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  #21  
Old 07-21-2009
terry terry is offline
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As I mentioned I've finished reading -- and assiduously annotating -- The Talent Code and begun doing the same on Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin. Unlike Coyle, Colvin asks the question: "Why are so many people so "ordinary" in most of what they do - from music to sports skills to their work? And why do years of experience seem not to improve it -- indeed sometimes to downgrade? "

This question gets into the aspect of "Ignition" which Eric mentioned just above.

Psychology, more specifically self-perception, is a huge factor. For instance, in a decades-long study of 100s of young music students in one school district, one factor predicted with amazing accuracy how accomplished they became after 10 years of practice. At age 7 or 8, as they were picking out their instrument, before even beginning lessons, they were asked how long they expected to play - this year, several years, or for life. The answer they gave at that time was the strongest predictive factor in how well they would play upon graduating from HS.

Those who voiced a long-term committment later progressed 400 percent more on equal practice time to those voicing a short-term committment! They even progressed more when their practice time was just 20 minutes a week compared to 90 minutes for the short-term group.

Self-perception influences behaviors -- the focus and self-examination people bring to their practice. This influences neuro-biology -- the secretion of myelin on the neuron pathways for the skill. Myelin is a fatty substance, which acts like the insulation on electrical wires. The more often and more accurately/consistently you activate a skill circuit, by sending an electrical signal from brain to particular muscle groups, the greater the signal strength when it arrives at the muscles.

The sense of "specialness" that Eric mentions is particularly strong and available in swimming because one glance at any pool filled with lappers -- or any sub-elite swim team -- will tell you that the vast majority of humans are noisy, splashy and ragged when they swim. Any TI Swimmer in their midst will stand out for their signature fluency and ease.

That gives a powerfully-reinforcing sense of specialness. On this Forum, unless someone posts a video of their stroke, you can't see their fluency, but you can easily recognize the difference in attitude and mindset from other swim-related forums. TI Swimmers gain a sense of pride in their strokes and a sense of confidence in their conceptual clarity. Both are unknown outside TI. '

All that is a distinctive part of the mindset or psychology of being a TI Swimmer. That increases passion, which leads to examined, deliberate, patient and persistent -- even loving -- practice of swimming. And each hour of such practice grows more myelin on your swimming circuits. A powerfully virtuous circle.
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Last edited by terry : 07-21-2009 at 12:06 PM.
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  #22  
Old 07-31-2009
CoachEricDeSanto CoachEricDeSanto is offline
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Hey All,
I haven't posted much since in finished the book. I still strongly recommend it to everyone. It is a great read and explains, quite well, the back ground behind what we do for those who want the science.

As I said before, I had emailed Mr. Coyle with two questions. Here are his responses.
Your questions are right on target -- and I hope I can clarify them for you.

My Question: At one point in the book you said that the myelinated circuits are permanent. Later, you say that myelin is living tissue and deep practice must be maintained to maintain the circuits. Can you explain this apparent contradiction?
Dan's Answer: The best (if rough) analogy I have for myelinated circuits are growth rings on a tree. Myelin grows in the same way -- it doesn't un-grow, or unwrap. However, over time myelin does inevitably break down (like rings on a tree), and requires nourishment to be healthy -- i.e., you have to fire the nerve. Myelin's "one-way quality" refers to its growth dynamic -- that doesn't exempt it from the physical laws of organic growth and decay that govern all cells. Does that make sense? I certainly need to make it clearer in the book -- thanks for pointing this out.

My Question: You mention that deep practice has the feeling of your goal constantly slipping through your fingers. It sounds to me like this means you are practicing the failure (you are not quite succeeding in your goal). In my mind, the feeling should be that of just barely hanging on to your goal. Is this a difference in perspective? Is this just words? Or is there something specific in your description that I am missing.

Dan's Answer: You're on target -- there are two distinct neurological processes here that I've conflated into one. The feeling of failure -- the goal-slipping feeling -- is essentially synaptical learning. It is where you are constructing the circuit -- literally the points of connection, the neural scaffold. Once that circuit is constructed, then it needs to be strengthened, speeded up, upgraded -- and that's where myelin comes in; the firing/wrapping process. I considered explaining each of these separately -- and perhaps I should have -- but ended up combining them for simplicity's sake -- a decision whose shortcomings you have elegantly revealed.

