The Sweet Spot Lies in ‘The Talent Code’

the talent codeThe Talent Code, written by Daniel Coyle, argues that humans are not born with talent. Instead, talent is acquired through hard work, deep practice and a total belief in oneself no matter how difficult the circumstances.

In the first chapter, Coyle discusses a variety of ideas. First, the title of this chapter, “The Sweet Spot,” is interesting because he identifies this as the gap between your knowledge and the application of that knowledge. This gap is related to “deep practice,” which takes us to the main idea of The Talent Code. According to Coyle, deep practice has a major impact on one’s skills and goals; he demonstrates this with an example of a girl who achieved a month’s worth of practice in six minutes. Clarissa was known among her parents and teachers to be lacking in musical talent, but she became a famous figure in the world of music. She ignored the concept of the inner gifts and started taking action through deep practice. She accelerated her learning speed by 10 times; every time she misses a note she puts aside the clarinet to look carefully at the note then she starts over and plays the riff from the beginning. The more she practices, the more she achieves remarkable improvement. This shows that skills and talents are created, not innate.

The other crucial theme Coyle tackles in “The Sweet Spot” is the importance of myelin and its neurological responsibility for every human talent or skill. Myelin plays a vital role in our bodies, as the more it increases, the more it creates a thick insulator which allows our skills to develop stronger and faster. Our skills grow by following certain mechanisms such as the amount of time we practice, using speed, accuracy and good coaching. Coyle clarifies the concept of myelin as an aid in his journey of knowledge toward achieving an array of talents.

Coyle visited people of different nationalities in different places all over the world which really signifies his message as universal, and shows how keen he is to apply his theory of skill acquisition. He illustrates his viewpoint by giving two examples of Brunio and Jennie. Brunio is an eleven-year-old Brazilian football player who was trying to learn the “elastico,” which is a well-known football technique used by professional players. At first, he failed to learn it, but that didn’t stop Brunio from focusing and practicing repeatedly until he was able to accomplish the movement. Through this example, Coyle conveys the message that practice and persistence are the way to success.  The same thing applies to Jennie, a 24-year-old singer. She was struggling to sing, and after many failed attempts ,she was able to sing perfectly.

Although Brunio and Jennie have different interests, they share a common belief that failure is not a problem but rather, part of the learning process. This is how Coyle clarifies the idea of mistakes and makes them positive. The Talent Code suggests that one should not only accept one’s mistakes but rather, consider them inevitable and as a means to achieve success.

Among the claims Coyle discusses in his book are the themes of poverty and social boundaries. Although these are considered to hinder one’s ability to achieve success, Coyle is against this method of thinking. This is evident when he refers to the world’s best football players: Ronaldinho, Pelé, Romário, and Ronaldo. All of them hail from modest backgrounds yet they defied all social boundaries and instead of allowing desperation to end their dreams, they trained themselves in what “is regarded as the incubator of Brazilian soul, futsal.” Players in the futsal court used to spend thousands of hours in the game and they are also trained to learn plenty of soccer movements , one of which is the elastico.

Through the idea of the futsal court , Coyle moves seamlessly to another claim, which is spoon-feeding versus improvisation. He opposes the idea of spoon-feeding, saying that it kills creativity, and the futsal court is the healthiest atmosphere for a successful player because it gives space for players to improvise and not just receive orders from a coach. But one could argue against Coyle’s point of view by saying that it is similarly possible for us to imitate then innovate, and that’s what Simon Clifford did. Clifford was interested in futsal and so he created a similar court in his own house. Eventually, Clifford’s team became well- known and won over the Scottish national team. Moreover, Clifford’s school expanded around the world. So, Clifford started by copying the Brazilian secret weapon and then added to it, which made him famous.

In “The Sweet Spot,” Coyle also explains the idea of appearance versus reality. He explains that human beings are not judged by their looks, but rather, by their achievements. Take, for instance, an average, poor ambitious young man who was not good looking. But he saved America during the Airmail crisis in 1912. With his minor capabilities, he created an advanced system of pilot training, which the generals of the US Air Corps failed to achieve. Despite the fact that he was a rescuer, his theories were considered trivial and thus were ignored and overlooked until 1934, when the brave young man flew in a winter storm, which dazzled the Air Corps commanders, who approved of his methods. Thus, Link was able to train pilots uniquely, allowing them to practice deeply and make mistakes in order to learn from them. His learning method was considered to be brilliant.

In The Talent Code, Coyle succeeds in digging deep inside the human brain and unleashing restrictions on the human mind by stressing the ideas of deep practice , hard work and perseverance.

By Mona Salman