I just finished reading two books by Daniel Coyle and as a testament to how interesting and well written the books were, I finished the Talent Code in 8 30 minute subway rides and finished the Little book of Talent in one Saturday afternoon/evening.
What had originally drawn me to the books, was a unsettling feeling in some of my studies and readings that I wasn’t really being the most efficient or effective in learning new skills.
As usual, I did my usual Google search how what types of tips were out there in terms of learning new skills. These two books received near universal acclaim so I thought I would give them a shot.
The Talent code is full of first account experiences by the author but is backed up by scientific research and studies. So this isn’t a fluff book. There are quite a few pages on the science of talent at the neurological level, but I’d like to focus this post precisely on applicable items.
The following are some key points from the books:
- the real sweet spot is deep practice – struggling in certain targeted ways – operating at the edges of your ability, where you make mistakes-makes you smarter. Or to put it a slightly different way, experiences where you’re forced to slow down, make errors and correct them. A distinction is made using the 10,000 hour rule. Most people have read or heard of the 10,000 hour rule, which states that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become a true talent in a given field. However, the difference between practice and deep or deliberate practice is tremendous, and is the real crux of genius.
- Chunking – the first step is to absorb the whole thing. This means spending time staring at or listening to the desired skill. The second step is to break it into chunks. The goal is always the same: to break a skill into its component pieces (circuits), memorize those pieces individually, then link them together in progressively larger groupings. The third step is to slow it down. Why? Slowing down allows you to attend more closely to errors, creating a higher degree of precision with each firing (of your circuits).
- Repeat it – if the goal is build stronger neurological circuits, then repeat the desired behavior or skill will strengthen it. For example, doing a math problem twice, and getting it right the second time and stopping there and moving on hasn’t built a strong enough connection. Repeat it again. And again.
- There is a limit to how much deep practice a human can do in a day without reaching exhaustion or decreasing the effectiveness of it. The sweet spot tends to be around three to five hours a day. While some do even less than 3 hours a day. The key point is, not to use predetermined amounts of time, but rather to quit for the day once you depart from the deep-practice zone.
- Deep practice is not simply about struggling; it’s about seeking out particular struggle, which involves a cycle of distinct actions. 1. Pick a target 2. Reach for it 3. Evaluate the gap between the target and the reach 4. Return to step one.
- Distinguish between hard and soft skills. Hard skills such as learning how to do a particular accounting question, requires you to go slowly and recognize mistakes immediately and correct them. Soft skills such as writing a story, should follow the opposite approach instead, explore and don’t stop when you make mistakes. At the end of the session, however, think about what worked and what didn’t work.
- More reaches = more learning. For example, to learn from a book, close the book after a few pages or a chapter and write a summary. This requires you to figure out the main ideas (reach), organize it (reach) and finally to write it down (reach).
- Pro Tip: 3×10 method. Practice something 3 times and rest 10 minutes between each simulation.
- Give a new skill a minimum of 8 weeks to develop
- And lastly, always end on a positive note and take naps