Thanks for your interest, and thanks for reaching out.

All best,

Dan
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  #23  
Old 07-31-2009
shuumai shuumai is offline
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Ah, perhaps the "goal-slipping" feeling is like the plateau. Your circuits are myelinating all the while, yet in your mind you might feel like you are not progressing at all. Then one day a magical leap happens.

I have to admit that I didn't listen to part 2 of the book closely at all. Part 3, about coaching, I did listen to intently. It explains what good coaching is and why it's needed.

I can tie together both thoughts above with an example of the kid I am trying to teach to swim. At first he started progressing with the help of floats and fins--not constantly though--and towing under my instruction. The purpose was to develop the feel for kicking and streamlining at least from the chest down. The progress ceased after I began teaching submersion of the face. He also went away for 10 days which didn't help. When he returned he just didn't come to the pool much and didn't work much at swimming. Though, all the while I noticed that he watched how people recover their arms.

A couple weeks later I placed the kid in YMCA group lessons. Since my objective was to make him a swimmer, I was willing to do whatever it took. Magically, within two days, he is now willing to submerge his face, he can float on his back well, and do a head-up freestyle across two lanes. Though I felt like a failed teacher at first, now I realise that what I taught was the foundation that allowed what seemed like immediate progress at the Y. While his level of motivation fluctuated, his body maintained the feel for the water and he could do more than he thought possible.

I saw the same thing with an adult that I coached only two times for pay and a little for free. I felt like a failed coach because no more lessons were requested and the student tended to sink by design. Well, the student persisted with what I had already taught and became more floaty. Later I saw him swimming head-up with a breaststroke-like arm stroke, which I had also taught him. (I gave him some advice on that.) In this case, the student was able to do what I started to doubt was possible! (I did try to video tape the sinking because it was so extraordinary. hehe Unfortunately the camera switched to still mode when I inserted it into the waterproof case.) I helped lay the foundation for learning. So with that I'm content.
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  #24  
Old 10-04-2009
LilBeav LilBeav is offline
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Default Difference in these Books?

The Talent Code: Greatness Isn't Born. It's Grown. Here's How.
Daniel Coyle ~ Bantam ~ ISBN: 055380684X ~ Hardcover

The Talent Code: Unlocking the Secret of Skill in Sports, Art, Music, Math, and Just About Anything
Daniel Coyle ~ Bantam Books ~ ISBN: 9780553906493 ~ Paperback

I am looking to pick up a copy of the book and was wondering which version to buy. Is there a difference?

Thanks in advance

Jim
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  #25  
Old 10-04-2009
shuumai shuumai is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LilBeav View Post
The Talent Code: Greatness Isn't Born. It's Grown. Here's How.
Daniel Coyle ~ Bantam ~ ISBN: 055380684X ~ Hardcover

The Talent Code: Unlocking the Secret of Skill in Sports, Art, Music, Math, and Just About Anything
Daniel Coyle ~ Bantam Books ~ ISBN: 9780553906493 ~ Paperback

I am looking to pick up a copy of the book and was wondering which version to buy. Is there a difference?

Thanks in advance

Jim
It seems that they are the same book, but one is hardback and the other paperback. Hardbacks are released first, so the paperback is more likely to contain corrections made to the original text. Plus, paperbacks are easier to hold when reading in bed. hehe
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  #26  
Old 10-04-2009
haschu33 haschu33 is offline
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I just stumbled on this thread.

Quote:
Originally Posted by CoachEricD View Post
...My thought was this. She had a clear image in her head of what the song should sound like. In our practice, the most common struggle I find is that we often don't know the difference between what we feel and what are aiming for....
That is an interesting point. Well, I watched videos quite a lot. Yes, I mean swim-videos, TI-videos. The 'Easy Freestyle' DVD, and some of the stuff you find at YouTube.

