3 ways to become talented at anything

In my last article I outlined six ways that leaders can attract and hang on to top talent. It’s a big challenge for businesses these days considering how fluid people are becoming in terms of employment and how easy it is for other businesses to source, poach and win them over. 

So how do we define talent? And how do we pursue it ourselves?

It is compelling to want to make ourselves more talented in our chosen career paths, make ourselves desirable to other businesses and valued by our employers? 
Where does talent come from? 

In his book The Talent Code, Daniel Coyle explores this question thoroughly backed by his research into high-performing businesses and the people within them.

The good news? Talent isn’t predetermined; instead it’s a lifelong process.

With the right levels of motivation and discipline and a commitment to practice, we all have the potential for greatness. To keep things straightforward, Coyle outlines three key elements that will allow you to develop your skills and optimise your performance, in whatever skill it is you have on your horizons. 

1. Deep Practice– This seems obvious. Of course you need to practice to get better at something. You need to practice a lot. Regular practice is one thing but ‘deep’ practice consists of embracing a process whereby you “chunk up the task” or break it down into bite-size chunks. You then intensely learn and master each bit sized chunk (or unit) to the point where you get a deep understanding (or ability to perform) of each unit.

This methodology of breaking it down makes learning the skill a lot more do-able and allows you to be less resistant to starting. If you are learning the piano for example you can’t expect to master Chopin’s Nocturn in E-Flat Major straight away. Instead you learn how to do each singular note; and you learn it thoroughly.

Look at children learning how to do maths, they study and learn the basics first; times tables, simple addition and subtraction, before they move on to harder trigonometry. This approach is great for so many things, particularly if you are prone to procrastinate and put off those tasks that seem too big and overwhelming. Break it down. Do it bit by bit.  And then schedule it into your day. This ‘deliberate’ practice allows you to carve out some time each week, or each day, to be focussed and deliberate in your approach to learning your new skill. If possible remove all distractions; turn off your phone, silence your notifications, go off-site, whatever it takes to stay focussed and committed and make the most of the dedicated time you have. And of course, try to engage a coach, an expert in the field to help you learn, to teach you, but more on coaching later.

 Josh Kaufrman identifies the ’20 hour rule’ in his book and suggests it takes just 20 hours of deliberate and focussed practice, to become reasonably competent in a new skill. 

2. Ignition–Deep practice is hard. The driving force behind it is motivation or a passion to succeed.

Staying motivated is one of the key defining factors that is going to separate the ‘talented’ from the ‘not so talented’. A higher level of commitment, held by those with a passion to achieve, comes from our deepest desires and is triggered by certain primal cues and our brain signals. 

Developing skills depends on myelin growth (a brain chemical affecting your neural circuits) which requires you to practice in a way that pushes you to the edge of your current capabilities so that you make mistakes and learn from them. Some people seem naturally more motivated, focussed and committed than others. But rest assured almost no one can develop their talents all by themselves. We all have people around us; be it managers, colleagues, teachers and coaches whose job it is to train and motivate, teach and inspire and keep us on track to achieve our goals.

A3. Master Coaching– It stands to reason then that it is the quality of the ‘coaches’ in our lives that determine our success. Most effective coaches or ‘talent whisperers’ as Coyle refers to them are those who can truly inspire; they fuel the passion, encourage deep practice, and bring out the best in their students.

So my advice? Surround yourself with these people; and try to be the person for those in your team if you have a skill others are trying to master.

If you want to learn how to be a leader, find the very best one and have them as a mentor. Want your child to learn how to ride a horse? Find someone really good at it and have them teach them. Giving yourself the best opportunity to excel in your chosen skill will help exponentially by learning from the right people. 

Speaking of which, I’m pretty good at getting people together to collaborate and get on track to business success. I’d love to talk to you about your workshop and coaching needs. If you and your team want to kick off the year on the right foot, get in touch today, I’d love to help.

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