Should You Search Deep Jungles for Unique Talent Opportunities ?

When you think of finding a talent for your child, what is the first type of image that pops into mind?

That image will be the image of some of kind of talent that is very fixed and easily recognizable right now by millions of other people. “Concert piano”, “football player”, “actor”, etc. Those are skillsets that are indeed talents when performed by the top people in that field, but there is a catch to trying to pursue the kind of talent for which an easy image pops into mind. The catch is that it is normally very difficult to get into the top echelons of those popularly recognized talents because your son will be competing for the same space with thousands, maybe even millions of other people, following the exact same traditional route.

A much easier way to approach the search for a suitable talent for your son would be to look at developing a skillset that is rather unique and not casually reproducible by other people. That approach opens the doors to some really interesting possibilities for your young person. And by a unique skillset, I do not mean unique in the sense of searching for some obscure skill that can only be found in deep, dark Peruvian jungles, but unique rather in the sense of a unique combination of your family’s advantages and opportunities. Ideally, that would mean combining something of your son’s interests, something of your academic goals for him, something from your environmental advantages, and something from your family’s identity.

Since hardly no one else has your son’s identical combination of advantages, you have an opportunity to create something that will not be easily duplicated by others. That is the better strategy. There is a place in the sun for him.

Podcast Episode: Experimenting with Talent Building on My Nine Year Old

Can you start talent development at a much younger age than age twelve?

In a conversation with my wife I talk about how my experiment in talent development with my nine year old son is coming along. It can be done, but you have to weigh the cost in time of starting at such an early age versus waiting for a what I think is the more normal age of twelve. This is part of the 10,000 hours journey with developing a different talent in each of my children and my documentation of what works and doesn’t work. I think it works if you start younger than age twelve, but it is not a recommended strategy for everyone.

Your call-to-action: see if you can identify in any of your children who are younger than age twelve one ability and one family advantage that you could start putting together to begin developing a talent.

How do you get someone to read your messages? ( or how your child can build a following)

I interviewed Jack Reamer, a real world writing consultant for business people. You turn to him if you want to learn how to write emails that others will want to open and read.

Have you noticed how hard it is to get others to read the message in your mail unless you already have a very close relationship?

Most school curriculum and college prep courses will not teach you in a way that others will actually listen to what you have to say.

Traditional courses do teach you some very clever and sophisticated writing techniques, but those will not get you read.

But Jack says the mistake is to write too cleverly and too much in the first messages. 

Jack Reamer explains how and why a different approach to writing gets you to your goal of communicating and connecting to your intended audience of readers.

I asked him to unpack it in this recorded interview in a way that a young man or young woman who already has a talent (do you know what your son’s talent is?) could start building a following of readers by email.


Jonathan Harris

P.S. The show notes will link to Jack’s top recommended books that teach you how to write messages that get read. Visit here:

Is it time to switch them out? (you must keep moving forward)

Is it time to switch them out?

Talent mentors are there for a season and then you must keep moving forward

Listen in to a conversation between my wife and me as we discuss why and how often you should try switching mentors, teachers, and learning experiences. There are benefits to moving on from a mentor, no matter how excellent that person may be in his or her skill. Here are four indicators that it’s time to move on:

  1. your child has learned everything he can and he needs more from another mentor in order to keep his talent relevant to the needs of other people.
  2. you are in charge of who you choose as a mentor. If the mentor’s personal life is complicating the value he once brought to your child, it may be time to move on.
  3. you can free the mentor of having to be responsible for full-on character training for your child. This opens the door to recruiting new mentors who want a specific, limited role.
  4. it’s time to get out of your (and your child’s) comfort zone and be stretched with developing a new area of his talent.

Find out the other reasons why multiple mentors and teachers are a good thing to expect as you your young person keeps building a more complex and market valuable skill set.

Don’t forget to subscribe to my podcast “The 10ktoTalent Show” through iTunes. It is now listed for you to enjoy on your daily walks.

