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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