How to have massive SUCCESS in anything

The Little Book of Talent.  52 Tips for improving your skills. Author Daniel Coyle. book summary.

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If you want to have massive success in anything in life it requires you to develop your talents and skills.  This book gives you the process to do it.

A few years back the author started attending talent hot beds.  These hot beds were tiny places that produced world-class performers in areas such as sports, arts, business, music, and math.  Places such as a Tennis Club in Moscow (Spartak) that produced more than 20 top 20 women’s tennis players.  A music camp in the Adirondacks where the attendees produce one year of progress in seven weeks.  A San Mateo, California Charter school that took math scores from the bottom to being in top 96th percentile in four years. A Dallas vocal studio that in the last 10 years produced millions of dollars in top music talent. A Ski Academy in Vermont with an enrollment of 100 that produced 50 Olympic Skiers in the sat 40 years.

Also, the research for this book took the author to research centers across the world.  Scientists have developed a fairly new view that talent is developed not by our genes but through practice and motivation.  Thanks to scientists such as K. Anders Ericsson, Dr. Douglass Fields, and Robert Bjork the old beliefs that talent was innate, is being overturned. Intensive motivation and intensive practice create brain growth.  Muscle memory is created in the brain and through practice which can lead to better performance over time and repetition.

This book is a simple combination of the authors notes he took by attending all of these talent hotbeds.

How do we recognize talent and develop talent? This book is the best book to outline the way to answer these questions.

The book has three parts.  The first set of rules.  “Getting Started” Ideas for igniting motivation and creating a blueprint for the skills you want to build. “Improving Skills” Methods and techniques for making the most progress in the least time.  “Sustaining Progress” Strategies for overcoming plateaus and building habits for sustained success.

Small actions repeated overtime creates progress.

Getting Started: Stare, Steal, and be willing to look stupid. 

#1.  Stare. Stare at success and steal their moves and how they do it.  Be willing to look stupid while you are developing a new skill.  Takes risks. Look at vivid images of what you hope to become.

#2. Spend 15 minutes a day on a skill. Engrave by watching the skill over and over until you create a mental blueprint of what it looks like done well.  Let the image engrave into your brain.

#3. Steal without apology. Take the best from the best.

#4. Buy a notebook.  Take notes from what others are doing and then you reflect on it.

#5. Be willing to be stupid. Wayne Gretzky when he practiced would actually push himself to fall on the ice.  This type of practice forced him to get better and limit the actions he was doing so he wouldn’t fall.

#6. Choose spartan over luxurious.  The talent hotbeds that the author visited were not luxurious.  No instead they were very opposite of that.  The North Baltimore Aquatic club where Michael Phelps practiced looked like an under funded YMCA.

#7. Before you start ask yourself is this a “hard” skill or “soft” skill.  Hard skills have one path to success and must be done the same way every time.  A golfer swinging a club.  A basketball player shooting a free throw.  Hard skills should become automatic.  ABC: Always be Consistent. Soft skills have many paths to a successful close.  They are more subjective and not as precise.

#8.  To build hard skills work like a carpenter.  Be sure you connect the right wires in your brain.  Practice the fundamentals over and over.  All skills have fundamentals practice these until you can’t get them wrong.

#9.  To build soft skills work like a skateboarder.  Envision Jimi Hendrix playing a phenomenal guitar solo.  Soft skills are built through challenging and ever-changing obstacles within the environment you are playing in.  Be prepared to be aggressive and experimental.

#10.  Honor the hard skills.  Most skills are not hard or soft.  They are usually the combination of both.  Be willing to be open and navigate through them.  Practice the hard skills.  In Moscow there is a rule that gymnasts can’t compete until they get the fundamentals down.  Peyton Manning does basic footwork before every game, this footwork is the same as they teach twelve-year olds.  You must have the fundamentals first.  Pretend your skills are like a big oak tree.  The fundamentals are the roots that hold the tree in place and stabilize it, while the branches above are the soft skills that can sway back and forth in the wind.

#11.  Don’t fall for the prodigy myth.  Most people think that talent is inherited.  This assumption is false.  Early success turns out to be a weak predictor of later success.  Charles Darwin was considered slow by his teachers.  Walt Disney was fired from a job for not being creative enough.  When people are given a prodigy status too early, they learn to protect that status and not take as many risks.

#12.  Five ways to pick a high quality coach or mentor.

1.  Avoid someone who reminds you have a courteous waiter.  These kinds of people are everywhere.  They keep things happy and say things like don’t worry we can take care of that.