Of Courth! It’s May the 4th Be With You Day!

star wars podcast image

The Force is coming to MINECRAFT on May 4th, 2015.

Join the battle between the Separatists and the Republic.

If you want a socially safe, one-time Minecraft event* for your child to join and experience a great time with other boys and girls, you are invited to join my son Nicholas as he hosts his “May the 4th Be With You” party. Ask your Star Wars enthusiast if you are not familiar with that light hearted pop-culture celebration.

This up-front “fun” is powered in the background by the administrative efforts of my son Nicholas, who is 13 years old. This is an example of how to use a fun popular tool to gain real experience that will add valuable hours to a 10,000 hour talent journey.

As parents, you can listen to the episode on how Minecraft can be used to develop talent.

*Note: you will need your own Minecraft account in order for you son or daughter to join the game. 

Podcast Episode: Can Minecraft Be Turned Into a Talent?

Can a gaming hobby, such as Minecraft, be turned into a real long-term talent? Yes, it can be! But you must re-cast the interest in a way that focuses on bringing value to others. When you switch from doing a skill for just your own enjoyment, to doing a skill so that it brings real value to other people, you transform the low-value hobby into a market valuable talent.

I discuss with my wife Renee about how we have been successfully able to turn one of our children’s talent into a potential for real long term talent.

At the end of this episode, we finish with this call-to-action:

Go listen to the interview by Wardee Harmon of Traditional Cooking School. This interview is a discussion on how you can gradually turn a traditional skill, such as backyard gardening, into a long term market valuable skill for your young person.

Podcast Episode: How to Use Social Media to Advance Talent

How do you manage your young person’s social media presence on the Internet so that it helps him on his journey to developing amazing talent?

I discuss with Renee how we have been successfully able to handle and encourage the use of social media for own children’s talent development.

At the end of this episode, we finish with this call-to-action:

Find two types of social media or Internet forums that would could be a good fit to the type of interest or talent that your child is wanting to develop.

Podcast Episode: Use Instagram for Building Talent Community

How do you use an Instagram account so that your talent focused young person can connect with other talented young people? There is an easy straight-forward way to do it and we tell you how to approach Instagram with the right mindset. It’s the smart way to use your smart phone.

My wife and I discuss two recent Instagram examples that helped our two oldest boys to a community of very talented people.

At the end of this episode, we finish with this call-to-action:

Create an Instagram account to search for ideas on how the world of your child’s talent could be showcased so that other talented people will want to connect with your son or daughter.

Podcast Episode: Why Parents Overlook Hidden Assets

Hello friends of 10ktoTalent!

Welcome to the very first podcast by Jonathan Harris discussing talent development in children. Listen to a conversation between me and my wife, Renee, as we discuss why it is that so many parents will overlook the hidden assets in their life in favor of staying average.

Ignite his primal cues

primal cues

How does a young person find the motivational energy to commit himself around one theme long enough that it changes his life? What if talent is a process that can be ignited by primal cues?

Here is what Daniel Coyle says:

Why was Tom Sawyer able to persuade Ben to help him whitewash the fence? The answer is that Tom flung primal cues at Ben with the speed and accuracy of a circus knife-thrower.

In the space of a few sentences, he managed to hit bull’s-eyes of exclusivity (“ All I know is, it suits Tom Sawyer … I reckon there ain’t one boy in a thousand …”) and scarcity (“ Does a boy get a chance to whitewash a fence every day? … Aunt Polly’s awful particular about this fence”).

His gestures and body language echoed the same messages.

If Tom had only sent one or two of these signals, or if they’d been spaced over the course of a leisurely hour, his cues would have had no effect; Ben’s trigger would have remained untouched. But the rich combination of cues, peppering Ben’s ignition switch one after another, succeeded in cracking open his vault of motivational energy.

