The Talent Myth: How to Maximise your Creative Potential

The Talent Myth: How to Maximise your Creative Potential

The new, emerging view in talent research, favours the argument that talent is borne more by our actions (i.e., the combination of intensive practice and motivation)  than our genes. Daniel Coyle outlines his collection of simple, practical tips  – all field-tested and scientifically sound – for improving these skills. These tips have been formulated and taken directly from the talent hotbeds he visited and the scientists who research them.

  • Look at who you want to become   Studies show that even brief connections with role models can vastly increase unconscious motivation.
  • Steal without apology Stealing, often entitled ‘influence’ has a long tradition in art, sports, and design. E.g., The young Steve Jobs stole the idea for the computer mouse and drop-down menus from the Xerox Palo Alto Research Centre
  •  Be willing to be stupid Some places encourage ‘productive mistakes’ by establishing rules that encourage people to take risks. Google offers ’20 per cent time’, where workers are given a portion of their work time to spend on private, non-approved projects they are passionate about, and thus ones for which they are more likely to take risks.
  • Choose spartan over luxurious Coyle argues that luxury is a motivational narcotic: it signals your unconscious mind to give less effort. Talent hotbeds are not luxurious. E.g., The world’s highest-performing schools – those in Finland and South Korea – feature austere classrooms that look as if they haven’t changed since the 1950s.
  •  Figure out if it’s a hard skill or a soft skill Hard skills and soft skills are different (both use different structures of circuits in your brain), and thus are developed through different methods of deep practice. Hard, high-precision skills are actions that are performed as correctly and consistently as possible, every time. Soft, high-flexibility skills, are those that have many paths to a good result, not just one.
  • Honour the hard skills Most talents are not exclusively hard skills or soft skills, but combinations of the two: Prioritise the hard skills – these are more important to your talent in the longrun. Many top performers place great importance on practising the same skills they practised as beginners.
  • Don’t fall for the prodigy myth. A well-established body of research shows that that that talent is an inheritance is false. In fact, early success turns out to be a weak predictor of long-term success.
  • Many top performers are overlooked early on, then grow quietly into stars. E.g.,  Charles Darwin (considered slow and ordinary by teachers), Walt Disney (fired from an early job because he “lacked imagination”), Albert Einstein, Louis Pasteur, Paul Gauguin, Thomas Edison, Leo Tolstoy, Fred Astaire, Winston Churchill, Lucille Ball, and so on. One theory, put forth by Dr Carol Dweck of Stanford University, is that the praise and attention prodigies receive leads them to instinctively protect their ‘magical’ status by taking fewer risks, which eventually slows their learning.


If you have early success, do your best to ignore the praise and keep pushing yourself to the edges of your ability, where improvement happens. If you don’t have early success, don’t quit. For a full look at the article please visit


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