How to foster your talent

There’s more to succeeding than natural ability, says Sarah Neish. Here’s how to build your skill


How to foster your talent

Love your mistakes

We crave flawless performance, but mistakes strengthen talent, says Daniel Coyle, author of The Talent Code. ‘Each time you stumble, your mind sharpens as it tries to correct the mistake.’ To improve, reach just beyond your present ability. The gap between what you know and what you want to know is where you’ll learn most.

Slow it down

Going slowly lets your brain register what it’s doing at each step of the process. ‘It’s like a working blueprint,’ says Coyle. ‘For example, if you want to learn a piece of sheet music, cut it into strips, and select random strips to practise.’ Tackling individual components before attempting the whole task will help you to improve.

Practice doesn’t always make perfect

Clocking up practice hours is only effective if you’re focused the whole time. Research shows that even world-class pianists, chess players and athletes only practise for three to five hours a day. ‘After you depart the deep-practice zone there’s little benefit in carrying on,’ says Coyle. How long you stay in the zone differs for everyone. Stopping early doesn’t mean you aren’t dedicated.

Reignite motivation

‘Any talent requires motivational fuel, an emotional response such as fascination or love,’ says Coyle. A study by Dr Gary Macpherson shows it’s this emotional reaction that makes you learn faster, not innate skill. He asked 157 music students how long they expected to play their instrument. Those who said ‘long-term’ outperformed the rest by 400 per cent, with identical practice hours. Talent needs passion to grow, so refresh yours by watching, listening to or reading about your hobby.

'The Talent Code' by Daniel Coyle is out now

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