The Little Book of Talent

Book Review

The Little Book of Talent: 52 Tips for Improving Your Skills, by Daniel Coyle, is divided into 3 sections: Getting Started, Improving Skills, and Sustaining Progress.

Here are the tips that resonated with me:

The Little Book of Talent by Daniel Coyle

Getting Started:

bullet point Tip #2: Closely observe an expert perform the moves you're trying to learn. The idea is to watch the movements repeatedly until you can almost feel yourself doing the same moves. So, instead of copying an artist's painting (a common practice at certain art schools), repeatedly watch a video of the artist making the painting, or a portion of the painting, until you feel you can attempt an approximation.

bullet point Tip #9: This one is about how to practice what Coyle calls a "soft skill," one that doesn't require following a strict set of instructions. He recommends making many varied attempts and suspending judgement while you work. Then, at the end of a practice session, ask yourself "what worked, what didn't, and why." The steps of both making and reflecting are equally important.

Improving Skills:

bullet point Tip #16: Pick one small element, or "chunk," of something you're working on, and aim to perfect one chunk each day. Coyle refers to this as SAP: smallest achievable perfection. (This relates to another tip that says to make your practice session about achieving a certain number of quality repetitions rather than about working for an arbitrary amount of time.)

Sustaining Progress:

bullet point Tip #49 has good suggestions for moving beyond a rut or plateau such as speeding things up, slowing them down, or reversing their order. Advice from previous tips applies here, too, such as shrinking the practice space, turning drills into games, and exaggerating your moves.

bullet point Tip #52, the last one, is "Think like a gardener, work like a carpenter." Be patient, practice every day, and keep the big picture in mind. You'll get there!


The Little Book of Talent

Daniel Coyle

Random House, 2012

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