On a flight to Houston from San Diego, I sat down and I read the The Little Book of Talent by Daniel Coyle.
My first impression was that this book is delivered in the same way that I teach. Small concise chunks of information that are immediately applicable. I really enjoyed that.
The book gives specific actions along with specific examples, usually along with the science behind why each of these things works so well in building skills. A lot of the lessons I read about in the book I have already been applying to martial arts, music, and training with great success. There were several new pieces of the puzzle as well that I will be looking to implement. The shortness of the book and layout makes it very easy to reference if you forget one of the many excellent advices for maximizing skill acquisition.
One thing that struck me was something that I had been tossing around nebulously in my head these past few weeks but hadn’t found a concrete way of describing it. He states in one area that to maximize improvement one should “Choose Spartan over Luxurious” because “luxury is a motivational narcotic: It signals our unconscious minds to give less effort. It whispers, relax, you’ve made it.”
This really struck a chord with me because I feel at this point, having bought a home this year and remodeled it to exactly what I want (and hiring a housekeeper), that same sense of “you’ve made it-ness.” I could feel myself, almost immediately becoming less motivated to do work and more likely to put things off. He goes on to write that the top schools and training facilities in the world are very austere and unremarkable (Rocky IV, anyone?)
I’m not going to sell my house and move into a cave just yet, but I do plan on deliberately engaging in some of my practice in a less luxurious environment.
A couple other tips in the book that immediately resonated with me were:
“Choose five minutes a day over an hour a week.”
5 Minute Flow.
“Stop before you’re exhausted.”
This is another one that I already implement, simply by a different name.
One last bit that I’ll share with you is regarding busting through plateau’s. Simply put, you need to shift to a different practice method. I like to think of a plateau as a wall in your path. Don’t let it be the end of the road–you need to go around it. So if you’re playing a sport, don’t change sports entirely (tennis to rugby). Instead, change the nature of the practice (hitting against a wall, playing in a smaller court, playing with backhands only for X amount of shots, only hit to the left side of the court, etc). It may take awhile, but you’ll get there.
This book is a great resource for anyone looking to improve their skills—in anything. Yes some of it will sound like common sense, but just to have it as a reference for your better-every-day-ness is, I think, invaluable.
Better every day,