After reading books like The First 20 Hours and The Art of Learning, it felt like something was missing. I understood how to learn or develop a skill effectively — both of those books give some pretty great practical advice on how to go about it. I didn’t, however, understand why those techniques worked, particularly in terms of how they affect our brains.
Part of the reason for my lack of understanding was that we simply don’t know all that much about how our brains react to learning. Although cognitive neuroscience is a fast-moving scientific discipline, we’re still pretty much in the dark about how our brains work.
But we do know enough to at least present some tangible reason why particular approaches to learning are so effective. That’s where The Talent Code comes in.
Coyle goes deep enough into the neuroscience for you to get your head around things without getting too bogged down in terminology and detail. He explains myelination, the process of ‘insulating’ your neural pathways (the pathways connecting your brain cells) and therefore making them more effective (e.g. improving your skills). Suddenly deliberate practice (another name for the specific techniques for learning effectively) becomes a method for insulating your brain cells, making it all feel a little more real — I found this really helpful in keeping motivated.
Alongside the neuroscience, Coyle provides tons more detail on the practical aspects of deliberate practice, laying out how to apply it to your own life. The examples that he provides, coming from a wide range of disciplines (mostly sport and music), are another great source of motivation.
In the end, the myelin stuff alone makes it a must-read.