Coyle, Daniel (2009-04-16). The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How. (pp. 119-120). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

The author noticed that hotbeds of talent did NOT appear randomly across a cultural landscape as you would expect if something were genetically popping up here and there through the population. The creation of clusters of talented people (aka “hotbeds”) appear instead to be triggered entirely by behavior, even in reaction to other people’s behaviors. One of those behavioral factors that seems to play a big role is the often, out-of-ordinary attitude of the adult mentors involved in those hotbeds of motivation.

As the author spoke to the people in such hotbeds of talent, interacting with both the children and their teachers, he noticed that the young people were being talked to by their adult mentors in a special way. The adults in these children’s lives spoke in the high language of prizing, scarcity, and exclusivity.

What is the language of prizing, scarcity, and exclusivity, you ask? Here’s an example of dialogue I use at the dinner table with my own children.

You can find a demonstration of that prizing language in the beloved “Tom Sawyer,” the quintessential boy’s adventure story. A well-known, amusing fence-painting passage in Tom Sawyer perfectly distills the type of conversations Mr. Coyle overheard in such hotbeds of motivation and talent.

The adults that Daniel Coyle observed in those super-talented contexts communicated through their words and their body language a very clear message: we we are not embarked on a quest for mediocrity and look-alike performance, but we are embarked on a special quest for excellence that has great value.

What the author of “The Talent Code” says he observed makes sense to me. I believe that children are in fact primed to be able to accept and assimilate the values of their elders, especially their parents.

In practice, what the elders value little, the children also tend to value little. What the elders and mentors value much, the children also tend to value very much. Of course, as the children grow up, that ability to be influenced with such basic primal cues of encouragement and direction by their elders lessens over time. That is as it should be as it gives the children room to grow into their decision-making abilities.

The application of this understanding of primal cues means that when people are young, it is an opportunity for parents with high aspirations to deliberately jump-start their children onto a higher track in life. You can “crack open their vault of motivational energy”, as Daniel Coyle puts it so directly.

Here is why it is better to crack that vault now while your son is still under your roof. As your child crosses over into adulthood and leaves your home, he can certainly learn to find causes for motivation on his own terms, even into his late thirties. But unless you yourself experienced an usually prosperous and easy entry into your work life, I don’t think you would wish that your young person have to go through the same experiences you did.

Here’s the danger to avoid: if you wait for your young person to find it on his own, he will most likely miss that crucial lift-off phase that allows him to escape years of being bogged down by pursuits and jobs that do little to nothing to build amazing talent. The benefits of finding an early, fiery motivation will allow him to reap huge benefits in his early adulthood. Talented young men, instead of serving before obscure people, will be called up to serve before kings. (Proverbs 22: 29)

Parents, do not let that opportunity escape you to unlock the vault of their motivation. Start talking today the language of prizing, scarcity, and exclusivity with your child.

3 by-products of your teenager pursuing talent NOW

isolated ocean of knowledge


Have you ever found that a review of a favorite book really does a good job bringing it home?

Here is an excerpt from a book reviewer on Amazon commenting on the book “Talent is Overrated” by Geoff Colvin

“The benefits of deliberate practice are that we perceive more, know more, and remember more in a specific domain of knowledge that we have chosen. This makes us more aware of our uniqueness as well as the uniqueness in others. The [Talent is Overrated] book suggests that over time we develop mental models of how our domain functions as a system.

As a result, we connect with every day events not as an isolated bit of data but as part of a large and comprehensive picture.”

I agree with this reader’s comment. The earlier your teenage son or daughter can find a way to focus around a long term talent, the more amazingly easy it is for him to succeed at what he wants to do.

This is because he is not learning one hour here in this subject and one hour over there in that subject. In a person without a specific talent focus, those are two disconnected work hours of his life spent learning various factoids pulled from two different domains of knowledge, but having little-to-no benefit of bringing added-value to each domain.

