The Little Book of Talent: 52 Tips for Improving Your Skills


A very succinct book which does an excellent job of quickly laying out tips that will help you in achieving any type of skill you want to acquire. May be simple, but certainly not easy

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Key Takeaways
  1. Know exactly what the skill you are trying to acquire is and then begin to chunk it into the smallest imaginable parts
  2. Repetition is the single most important tool we have to acquire skills. Small actions, repeated over time, transform us
  3. Have fun and enjoy it, make training a game as often as you can
  4. Constantly push yourself to be in your sweet spot, just out of your comfort zone where you make mistakes and realize those mistakes immediately and get clear and immediate feedback
What I got out of it:
  1. An enormously powerful book which if taken to heart can have life changing effects.
  • Visited hotbeds of talent and produced a book with practical tips for improving skills
  • View on talent has changed from it being inborn to relying more on your actions - intensive action and motivation that produces brain growth
  • 3 Stages - getting started, improving skills and sustaining progress
  1. Getting started
    • Stare at who you want to become
    • Spend 15 minutes per day engraving the skill on your brain
      • Watch the skill being performed over and over again until you have a mental blueprint and can feel yourself performing the skill without actually doing it
    • Steal without apology - concrete and specific information
    • Buy a notebook - results from today, ideas for tomorrow, goals for next week (helps create clarity)
    • Be willing to be stupid - pushing your limits will sometimes make you look stupid. Once a week you should make a decision that scares you
    • Choose Spartan over luxurious - luxury is a motivational narcotic
    • Before you start, figure out if it's a hard (repeatable precision) or soft (being flexible and interactive) skill
    • To build hard skills work slowly, precisely and measuredly  - the first repetitions are the most important
    • To build soft skills play and explore in challenging, every-changing environments - focus on high number of varied reps and getting clear feedback
    • Prioritize hard over soft skills
    • Don't fall for the prodigy myth - early success turns out to be a weak predictor of long-term success. Ignore praise early on
    • 5 ways to pick a high quality coach
      1. avoid someone who reminds you of a courteous waiter
      2. seek someone who scares you a little (watches you closely, is action oriented, is brutally honest)
      3. seek someone who gives short, clear directions
      4. seek someone who loves teaching fundamentals
      5. other things being equal, choose someone older
  2. Improving Skills - practice IS the big game, reach past your comfort zone, embrace repetition
    • Find the sweet spot - reaching beyond your comfort zone and pushing your skills
    • Take off your watch - count reaches/reps instead of time spent practicing
    • Break every move down into chunks
      1. What is the smallest single element of this skill that I can master?
      2. What other chunks link to that chunk
      3. See the whole skill, break it down to its simplest elements, put it back together, repeat
    • Each day, try to build one perfect chunk - one baby step at a time
    • Embrace struggle
    • Choose 5 minutes a day over an hour a week - but must be ruthless about fixing every tiny mistake
    • Don't do "drills," instead play small, addictive games
    • Practice alone - world class performers spent 5x as much time practicing alone
    • Think in images - make every chunk an image
    • Pay attention immediately after you make a mistake and what you can do to fix it - take mistakes seriously, but never personally
    • Visualize the wires of your brain forming new connections
    • Visualize the wires of your brain getting faster
    • Shrink the space
    • Slow it down (even slower than you think) - not about how fast you can do it. It's how slowly you can do it correctly
    • Close your eyes - gets your to your sweet spot by pushing your limits quicker
    • Mime it - practice without actually doing it (swing without ball, etc)
    • When you get it right, mark the spot
    • Take a nap - helps brain form and strengthen new connections
    • To learn a new move, exaggerate it
    • Make positive reaches - focus on the positive move, not the negative one (positive framing)
    • To learn from a book, close the book - read X pages once, and then summarize
    • Use the sandwich technique - make the correct move, make the incorrect move, make the correct move
    • Use the 3 x 10 Technique - practice something 3 times with 10 minute reps between each rep
    • Invent daily tests - helps hone and focus the desired skill
    • To choose the best practice method - use the R.E.P.S. gauge
      1. Reaching and repeating
      2. Engagement
      3. Purposefulness
      4. Strong, speedy feedback
    • Stop before you're exhausted
    • Practice immediately after performance - helps you target your weak points as they are fresh in your head
    • Just before sleep, watch a mental movie - play a movie of your idealized performance
    • End on a positive note
    • 6 ways to be a better teacher or coach
      1. Use the first few seconds to connect on an emotional level - humor most effective but make sure you show you care
      2. Avoid giving long speeches and deliver vivid chunks of information
      3. Be allergic to mushy language
      4. Make a scorecard for learning - you are what you count
      5. Maximize "reachfulness" - create environments where students are pushed beyond their comfort zone, but not excessively so. Flip the classroom - have students listen to lectures at home and perform the skill during "class" time
      6. Aim to create independent learners
  3. Sustaining Progress
    • Embrace repetition - repetition is the single most powerful lever we have to improve our skills as it wires our brains to be faster and more accurate
    • Have a blue collar set of mind
    • For every hour of competition, spend five hours practicing - competition is not conducive to improving quickly
    • Don't waste time trying to break bad habits - instead, build new ones
    • To learn it more deeply, teach it
    • Give a new skill a minimum of 8 weeks
    • When you get stuck, make a shift - if you hit a plateau, mix up your practice to rebuild a better, faster circuit (go faster or slower, reverse order, turn it inside out or upside down)
    • Cultivate your grit - not born with it but it is developed and it starts with awareness
    • Keep your big goals secret
    • Think like a gardener, work like a carpenter - think patiently without judgment. Work steadily, strategically, knowing that each piece connects to a larger whole

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