When I graduated college, my dad gifted me The Little Book of Talent by Daniel Coyle. I was just starting out in the real world, with a lot of aspirations and goals. The book was designed to help me find my own talents along the way. And every couple of days or weeks I would pick up the book and read one of the 52 tips and found myself inspired and energized to hone the talents I possess. I am doing this again in 2022.
Daniel Coyle wrote The Little Book of Talent after a magazine assignment had him visiting talent hotbeds around the world. What started as a collection of notes marked by electric-pink post-its in his journal to share with his family and use back home became this book of practical tips for improving skills. And Coyle managed to do the thing I respect most in nonfiction authors – he kept it concise, witty and inspiring.
In August of 2021, the same book was recommended to a room of CEOs and leaders by decorated military leader, retired Lt. Col. Scott Mann. In his opening keynote on the Power of Story, Scott talked about how great leaders are made, not born. And that we can always improve.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle
Set the tone for your new year with some highlights from Coyle’s first set of tips, ‘Getting Started:’
– Stare at who you want to become. Focus observations on the people you want to become. Use visuals and videos and create habits to watch them regularly, before you practice or sleep.
– Spend 15 minutes a day engraving the skill on your brain. Watch the skill you want to develop in experts, with great intensity, over and over again. Or better yet, do it again and truly feel the process.
– Steal without apology. Look at the top performers, see what works and focus on specific actions. “Good artists borrow. Great artists steal.” Pablo Picasso. We expect (encourage) this at TeamStrength.
– Buy a notebook. It does not matter the precise form, it simply matters that you write stuff down and reflect on it. Results from today. Ideas for tomorrow. Goals for next week.
– Be willing to be stupid. Be willing to risk the emotional pain of making mistakes. Reaching, failing and reaching again is the way your brain grows and forms new connections.
– Choose spartan over luxurious. The point of this one isn’t moral, it’s neural. Simple, humble spaces focus the attention on the practice at hand.
– Before you start, decide if it’s a hard skill (repeatable precision) or a soft skill (agile & interactive).
– To build hard skills, work like a careful carpenter: be precise (especially early on), measured and go slowly. Focus on the fundamentals, invest in the pathway and build from there.
– To build soft skills, experiment like a skateboarder: play and explore inside challenging and changing environments. Focus on volume, variety and don’t worry too much about making errors.
– Honor the hard skills. Talents can be a combination of hard and soft skills, but focus on the hard skills – the practice, technique and fundamentals. Build the trunk first, then work on the branches.
– Don’t fall the for the prodigy myth. Early success is a weak predictor of long-term success. Don’t quit, continue to experiment. Never stop trying to get better.
– Pick a high-quality teacher or coach. Avoid someone who gladhands you. Find someone who scares you a little, gives you short & clear directions, loves the fundamentals and has earned their skill by practicing it over time (all things being equal – pick the older person).
Keep these tips top of mind in your 2022 plan, and share this powerful little book with your top talent.