Now, I can't swim freestyle, because I never learned it. I am in the process of learning it. But from the videos I watched, I know how it feels to swim a nice and easy frestyle stroke. Might sound funny, but I just know it. On the feeling level I do have a clear image of how it is like and what I am aiming for. And when I am in the pool I and doing my drills, I always knew, when something was right, because I know already beforehand how it feels. Of course it might turn out, that I am all wrong.
And I am very grateful for the 'Easy Freestyle' DVD, it is brilliant for it's purpose: it just delivers pictures, pictures and more pictures.

Maybe this has to do with the 'mirror neurons', because as far as I know, it means that you form in your brain neuronal patterns that are like the ones of a person that you are focussing on. That way picking up the feeling from someone else, maybe.

It is to a certain extent only, though, my image of the feeling. E.g., I did not expect that swimming, gliding or just 'lying' 'on' the water in a balanced position brings such a deep feeling of well-being. This was surprising to me (But I know now why you guys are all hooked ;-) ).


Some of the stuff that was said here about this book 'talent code' sounds quite strange, frankly speaking (I didn't read the book). Particular the title, should have been 'practicing code' and not talent code, as it sounds from what you are saying here.

If the book actually wants to make a point, that there is no talent, but just practice - that is simply ridiculous, IMHO of course.

And it is very dangerous to draw conclusions, when there is only limited knowledge.

One example is this here, quoted by Terry:
'Psychology, more specifically self-perception, is a huge factor. For instance, in a decades-long study of 100s of young music students in one school district, one factor predicted with amazing accuracy how accomplished they became after 10 years of practice. At age 7 or 8, as they were picking out their instrument, before even beginning lessons, they were asked how long they expected to play - this year, several years, or for life. The answer they gave at that time was the strongest predictive factor in how well they would play upon graduating from HS.'

Yes maybe, that was the strongest predictive factor. But it was only the strongest predictive factors of those, that have been looked for. Maybe, the answer those youngsters gave, was not a cause but an effect. The remaining question then is: what caused them to give this answer ? And there will be another question following that answer, quite sure.
It can get very misleading, if things are not thought through to the very end. Unfortunately we often don't know, if or when we hit the end.
Actually what is talked about here is open water, very open water, it is not a pool.

By the way, years ago I saw a TV-feature on Anne-Sophie Mutter, the german worldclass violinist. There was a piece of her playing the violin when she was nine years old. When you see that, you know there is something called talent. There was practice, too, of course. But not enough for that result.

Just my two cents.

Last edited by haschu33 : 10-04-2009 at 10:34 PM.
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  #27  
Old 10-05-2009
CoachEricDeSanto CoachEricDeSanto is offline
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I would argue that the point of the book is not to say that there is no such thing as natural talent. Some people naturally have certain skills better than others. I remember a story of Natalie Coughlin from her biography where, in her first season at Cal, her coach brought in one of the best stroke technique coaches around, and he gave her 3 things to change. She thought for a moment, jumped in, and had fixed all three things. Her coaches all looked at her and said, that was scary! She obviously has an amazing talent at taking verbal cues and translating them into her body.

I think the point of the book was to say that some training centers achieve success with a much higher percentage of their students than can be explained by any factor other than deep practice.
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  #28  
Old 10-05-2009
shuumai shuumai is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by haschu33 View Post
But from the videos I watched, I know how it feels to swim a nice and easy freestyle stroke.
Is that like synesthesia? Vision being experienced as sensation?

What you /think/ you should feel and what you will actually feel are usually different. Experience would make your expectation closer to reality, but you are still relying on your imagination. It's still useful though.

There is a very brief moment in time in which you truly sense your body in the environment without the interference of thoughts, expectations, or judgements. For example, the moment you instinctively pull your hand away from a hot object. If you had to watch a video, imagine the sensation, find a hot object to test what you imagined, take the time to decide what you are feeling, then decide to pull your hand away, your hand would be quite unhappy by then. hehe Nevermind that the object was actually ice cold.
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  #29  
Old 10-06-2009
terry terry is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CoachEricD View Post
I would argue that the point of the book is not to say that there is no such thing as natural talent. Some people naturally have certain skills better than others.
Or - particularly in swimming - a better vessel.
Michael Phelps has that peculiar combination of being 6-4, with the legs of a 6-footer and the torso/spine of someone who is 6-8. That long-torso/short-legs combination means he has better natural balance than a more typical westerner like me. I observed the same phenomenon in Japan (Asians have more even leg-torso proportion than Westerners), where TI workshop students learn balance effortlessly -- and seem to effortlessly translate it into a nearly-impeccable 2-Beat Kick. I saw notably less of the "goal slipping through your fingers" stage there.

