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By Allie Duzett
Have you ever wondered what makes some people great, and leaves others merely mediocre? Have you ever wished you could do something, but abandoned it because you had no talent for it?
Daniel Coyle’s The Talent Code (2009) contains good news: as the front cover states, “Greatness isn’t born. It’s grown.” Ambitiously, the front cover adds, “Here’s how.” However, the book lives up to its stated ambition, and does indeed explain how to grow talent.
The secret, Coyle explains, is in something called myelin: every time a person uses a neuron pathway, a layer of myelin grows around that pathway, strengthening it. Coyle compares it thusly: a neuron pathway starts out as a little path. Every time the pathway is used and a layer of myelin added, the path widens, until it becomes like a highway. These strengthened neural pathways are talent: the more myelin that has wrapped around a certain pathway, the easier it is to do that thing. Myelin is the key to talent.
Myelin is built through deep practice.
You won’t find a political slant in this book. However, it could be argued that the concept of the book has a very conservative slant—because The Talent Code shows clearly that anyone can become successful, regardless of your skin color, income level, or the odds stacked against you. The amount of money you have and even your genetics matter much less than the amount of time you spend practicing, which is why destitute Brazilians become some of the best soccer players in the world. The message that anyone can become “talented” through years of deep practice is a scientific one, but also a conservative one. Through years of struggle and practice, anyone can develop the talents they need to rise above their given station in life.
This is a fantastic book, an intriguing book, one that in my opinion every conservative—any person of any slant, really—should read. Five out of five stars.
Allie Duzett is a musician–thanks to 18 years of deep practice. Her musical instrument collection currently includes around two dozen instruments, notably including a bowed psaltery, a Hungarian dulcimer, and many woodwinds from across the United States and Eastern Europe.