The Little Book of Talent

52 Tips for Improving Your Skills
by Daniel Coyle | Bantam © 2012 · 160 pages

In The Talent Code, Dan Coyle introduced us to the power of myelin and its role in creating world-class performance. In The Little Book of Talent, he shares 52 uber-practical tips on how to improve our skills. Big Ideas we explore include how to actually deliberately practice (hint: find your sweet spot), the most important skill (hint: get good at actually practicing), playing mental movies, adopting a blue collar mind set and thinking like a gardener while acting like a carpenter.

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

“What follows is a collection of simple, practical tips for improving skills, taken directly from the hotbeds I visited and the scientists who research them. The advice is field-tested, scientifically sound, and, most important, concise. Because when it comes down to it, we’re all navigating busy, complex lives. Parent or teacher, kid or coach, artist or entrepreneur, we all want to make the most of our time and energy. When it comes to developing our talents, we could use an owner’s manual, something to say Do this, not that. We could use a master coach that tucks in our pocket. We could use a little book. …

Whatever talent you set out to build, from golfing to learning a new language to playing guitar to managing a startup, be assured of one thing: You are born with the machinery to transform beginner’s clumsiness into fast, fluent action. That machinery is not controlled by genes, it’s controlled by you. Each day, each practice session, is a step toward a different future. This is a hopeful idea, and the most hopeful thing about it is that it is a fact.”

~ Daniel Coyle from The Little Book of Talent

Daniel Coyle wrote the phenomenal book The Talent Code (see Notes) in which he describes how talent is constructed.

That book is all about myelin—which acts as a sort of insulator for electrical impulses and is a key driver to performing at a high level.

As Dan says in the appendix to this book, “In fact, studies show that myelin grows in proportion to the hours spent in practice. It’s a simple system, and can be thought of this way: Every time you perform a rep, your brain adds another layer of myelin to those particular wires. The more you practice, the more layers of myelin you earn, the more quickly and accurately the signal travels, and the more skill you acquire.”

After Dan and I traded emails to set up an interview, I realized I had yet to read this little book so I found it in the stacks and set it on the desk for the next morning. I woke up at 4am the next morning (a Sunday—yes, I was in bed at 8pm on a Saturday night, my idea of a party!) and devoured the book in one sitting before the family got up. In fact, I’m typing this at 6:37am eagerly anticipating our almost-three-year-old son Emerson yelling, “Dadddddeeeeeeee!” to let me know he’s up. :)

This book is an uber-practical companion guide to The Talent Code. As per the sub-title: “52 Tips for Improving Your Skills”—organized by the three phases of skill development: Igniting + Improving Skills + Sustaining Progress. If you’re looking to improve your skills and/or if you’re a coach/teacher/the kind of human looking to help others develop their skills, I think you’ll love this book as much as I did. (Get a copy here.)

I’m excited to share a handful of my favorite Big Ideas so let’s jump straight in!

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About the author


Daniel Coyle

Bestselling author of books on talent and success.