In US workshops, learning balance is a struggle and mastering 2BK a project.
Adopting a zen attitude toward the struggle, embracing the plateau you will inevitably encounter, and being motivated to persist during the barely holding onto stage of skill acquisition is the invaluable message of books like George Leonard's Mastery and The Talent Code.

I do think one weakness of The Talent Code is that it could leave the impression that inborn traits matter little. If you had the opportunity to observe a practice of the US Olympic Team -- or any elite team such as Univ of Arizona/Texas/California or Auburn, Stanford, Georgia, etc. etc. -- virtually the first thing you would observe is that the members of those teams seem to come from rarefied superspecies of human, several inches taller than average and with distinctly "streamlined" body conformation. (As you'd get similar impressions if you hung out with any NBA or NFL team, or with the Olympic gymnastics squad.)

Each of us does have a predetermined set of physical characteristics that will have some influence on how far we go in physical skills. The reason only a minuscule percentage of us maximize our true potential in most areas of endeavor or accomplishment is that we accept the idea that inborn traits are the major factor in determining what we can accomplish.

To rise above -- indeed to reach your full potential -- you must (1) conceive it as possible, and (2) act effectively to make it happen. Examined Swimming converts possibility into behavior into neurobiology into skill/mastery.
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May your laps be as happy as mine.

My TI Story
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  #30  
Old 10-06-2009
terry terry is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shuumai View Post
Is that like synesthesia? Vision being experienced as sensation?
I don't know enough about synesthesia to say yes or no, but my impression is that those who have this are "prewired" to conflate sensory input - experiencing colors as smells or vice versa for instance.

My impression of the role of visual input into learning is that it activates both imagination and intuition. I'd done the classic style of x-c skiing for six or eight years, mainly on a rail trail behind my house, where I lacked the opportunity to observe high-skilled skiers. Then I went to Mt Van Hoevenburg at Lake Placid, the 1980 Olympic nordic course and saw some people using the freestyle version with high skill. Not only did it look amazingly cool, rhythmic and flowing, but they just seemed to fly up hills with little visible effort.

Immediately two things happened: (1) I was inspired; I wanted to ski like they did. and (2) I began to imagine how it might feel if I could ski that way.

#1 was the ignition described in Coyle's book and provided the motivation that later proved essential to learning it.
#2 was my north star as I began the learning process.

My initial skating lesson was kind of pathetic. I took a 90-min clinic with my wife and daughters. Our teacher was Joe Kahn, who has been a valued guide in the 8 or so years since that lesson.

The first drill Joe gave us was to wear one ski, put it in a track cut for classic skiers, and repeatedly push off the unshod foot and glide in balance as far as we could on our ski. Alice and the girls mastered this almost effortlessly. I was utterly clumsy - kept falling one way or the other from shifting weight too far or not far enough.
Joe then took us through a series of four more drills . . . for which mastery of Drill #1 was essential. They did great, improving their skill with each. For me the initial struggle only got worse with each drill. And when we finished the drills off they all went doing freestyle skiing on the 1.4-mile Flatlands loop.

Me? I removed one ski, went back to the track and spent the next 90 minutes learning what had taken them 5 minutes - back and forth, first on one ski, then on the other. I never left the learning area to attempt actual skiing that day, or probably for several more. However, eight years later I ski much better than any of them because of the learning/practice habits I cultivated through Examined Swimming. And I still begin most days of skiing with 10 to 30 minutes of the simplest drills and skills.
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May your laps be as happy as mine.

My TI Story

Last edited by terry : 10-06-2009 at 02:32 PM.
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