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The Little Book of Talent

52 Tips for Improving Your Skills

By Daniel Coyle
10-minute read
Audio available
The Little Book of Talent by Daniel Coyle

The Little Book of Talent (2012) shares tried and tested methods of developing skills from top performers and talent hotbeds around the world. From sports players to musicians, anyone can easily apply these strategies and reach their full potential. 

  • People who want to improve their skills and talent
  • Teachers and coaches looking for new methods
  • Anyone curious about talent development

Daniel Coyle is a journalist and expert on skills acquisition and talent. He’s worked with professional sports teams, schools, and military special forces, and he’s also written for publications like Sports Illustrated and the New York Times Magazine. His books include The Talent Code, Hardball, and the New York Times best-seller Lance Armstrong’s War.

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The Little Book of Talent

52 Tips for Improving Your Skills

By Daniel Coyle
  • Read in 10 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 6 key ideas
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The Little Book of Talent by Daniel Coyle
Synopsis

The Little Book of Talent (2012) shares tried and tested methods of developing skills from top performers and talent hotbeds around the world. From sports players to musicians, anyone can easily apply these strategies and reach their full potential. 

Key idea 1 of 6

Find role models to emulate and mentally engrave the desired skill in your mind.

Everyone knows talent when they see it. The gravity-defying feats of dancers leave us in awe, and we can’t take our eyes off of athletes at the top of their game. Even in our daily lives, something done exceptionally well gives us pause, be it a mind-blowing restaurant meal or a superb work presentation. 

Many assume that talents like these are natural gifts and that such abilities are simply innate. But as it turns out, this isn’t quite true. 

Talent has more to do with our actions than what we inherit. With the right approach, we can all become as skilled as those we admire. The first step is to see ourselves in their shoes.

The key message here is: Find role models to emulate and mentally engrave the desired skill in your mind.

When we encounter talented people with whom we identify, we start believing that we can be just as good. And this feeling is a strong motivation to develop a talent. 

Many talent incubators have benefited from this phenomenon. South Korea, for example, didn’t have a single player in the 1997 Ladies Professional Golf Association Tour. But when Se Ri Pak won the championship in 1998, she inspired hundreds of women in her country. Four years later, there were over 40 South Korean women on the tour. And what’s more, they won about a third of all the events. 

Even the smallest connection can light a spark. For instance, discovering that we share a birthday with a mathematician can increase the effort we put into math problems by about 60 percent. 

So, if we want to become great at something, we should find role models among the best in that field. We will kickstart our motivation by flooding our brains with images of them, whether pictures and posters on the wall or online videos and imagining ourselves in the action.

While we’re focusing on these images, we should also pay close attention to exactly how they do what they do. This is the next step in mastering a skill. 

By observing a skill being performed over and over, we create vivid mental roadmaps to follow when we practice. With physical skills, this means noting every movement and imagining our own bodies repeating it. In more cerebral pursuits, it’s learning and emulating the thinking patterns involved. For instance, chess players watch and replay classic games to analyze and absorb strategy. Following their lead, we too should closely study the craft we’d like to master.

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