2.  Seek someone who scares you a little.  Pick someone who watches you closely.  They are action oriented.  They wont want to spend much time chatting.  They will be honest and be truthful in true and honest language.  It’s not personal.  They will show you how to get better.

3.  Seek someone who gives quick and short directions.  They don’t give lectures or sermons.  They give it to you quick and short so you can understand it.  John Wooden was best known for this.

4.  Seek someone who loves to teach fundamentals.  Great teachers focus on the small things.  They realize that this is the core of your skills.  See tip #10.

5.  If all things being equal, pick the older person.  Great teachers are first and foremost learners.  It takes time to develop a skill.

Taking Action

#13.  Find the sweet spot.  There is a place just beyond your comfort zone that stretches you a little, but not too much.  This is your sweet spot.  You are engaged because you have to work harder.  In your sweet spot you are aware of what you are doing, but you can also change mistakes while in the middle of working on your skill.  Some golfers swing under water.  This allows them to slow down and focus on their swing.

#14.  Take off your watch.  Deep practice is not measured in the number of hours.  It is counted in the number of attempts.  Instead of trying to hit 500 golf balls.  You decide to hit 25 great shots.  Reaches and Reps matter here, not time.

#15.  Break everything down into chunks. From the time we are little we hear “take your time and go slower”.  This is called chunks.  When we bite things off a chunk at a time we can get better as we go along.  What is the smallest single chunk of this skill do I need to master.  Once you focus on all of these chunks and get really good at them, you can then combine them all.

#16.  Each day try to build one perfect chunk. The real goal isn’t practice, it is progress, work to try to perfect one thing each day.

#17.  Embrace struggle.  In all of the talent hot beds across the world, you can see the emotions of all the people being challenged.  They are all worn out from struggling. Embrace the struggle.  The struggle and frustration are what we call desirable difficulty.  Your brain works just like your muscles “no pain, no gain”.  You have to embrace the struggles to build the skills.

#18.  Choose 5 minutes a day over an hour a week. Small snippets are better than long practice.  Practice on the days you eat.  Practicing just two minutes a day is better than doing it for a long period of time sometime during the week.

#19.  Don’t do drills, play small addictive games.  Drills suck.  Games don’t.  Michael Jordan  didn’t just do free throw drills.  He instead challenged his team members to see how many free throws they could hit in a row and, yes they gambled on it.  How can you turn your practice into some kind of game that you can track.  This tricks your mind.

#20.  Practice alone. Practicing alone allows you to develop disciplines.

#21.  Think in images. 

#22.  Pay attention immediately after you make a mistake.

#23.  Visualize the wires in your brain forming new connections. Mistakes aren’t mistakes.  They instead are your brain creating new connections to build a new skill.

#24.  Visualize the wires of your brain getting faster. When your connections get faster you get better at the skill you are trying to develop.

#25.  Shrink the space.  Smaller practice spaces allow you to increase your intensity.

#26. Slow it down, even slower than you think.

#27.  Close your eyes. When you practice with your eyes closed, it allows you to have deeper understanding of what it takes for you to make the right moves.  Michael Jordan would practice free throws with his eyes closed.

#28.  Mine it.  At talent hot beds, you will see golfers swinging the club without a club and musicians playing on a table with no musical instrument. When you play it like this it forces you to focus on the moves not the outcomes.

#29. When you get it right mark the spot. When you finally get it right whatever the skill is you are developing, you must stop and say this is what it felt like and make a notes so you can know what it is like when you are doing it well.

#30.  Take a nap. When you get tired take a nap so you can reenergize.

#31.  To learn a new move, exaggerate it. Think about the way parents teach kids new words.  They sound them out with exaggeration.  This allows you to see how far you can go and then you can always dial it back in.

#32.  Make positive reaches.  There is a moment between every rep where you can focus on the target or you can focus on the negative move.  A golfer should say “center the stroke” instead of “I hope I don’t pull it to the left.”  It is called positive framing.  You always want to focus on what you want out of the thing you are doing, not what you don’t want.

#33.  To learn from a book, close the book.  If I was giving you a test on this book one week from today which would be the better way to learn the book?  A. Reading 10 pages a day everyday. B. Or reading the 10 pages and then writing a summary on the books?   The right answer is B.  Research shows that it is better to write it down in this case, because it is makes you reach.  You must remember the fine points, and be able to make sense of it.  You focus on retention of it and you are more engaged with the material.

#34. Use the sandwich technique. What is the best way to not repeat mistakes?  Reenforce the correct moves.