However, in a talent-focused child, those two hours are more than just two sequential hours of work. The two domains of knowledge augment each other’s value. This is because a big vision for the purpose of one’s daily work triggers an integration between normally separate domains of knowledge and skills.

This is the ideal: each new hour of learning in one domain is an hour that can be counted on to augment the value in another domain. It is a type of compounding effect.

Example: a 15 year old young man has a passion for flying and has easy access to training hours because of a good pilot friend of the family.

He discovers through the chatter from other pilots that there is growing demand for paid flight instructors on American soil to teach the future pilots from China and Japan (true story!). He hears that this new and growing demand is coming from the commercial airlines in those countries who prefer to have their people trained here. The English language and culture for communicating between pilots is the preferred common ground. This is creating opportunities for young pilots to start early careers.

This causes him to drop his Latin language course and decide to instead do daily language Skype exchanges with other young men from mainland China and Tokyo. This triggers an interest to dive deep into the WWII history of Asia (thus tying in another subject area).

As his pilot training increases, he then realizes that his love for the science of aeronautics is growing. This causes him to sign up for a special online course that will help him take a college level examination course in aeronautics.

I will stop at this point in the example, as I think you have now gotten the point.

Here is three by-products of pursuing talent on your young person’s mental health:

  1. He will no longer experience that feeling of anxiety about all the things he does not know.
  2. He will no longer feel isolated in an ocean of knowledge
  3. But he will feel himself a conqueror on the verge of contributing something unique in his generation.


Three Things You Won’t Have to Say


A hot dog stand

What happened after graduation when talent development took a back seat in the home (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Get your child to graduate from home with a 10,000 hour talent and you won’t have to say one of these three dreadful attaboys:

  •  I’m just grateful he has a job.
  • Bless his heart, he’s trying.
  • At least he’s not doing drugs.
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Secret to Avoiding a Cute Hobby

interview traditional cooking

Would you like to eavesdrop on an intelligent conversation on how to create a unique talent opportunity for your young person? Listen here.

Do you want to know what the secret is to making sure that it is not some cute hobby that will do next-to-nothing for your son or daughters’s future prospects? Listen here.

I explain how to develop talent in young people during the entire 60-minute podcast by Wardee Harmon. She is the owner and chief cook at the online school . What caught my attention was the fact that she herself was using her life’s interests exactly along the lines of what my 10ktotalent method suggests: by finding a way to make a core skill bring value to others and not as a stand alone skill by itself.

Listen to the point in the interview she makes about how it was not until she was in her late twenties that she finally started a learning journey of her own that made sense to the vision for her own life. How much better it would have been if she had had a method that could have started her in her teens. Enter “yours truly”, to explain a strategy of how that can be accomplished much sooner rather than much later.

Wardee asks me how I would approach talent in a young person’s life if the interest was already there for traditional cooking or homesteading. Her podcast audience has a shared interest for real food and traditional cooking so it would be natural for the children of her listeners to also have grown up with a passion for growing food, fermenting food, or cooking food in a traditional way. Does such an early interest mean something to son or daughter’s future opportunities? or is it neither here nor there? This was a great how-to-create-talent interview because she wanted me to explain how do you turn such a type of interest and passion into eventually an opportunity that can support a family. And that’s what I take the time to clearly explain.

Your child’s core skill, such the ability to grow a Victory garden, can be used as the first skill around which to wrap many others until it gets transformed into a market valuable talent.

