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Genius or Practice

June 7, 2011

I’m part way through an interesting book called The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle.

It’s based on some interesting research which has implications that can benefit everyone. The Talent Code deals with how hotbeds of talent arise and what are the factors in the creation of real talent or some might say “genius”.

Daniel Coyle shows how the truly talented and world class tend not to be genetic flukes or anomalies but that they are likely the result of good genes, a good environment and specifically the result of hours of “deep practice”. You may have heard the statistic that people who are world class in their specific area tend to have been in that area for 10 years or so. Another similar kind of stat that speaks to the message of The Talent Code is that experts tend to have 10,000 hours of critical practice. The author shows how this is the case with tennis stars, Renaissance painters, etc.

Where this research meets neurology is that those who “deep practice” end up having built and reinforced their myelin connections in the brain – the white matter, which is now becoming more well understood and more highly regarded. In fact, the myelin is what allows us to have learned a skill or talent and to keep it.

Without going into the details of what ‘deep’ practice is, consider that it involves a lot of intense trial and error, where failing is as important as getting it right. And, where breaking things down or chunking them is very important.

The main message that this gives us is that we can all be world class in our chosen arenas, or at the very least excel in a certain area, if we give it the right amount of “deep practice”. So, when you see someone excelling it is likely because they’ve spent a lot of time practising, failing, trying again until they are at the very top of their game. And, so can you be…

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