The Simple Truth of How Talent Grows

I went snowboarding last week. It was the first time I’d gone in ten years, and I made a remarkable discovery on the mountain.

Or, perhaps, a better way to describe my discovery would be that I received confirmation of what I’ve been learning from Daniel Coyle’s The Talent Code.

My friend and I snowboarded down two parts of the mountain that day:

  1. The trails that were narrow, a bit icy and crowded
  2. The “meadows” that were wide open, fluffed with powder and free

We didn’t make it to the “meadows” until later in the day, and that was a very good thing. That’s because real talent develops when you force yourself into a narrow situation. A situation where you have no choice but to face your mistakes, correct them quickly, and get lots of reps. And that’s what exactly the narrow icy trails forced me to do.

Take Brazilian soccer players as an example:

Daniel Coyle found that the reason Brazil is able to consistently put out world-class soccer teams despite not having many open fields to play on is that the children grow up playing Futsal. Futsal is soccer that’s played indoor on a smaller field and with a smaller, heavier ball.

These young players touch the ball significantly more times on small courts with a heavy ball than their counterparts in other countries who play on large fields with great space and a lighter ball do.

Their demand for precise turning and correcting your mistakes is much greater in futsal.

So what happens when these futsal players step onto a regulation sized field to play? They dominate. The new space is a game-changer and reveals just how good futsal has made them.

Here’s another example…

When I was in middle school, a classmate of mine who was a stellar football player wore ankle weights to school. He said it was to make him faster, because once he got onto the football field and broke off the weights, he felt weightless.

It was the same situation for me when I switched from the narrow icy slopes to the powdered meadows…

Carving and turning was 100x easier on the “meadows” after forcing myself to make sharp turns and correct mistakes all day on the ice.

If you want to develop a talent, limit yourself. Put yourself on a narrow, icy slope at the edge of your abilities. Force yourself to make and correct mistakes.

Michael Jordan’s kids will never be as good as him because they’ve grown up with a full-sized court in their house. They’ve never had to play on a small backyard court dribbling in tight corners like their Dad.

That’s the surest way to develop talent.

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