested in, whether it is music, sports, writing, acting, selling, etc. According to Coyle, the book took shape out of notes he took while traveling around observing "talent hotbeds"--highly successful training programs (e.g., The Spartak Tennis Club in Moscow) as well as reading reports by researchers who studied them. The result is a "collection of simple, practical tips for improving skills, taken directly from the hotbeds I visited and the scientists who research them."
The book is divided into three parts: (1) Getting Started: ideas for igniting motivation and building 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. Each section contains a series of tips: Section one: Tips 1-12; Section two: Tips 13-42; Section 3: Tips 43-52. Many of the tips were familiar to me, both from my own teaching and learning, as well as from having seen them in a number of other books I've read on practicing and developing expertise. Still, it's nice to have so many of them in a little "handbook" or ready reference.
The first section is really about how to begin realizing your dream, once you have decided what you want to do with your life. He talks about finding a role model (or more than one) and studying what he or she does, and emulating that. It also involves imagining yourself doing what they are doing. Tip #5, "Be Willing to Be Stupid," means being "willing to risk the emotional pain of making mistakes, [which is] essential, because reaching, failing, and reaching again is the way your brain grows and forms new connections." Tips #7-10 contrast "hard" and "soft" skills. Hard skills are the skills you MUST have in order to be expert at what you are doing, and you have to be able to perform them consistently at the highest level, over and over again. (Here's an example I was told once: According to legend, Fritz Reiner, the conductor of the Chicago Symphony, once stopped a rehearsal and asked First Trumpet Bud Herseth to play a passage alone--Reiner wasn't satisfied with it. Herseth did so. Reiner asked him to play it again, then again. After a few more times, Herseth said, "Maestro, I'm glad to play it as many times as you want, but I'm NOT going to mess up!")
"Soft" skills, by contrast, are skills that enable you to roll with the punches, adapt quickly and instinctively to changing situations (such as being able to continue to perform if the lights go out), and try creative new ways of doing something on the spot (improvising). The key word is "flexibility." I think he could have emphasized that one must master the "hard" skills in order to be able to apply the "soft" skills well, however. You need automatic technical mastery in order to let go and fly free. There is nothing worse than someone trying to improvise whose technique is inadequate.
The second part contains the bulk of the tips and is oriented toward effective practice. It begins with "finding the sweet spot" in your practice. Coyle considers this supremely important. He means that in order to get good, you have to work at the limit, and reach slightly beyond, your current level of ability. In other words, constantly challenge yourself with material that is a little bit (not a huge amount) beyond you. Get out of your comfort zone. Some of the tips in this section seem pretty obvious to me, like "Pay attention immediately after you make a mistake," but they need to be emphasized partly because so many persons don't do it! Same thing with slow practice. He quotes one teacher as saying, "if the people in the street can tell what song you're playing, you're practicing it too fast!" He recommends naps as a way of recharging the brain. (I wonder if meditation would work also.) Tip #42 is for teachers, and gives some suggestions for better teaching: "Use the first few seconds to connect on an emotional level; [and what I think is the best:] "Aim to create independent learners."
Part 3, "Sustaining Progress" encourages us to "Embrace repetition, cultivate grit, and keep big goals secret." All good advice. Here he offers ways to be "flexible one moment and stubborn the next, to deal with immediate obstacles while staying focused on the horizon." Tip #43 "Embrace repetition" might seem to conflict with Tip #19 "Don't do drills". But I think he would argue that you might turn the drill into a game (if you are younger) and to keep in mind the idea that each rep is strengthening your skill and moving you to your goal (if you are more mature). I liked Tip #44 "have a blue-collar mind-set", because as he points out, top performers (actors, sports figures, musicians, etc.) may seem to have a pretty cushy life (remember the Dire Straits song "Money for Nothing?"), but in reality they work very hard every single day to get where they are and stay where they are. To them it is a craft above all.
Finally, he includes a very brief glossary of terms, a list of books "for further reading," and an Appendix on myelin, the substance that forms insulating sheaths around axons in the brain, which is important for brain function in skilled performers. Apparently he discusses that in much greater detail in The Talent Code.
Whom is this book for? Anyone who sincerely wants to get good at something but needs an inspirational push to keep them on track (and that includes most of us). It's not a perfect guide--there are deeper and more detailed books covering much of the same material--but it's handy and good to have around.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to my practicing!
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