Review of ‘The Sweet Spot’: Why Pour Old Wine in a New Bottle?


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This write-up was for a writing assignment in MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) , English Composition I: Achieving Expertise offerd from Duke University. There were four assignments, I submitted first two of them and later became very busy with my M.S. thesis work. The first one was a review of first chapter of the book: ‘The Talent Code’.


All of us, in some points of life, has experienced a fascination towards a performer’s skill on their pet domain of expertise along with an inevitable curiosity how they gain such success. It is so compelling to think that something is written in talented people’s nature, may be in DNA code, which only waits to express itself after some polishing event – which we call practice. This way, its easy to assume that practice makes a man perfect in the case when anyone is already inclined to do something naturally. ‘The Sweet Spot’, first chapter of ‘The Talent Code’ written by Daniel Coyle, propose something different.

In the query what makes one talent, Coyle stressed that not practising the same thing again and again monotonously but working on the edge of one’s capabilities, where he tends to make mistakes (p 18) will help him to overcome those critical points and will hone his skills to perform better. He coined a term ‘Deep Practice’ (p 16) – making errors while practising out of comfort zone, examining those error, redoing the same thing again carefully somehow quite suddenly take one in a mode of a flow when his domain of skill widens. Coyle states that we generally consider errors as devil enemy which hold us lagging behind but slowing down and deliberate practising on where we tends to do mistakes is required to gain success and will make us better (p 18). He also surmise that through this process the talent actually grows in a shape, which is contradictory that practise is necessary to hold talent (p 19).
To establish the concept of deep practice, he brings a test from Bjork to engage audience to go through similar situation where little constrains make the reader to remember better (p 16). Also using other examples, it seems that he wants reader to apply ‘deep practice’ in their own life or to make them cognizant of areas where they might already applying the idea of ‘deep practice’. But the concept of deep practice is nothing new. It’s just giving another name of learning by doing and reflecting. Coyle composed a nice to read article using similes (p 13), mentally attaching reader by telling personal situations he had gone through (p 12), engaging them using psychology test (p 16), giving small and large examples such as Brunio (p 13) or futsal (p 24) and other writing techniques, although he has avoided situations and examples that might scrutinizing deep practice.

From a conservative point of view, his idea is not a brand new discovery, he restates the old proverb saying ‘practice makes a man perfect’ by redefining ‘practice’ from different point-of-view. Deep practice was so important finding from his ‘expedition’ that he has to coin a new term. But according to Coyle’s own observation, he himself agreed that this type of workout was observable in 50% of scenario he visited (p 12). He advocated that he was not ‘dazzled’ by later 50% patterns although having prior expectation to getdazzled in all cases (p 12). He observed a different way of practising in those later patterns, saying, “During the other half I  witnessed something very different: moments of slow, fitful struggle” (p 12), which was unexpected to him. So why would he write a brand new book on an ancient topic advocating a new point-of-view that is not universal in gaining expertise? It seems that this way of practising inspired him to write this book as he was not expected to see it to fuel to produce Everest-size amounts of talents within later 50% pattern in talent hotbeds.

Interestingly, he did not focused light in other 50% scenario where his observation that fulfilled his prior expectation (p 12). We can guess that in those cases people were not struggling to widen their comfort-zone. We can also guess that they have intrinsic capability to perform with ‘speed, power and grace’ (p 12). That means there are other ways to be ‘talented’ other than deep practice. As author passed most of the time focusing on later 50% patterns, we can assume that his intending audience is the people who do not have that good-luck of owning already widened comfort-zone, who are trying to perform beyond their capabilities, who may be good in one or two area but terribly bad in other and consciously or subconsciously avoid these area in fear of doing mistakes. But this is one of the flaws of this chapter that he avoided explaining a situation which is counter to the main idea of this chapter.

This chapter is not a self-help one, however. And this write-up have all the ability to engross a reader. At the best, this piece can make reader aware on the process of gaining expertise by doing and learning from mistakes.

Daniel Coyle (28 April 2009). The Talent Code: Greatness I sn’t Born. I t’s Grown. Here’s How..
Random House Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-553-90649-3.


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