Here are some of the links mentioned in Wardee Harmon’s Podcast:

Connect with the Best in Your Generation
Example of 10,000 Hours in Practice
Does Your Child Have a Tag Line for his Talent?
Same Experience Repeated Over and Over is Not Talent
Redding Drone by Jonathan Harris Jr. (17 years old)
Scarabcoder Learns to Program by Nicholas Harris (13 years old)
Blades of Belaq by Caleb Harris (15 years old)
KYF #009: Nourishing Skin Care with Renee from

Make Acceleration Feats Routine

greatness is grown

Daniel Coyle says the following in this excerpt from “The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How.” (p. 84 in Kindle Edition):

in seven weeks, most students will learn a year’s worth of material, an increase of about 500 percent in learning speed. Among the students, this acceleration is well known but only dimly understood…

These feats are routine…

The goal is always the same: to break a skill into its component pieces (circuits), memorize those pieces individually, then link them together in progressively larger groupings…

Through practice, they had developed something more important than mere skill; they’d grown a detailed conceptual understanding that allowed them to control and adapt their performance, to fix problems, and to customize their circuits to new situations. They were thinking in chunks and had built those chunks into a private language of skill…


Being self-aware of how one is learning accelerates talent growth. Good coaches and good mentors can help teach awareness. And parents, especially parents, can cultivate that awareness at an early age. Awareness can also be deliberately developed by the young person himself as he gets older, but why leave it for him to find out on his own at a much later age?

If your child becomes self-aware about how and why he is able to learn, he can then accelerate his progress in his chosen area of talent. He learns how to decompose the actual learning process itself so that he doesn’t have to keep increasing the sheer number of brute working hours. By understanding how to change strategy or technique along the way, you will be giving your young person the mental tools to take control of the direction and speed of his learning.

Parents, think carefully: are you actively encouraging that mindset or are you letting the outline of a textbook dictate the best strategy for making progress?

Make acceleration feats routine.

Everything is Up for Being Hacked, Even Education

“Hackschooling makes me happy” by Logan LaPlante

Some of my favorite excerpts of this boy’s speech are:

everything is up for being hacked…even education

I take advantage of opportunities in my community and through a network of my friends and family. I take advantage of opportunities to experience what I am learning.

I’m not afraid to look for shortcuts or hacks to get a better or faster result. It’s like a remix or a mash-up of learning: flexible, opportunistic,…

It’s a mindset, not a system.

I didn’t use to like to write because my teachers made me write about butterflies and rainbow and I wanted to write about skiing.

I got to write through my experiences and my interest while connecting with great speakers from around the nation. And that sparked my love for writing.

I realized that once you are motivated to lean something, you can get a lot done in a short amount of time and on your own.

Inspired me to one day have my own business

So I got an internship

Happy healthy creative

This is where I am really happy: Powder days. It’s a good metaphor for my life, my education, my hackschooling. If everyone skied this mountain like most people think of education, everyone would be skiing the same line, probably the safest and most of the powder would go untouched. I look at this and see a thousand possibilities…Skiing to me is freedom and so is my education. It’s about being creative, doing things differently…among my very best friends.


Do a MacGyver on a MacGuffin Homeschool Curriculum

Angus MacGyver

Are you a MacGyver? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For some parents, the real educational goal for their child may be to simply marry well or to avoid military enrollment as a last resort. For other parents, the real goal may be produce a son who becomes a successful entrepreneur rather than an employee. Or it may be to produce a daughter who is unusually proficient in the ministry of hospitality.

However, whichever of the many underlying reasons, many parents will still choose just one particular learning curriculum, very often a default MacGuffin goal of using that curriculum for getting into college for a liberal arts degree. In some cases it is not a mistake, when the goal is clearly understood.

But in general, a one size fits all solution is a mistake: a MacGuffin can be a very inefficient, expensive, and round-about way to achieving any of those examples mentioned earlier. Usually there is a much more efficient way to meet your true goals for your young person, assuming you know what your true goals are in the first place. So if you are not afraid, do a MacGyver with your child’s textbooks and homework assignments.

It’s your son. It’s your daughter. It’s time to take charge.

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A Swordfish Named Opportunity

Do you remember the update on my oldest son’s entrepreneurial talent journey? Last week he received a phone call in the middle of working on a school lesson. “Could you make it up to Lake Whiskeytown today? We need your drone service.” – said the voice on the other line. With a quick check with me, and with the principle that his schoolwork is his slave and not his master, I gave him the green light to grab that opportunity and catch up on his study work at a later time.