#35.  Use the 3 times 10 technique.  This comes from Dr. Douglass Fields. a neurologist.  He researches memory and learning.  His research showed that our brains remember things better when we practice them 3 times with a 10 minute resting period in between each time.

#36.  Invent daily tests. Create targeted workouts.  Tiger Woods test himself by saying he must hit an 8 iron within a certain range 80% of the time. Its is motivational juice for you to push yourself. Make it fun.

#37.  To choose the best practice method, choose the REPS process.

1. Reaching and repeating.  Does the activity have you reaching and stretching some.

2. Engagement.

3. Purposefulness.

4. Strong speedy feedback.

#38.  Stop before you are exhausted.

#39.  Practice immediately after a performance.  Even though tip #38 is opposite of this, sometimes practicing right after a performance it allows you to remember what you were doing wrong and get it right.  Tiger Woods will sometimes go immediately to the driving range right after he finished a round of golf.

#40.  Just before sleep watch a mental movie. Watching a movie geared toward something you would like to accomplish right before bed, allows your brain to think about that performance while you are sleeping.  This wires the brain to start thinking about what it will take to have the same performance.

#41. End on a positive note. Don’t quit on a bad shot.  Instead quit on a great shot.  This keeps you excited about coming back.

#42.  Six ways to be a better teacher or coach.

1.  Use the first few seconds to connect on an emotional level.  It creates trust.

2. Avoid giving long speeches.  Give small doses of value that help performance. Coaches stand beside the person. Give targeted information.  People will catch on quicker.

3. Be allergic to mushy language.  Don’t use unprecise language.  Give concrete directions like, do this, don’t do that.  All teaching should consist of telling a person precisely what to do.

4.  Make a scorecard for learning. Pick a metric of a skill that you want to learn and then measure it.

5. Maximize reachfulness.  Reachfulness is the essence of learning.  This happens when the learner is reaching and stretching.

Sustaining progress. Embrace repetition, cultivate grit and keep big goals secret.

#43.  Embrace Repetition   Repetition has a bad reputation.  People think about it being boring and not fun.  However, it is the quickest way to rewire your brain for success.  In 2011, when the Navy Seals raided Osama Bin Laden’s compound, they practiced for three weeks in Nevada.  They had a full size replica built of the compound and practiced dozen and dozens of times before the actual raid.  The repetition is what made them successful.  Change your mindset, instead of looking at it as a chore, look at it as the most useful way to your growth.

#44. Have a blue-collar mindset.  The top people in all fields get up and go to work everyday.  They don’t live the charmed life as some people might think.  They put in the work to get the results they have earned.

#45. For every one hour of competition you must practice for at least five hours.  You can use this ratio in every thing in life.

#46. Don’t waste time trying to break bad habits, instead try to build new ones. Habits are tough to break.  You brain is really good at developing habits, but really bad at breaking them.  Develop new habits.

#47. To learn it more deeply teach it.  The best way to understand something yourself is to teach it.  This is huge because it holds you accountable to using what you teach and you become better skilled at using it as well.

#48.  Give a new skill a minimum of 8 weeks.  Lasting brain changes takes about eight weeks to develop.  Give your brain the time it needs to grow.

#49.  When you get stuck, make a shift.  Everyone starts out really great making a lot of gains, then you hit a plateau.  Plateaus means you can now do the exercise without thinking about it, your brain has made it automatic.  Once this happens, you need to make a shift and start practicing faster, or mix up your practice sessions to get you out of the comfort zone you have created.

#50.  Cultivate your grit. Grit is a mix of passions and self-discipline that keeps us moving forward.  Grit makes the difference in the long run.

#51. Keep your big goals secret.  In 2009, at New York University.  A group of 163 subjects were given a goal of working on a difficult work project and they had 45 minutes to accomplish the project. Half the subjects were told to announce their goals, while the other half were told not to. The subjects who announced their goals quit after an average of 33 minutes and reported feeling satisfied with their work. Those who kept their mouths shut worked the entire 45 minutes and remained strongly motivated.  Matter of fact this group wanted to keep working even after the time was up. Telling others about your goals creates unconscious payoff, tricking our brain to thinking we have already accomplished the goal.

#52.  Think like a gardener and work like a carpenter. Talent grows slowly.  Think patiently without judgement and work consistently knowing that each piece connects to the larger whole.

I hope you enjoyed this book summary and I encourage you to share it with someone else.  There is only one way to success in anything and that is through handwork and dedication.

To your success and your future.







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