Introducing Your Talent-Tip Hall of Fame


We just arrived in Alaska, where we’re spending a big chunk of the summer. So far, everything’s going well: family and friends are healthy, weather’s been solid, and during this morning’s coffee, we had an official welcoming committee: a newborn moose calf and its mother ambling through the backyard.

Speaking of arrivals, it’s exactly 10 weeks until The Little Book of Talent publication date (August 21). As a way of marking the countdown, I’d like to update one of my favorite posts from about a year and a half ago, when I asked you readers to name the single best tip — the best advice, the best strategy, the best practice tool — they’ve ever received.

Your responses (all 71 of them) were terrific — so terrific, in fact, that it seems a shame to let them be buried in the comments section of the old post. So with that in mind, I’ve combed through the tips and selected my top four favorites.

  • 1) Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast (from Greg Sumpter)

I think we typically want to learn a skill as quickly as possible, and be done with learning it. If we could only slow down, break things down into small reproducible parts, and excel in a smoother way, we would get to the end product with excellence much more quickly.

Why I like it: Because it keeps me focused on what really counts: being accurate and efficient, and letting the speed come later.

  • 2) Start with the End in Mind (Bill Dorenkott, Head Coach of Ohio State Women’s Swim Team)

My 20-minute drive to work allows me quiet time to employ this rule for my day, week and season. I find it much easier to reverse-engineer a challenge than to fly by the seat of my pants.

Why I like it: Because there’s a huge gap between mere activity and targeted work; this saves me time.

  • 3) Cultivate Awareness (Kent Bassett)

Instead of engaging in a running commentary about all the mistakes to avoid, and keeping a list of all the mistakes made, you should cultivate awareness. It fires the more unconscious, creative part of the mind. You can even say to yourself, “I’m going to play this passage, and I’m not going to try to avoid mistakes. I might even try to make mistakes.” This counter-intuitive technique allows you to play more freely, and often, with fewer mistakes.

Why I like it: Because  rather than getting governed by your mistakes (always a danger), this helps you focus on mastering them.

  • 4) Feel pain, not hurt (Markus)

Feeling pain is a signal of growing and improving. [Feeling] hurt is a signal of stop which pause the flow of skill development.

Why I like it: Because it makes clear the useful distinction between good pain (stretch, struggle, reach) and bad pain (ouch).

What I really like, however, is the idea that this master list of talent-development tips exists, and that we can make it even more useful by sharing it and adding to it as time goes on. So with that in mind, here’s the entire list, along with a question: what are your favorites? What new tips need to be added?

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5 Responses to “Introducing Your Talent-Tip Hall of Fame”

  1. Wendy says:

    Be humble, yet hungry.

    I use this with the athletes and leaders that I coach and teach. The concept is quite clear… to always be humble in all that you do, but never be complacent in your current condition, always strive and be hungry to improve.

  2. Markus says:

    My pleasure to be mentioned in this article. Recently,I have been cultivating the skill of talent growing in theory & practice. Hope that I can share my story about that to you in the coming year.

  3. Cody says:

    Thanks for this, the “begin with the end in mind” really brought some new thoughts into this old head. I have read that people tend to solve problems much better when they focus on the solution and not the problem, I think this is a great way to do just that. It also made me think of “confirmation bias” and how it ties into problem solving. (I understand confirmation bias to be the natural tendency for humans to support or fulfill a belief by picking out and accepting only the information or facts that support that belief) The way I use confirmation bias is as an agent of change, specifically to my perspective. For example, most of my adult life I have been a depressed person, but when I learned about confirmation bias I decided to try to use it to be happy. So I simply tried to make myself believe I was a happy person and not a “depressed person” and whenever something challenges that belief I refute the contrary evidence and look for different evidence, evidence that I am happy. I have been doing it for about a month now and I will say it is working great, although there some other things that might be helping, some supplements I have been taking ect. Anyway, the point is when you begin with the end in mind, and perhaps believe it will come true, then you will start to pick out information to help fulfill that belief. In other words, its a self fulfilling prophecy. Anyway feel free to play around with confirmation bias, but be careful, beliefs are powerful things. Here is an extreme example how confirmation bias plays out in peoples lives. The video is of a martial artist who believes in the touchless attack putting that belief on the line vs an MMA fighter. The touchless attack is an attack where you strike the opponenet without actually touching them, using a sortof energy force. The students in the video believe in it so it works on them, wheras the mma fighter does not, so it does not work on him. When confronted with the refuting evidence (MMA fighter) people who believe in the touchless attack simply change there perspective to account for the discrepancy between this evidence and their belief. Coming up with theories like “he ran out of mana”. Note, im not saying the touchless attack is not real, I think its very real if both the master and his opponents both believe in it enough. However it appears not to work on people who do not believe in it. Or maybe he really did just run out of mana *shrugs*

  4. Elizabeth Kane says:

    Nice tips to remember! I like to deep practice the hard parts of a musical piece before I start practicing it as a whole. I started using this method when I prepared for concerto competitions as a kid. After a few run throughs of a piece, I’d sit down and pick my nastiest spots (measures, phrases) that were giving me the most grief. Then I’d star those sections with a pencil and limit my practice for the first week only playing those measures.

    Can’t wait to read your new book!

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