the talent code

Last Updated on January 3, 2023 by Andrew Pirie

Talent Identification: The Talent Code

What is the secret of talent? How do we unlock it? In this groundbreaking work, journalist and New York Times bestselling author Daniel Coyle provides parents, teachers, coaches, business people—and everyone else—with tools they can use to maximize potential in themselves and others.

Whether you’re coaching soccer or teaching a child to play the piano, writing a novel, or trying to improve your golf swing, this revolutionary book shows you how to grow talent by tapping into a newly discovered brain mechanism.

Drawing on cutting-edge neurology and firsthand research gathered on journeys to nine of the world’s talent hotbeds—from the baseball fields of the Caribbean to a classical-music academy in upstate New York—Coyle identifies the three key elements that will allow you to develop your gifts and optimize your performance in sports, art, music, math, or just about anything.

The Talent Code

Where does extraordinary talent come from?

Daniel Coyle comes up with an intriguing answer, in The Talent Code, a highly readable account of the neuroscience of skill and talent.

Though popular perception has often regarded talent as something otherworldly –  a gift of the gods, perhaps, and certainly nothing that anyone could do anything about – in fact, accormodern neuroscience, talent is much more mundane, being nothing more than the wiring of chains of neural circuits inside the brain.

The Talent Code

It all has to do with myelin, the substance that insulates the synaptic connections between the neurons.

It all has to do with myelin, the substance that insulates the synaptic connections between the neurons. Every human skill is the result of the formation of such synaptic chains of nerve fibers. When brain circuits are fired the right way, myelin is generated, insulating those connections, and making the signal flowing through them clearer, stronger, and faster.

According to Coyle, the degree of this insulation is what is responsible for talent. The more time and energy, you put into the right practice. Hence the more myelin is deposited on those neural circuits associated with that practice, the more talent you achieve.

It is as if the brain builds more broadband for those activated circuits in the right way. The right way is that of deep practice.  Hence, one of the three key ingredients is responsible for creating the neural architecture of talent. At the same time, the other two identified by Coyle are ignition and master coaching.

The Talent Code

What is deep practice?

It is the struggle against that which is just beyond the grasp of one’s ability. Struggling with something difficult makes you smarter because it signals the brain to start building more broadband in repose. The struggle is not optional – it is neurologically required. For a skill circuit to fire optimally, it must first fire suboptimally; in other words, it must first fail. You must make mistakes and pay attention to them if you are to become skilled. And you must keep up the practice, firing that skill circuit until enough myelin is built up around it.

This insight is revolutionary because it suggests that talent can be manufactured. All you need is a space where you can practice making errors, and struggling until you can overcome them. It is also counter-intuitive because we imagine that the person with talent somehow does a thing right the first time.

But deep practice takes place in the narrow gap between what you already know and what you need to do. This deep practice does not involve threshing. There exists a “sweet spot” between your skill and what you’re reaching to achieve. It is in that gap that talent is born. How exactly does one do this?

The Talent Code

Talent Identification Coyle enumerates further aspects of deep practice:

  1. absorb the whole thing;
  2. break it into parts or “chunks”;
  3. slowly practice each part;
  4. repetition.

But practice alone is not enough. You need to love what you’re doing; you need the desire to achieve a goal – you need fire. Without such a deep need to practice every day, you will never develop talent because you will never endure long years of necessary deep practice. Coyle calls this desire ignition.

The Talent Code


Ignition is faith in oneself, or, more specifically, in one’s ultimate achievement of the idealized self. It is a belief that one is a musician, a writer, or a signer, and this faith is the zeal that motivates the long years of deep practice necessary to materialize that idealized self.

The ignition can be kept alive by a good mentor, teacher, or coach. Good coaching has everything to do with helping the student learn techniques to overcome failure. A good teacher knows the subject, the student, and how to help the student connect to the subject, and he keeps the flame of the ignition going by helping the student believe in himself.

Faith is of the key elements that differentiate those who can commit to the long march that deep practice requires and those who were not. Those who believe that they will ultimately reach the end will do so. But those who lose hope will fail to put in the necessary years of deep practice to become talented.

The book is highly inspiring. Its message deeply affirms human potential to achieve almost anything one desires if only one has the determination to put in the requisite amount of deep practice. It’s filled with thought-provoking information. And its insights have important implications for other aspects of the human experience beyond talent and skill.

The Talent Code

The processes described by Coyle, for example, also apply to problems such as

  • depression,
  • anxiety
  • OCD and many other disorders of the brain,

In conclusion, suggesting that overcoming these problems is a matter of developing new circuitry in the brain by practicing having different thoughts.

The Talent Code

Hence one of the thought-provoking aspects is

  1. the idea that once we learn skills to the point
  2. where they become second nature
  3. they pass into the unconscious mind
  4. a storehouse of all such skills
  5. through something called automaticity.

But skills and talent are not the only circuits that become part of the unconscious, as anyone who ever heard of Freud will no doubt know; maladaptive circuits hide there, too. While, in turn, makes one think about who and what we are.

Also, in Circuits, deeply insulted by myelin, our personalities seem to be just gray matter patterns.

But if this seems depressing, it also has a silver lining: we can change, no matter who we are and how afflicted we seem to be.

The Talent Code

So we need that

  1. spark of ignition
  2. the faith in the ultimate success
  3. the fire to start the deep practice of new thoughts
  4. behaviors and new selves.

Article on Talent Identification Placement for Speed and Power Athletes 

The Talent Code


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By Andrew Pirie

Andrew was elected Vice President of the Association of Track and Field Statisticians in 2020 after being a member for 7 years. He has worked as a PSC Consultant and Research Assistant from 2013-2015, Consultant, and Sprint Coach at Zamboanga Sports Academy from 2015-2017. And Currently is Consultant Coach with VMUF 2021- Current editor and chief of, and has recently done consultancy work for Ayala Corp evaluating the Track and Field Program. Coaches Sprints, Middle and Jump events he is  Level 3 Athletics Australia Coaching Certification in Sprints and Hurdles. Currently working towards a Masters Degree in Education. He can be contacted on [email protected] You can find more information on Coaching here

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