Patton's Picks from the PMA Library: The Talent Code

October 2020

If you're looking for book recommendations in the productivity and professional development genre, Patton offers a weekly summary of some of the essential and emerging titles from the PMA Library.

Looking for a way to convince yourself that talent isn't innate? That talent is something you can forge for yourself, that it's someting you could start picking up right now? Maybe you've tried Mindset, Deep Work , and Outliers but but still aren't quite convinced?! Daniel Coyle's The Talent Code brings a forceful argument for wrangling talent, and for confirming deep practice is more important than unattainable inherent gifts. Coyle's work showcases his extensive research into how your brain locks down new skills, what the talented people are doing, and what lessons they've learned from their mentors. Below are my three takeaways from Coyle's book, which at the end of the day is an inspiring account of one man's research into exploring talent and a guide to locking in yours.


  1. First comes Practice. You've known about this since you were a kid taking piano lessons, perhaps curious as to why you showed up for your lesson and never got any better. Coyle gives his readers a quick neuroscience lesson, reminding us about the brain science behind MYELIN, which serves as a protective layer over your axon's, through which electrons travel. The more myelin that's built up, securing the pathway between axons, the faster and better you become in accomplishing any task. At the end of the day, YOU are responsible for putting in the hours needed to build up that myelin. The more you have, the easier it gets. But rather than mindlessly repeating useless tasks and calling it "growth," deep practice is how you build myelin: repetition, mistakes, and correcting them. You must stretch yourself and utilize the adversity you recover from along the way.
  2. Then comes tapping into your passion. I've always found that trying to force myself to do the important but non-urgent tasks has never been as effective as convincing myself why I should do them in the first place. You must bridge that disconnect between knowing you should be doing something every day vs. embracing that it's really important. (Looking for more ways to find inner motivation? Try The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz).
  3. Finally, learn from your coach. Probably the most exciting part of the book (sorry, neuroscientists) is Coyle's intel from researching successful athletes around the world. The author notes John Wooden's tactics of providing different feedback to his players: using his deep understanding of their strengths and personalities, telling them they're different, and treating them accordingly. He notes that where talent hotbeds have emerged around the world ( such as soccer in Brazil, tennis in Russia, etc.) create lots of opportunity for deep practice, learning from mistakes, and valuable competition. 
Daniel Coyle is a contributing editor for Outside magazine and the author of six books, including the New York Times bestseller, Lance Armstrong's War. His latest book is The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups, published January 2018. Winner (with Hamilton) of the 2012 William Hill Sports Book of the Year Prize, he is a contributing editor for Outside Magazine, and works as a special advisor to the Cleveland Indians. Coyle lives in Cleveland, Ohio during the school year and in Homer, Alaska, during the summer with his wife Jen, and their four children.