This last minute opportunity turned out to be a rather fun assignment for him as it involved a swordfish, jet-subs, hanging out with inventors, and getting a joy ride as part of being with the crew (can you spot him half way through the promotional video?). In the short Facebook clip below, you can see the work he did as all the aerial parts of it were done by him.

Stop this English Course Now

snapshot of horsehaven

Having a real reason to write can make all the difference for some young people. One of the best places to write with a purpose is on a blog.

We had an educational failure recently. It was not a big failure, but it reminded us to stay alert as parents. We had to stop an English writing course designed for middle-schoolers from causing any more consternation in our family. It was a great course as far as the content went, but it was putting our middle-school daughter way behind in the goals we wanted for her.

Here is the background on how we originally came to choose that course. My wife chose a company whose English curriculum had produced results for us in the past. Their high-school curriculum set aside the traditional approach of the five paragraph essay or the research paper and focused on a method that produced young people who were able to write original novels. As a matter of fact, we are still using their high-school course for young writers for one of our teenage boys. Then entered a particular need for one of my middle children.

My 13-year-old daughter has had great difficulty over the years in learning at the same pace as her brothers in the realm of reading and writing, no matter which method we tried (although we had found one approach that did allow her to make some progress). Around the age of eleven she suddenly seemed to finally discover some ease from her difficulties. Hurray! We rejoiced with her. Her old limitations were starting to disappear. Whatever the root cause, we then decided that maybe we could get a middle-school course for writing in order to catch her up to what most peers her age were able to do with writing. So when that company recently put out a systematic writing curriculum for middle-schoolers, we decided that it might be worth a try for just that particular child.

Within a month of use, we realized that experiment of using a traditional course was a complete failure for our daughter. Suddenly, we were back to the tears, confusion, frustration and constant parental hand-holding. The check list of things to know and things to do that you would expect in a traditional textbook were all in this course. Sure, it was wrapped in a better-than-average presentation format, but in the end, it fell far short of the ground breaking innovation that the high school English writing course had put out. Not wanting to admit at first that we made a mistake, we delayed a bit before making the decision that needed to be made. We swallowed our pride and cold-stopped the course, without any transition. We went back to the tried and true that has worked in our family.

With her brothers, we had, and still do, use blogs, writing e-books, and other public writing mediums to practice communicating clearly with regards to a talent focus or a specific interest. So that is the same method to which we decided to set her. Within days of switching to writing through a talent focus, my daughter was a happy learner again. Suddenly, my daughter was smiling again and writing like a maniac. It was as if someone had flipped on a switch. Now she has something she wants to say in her writing. She wants to know how to say it even better and is open to all sorts of writing corrections – and then understands the principle behind the corrections she is given!

Moral of the story: writing with a purpose has the power to overcome many weaknesses and psychological hangups. That purpose can be found in having your young person share his or her talent interest with the world.

Please go check my daughter’s blog at this address and leave her a comment:

If you want to jump-start your own child’s writing with a purpose in my mind, you may want to consider my e-course “Blog to Your Talent: Learn How to Showcase Your Talent in 42 Lessons


Not Ready for the Master

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Are You a Talent Whisperer?

From chapter eight in the book “The Talent Code”, the author talks about the amazing people behind the creation of some of the most talented people in the world. Very often there are those individuals around talented people who are best described as “talent whisperers.” Those whisperers know how to identify so closely with the needs and personality of a young person that they can coach and coax them to the next level of performance; they know how to be tough and tender, cold and hot, as the need arises. They are intensely interested in the talent and in the person trying to become better in that field of human endeavor.

Interestingly, a talent whisperer is not necessarily the same person through the various stages of expertise. Sometimes a beginner needs more of one type and style of coaching than when he does later on when he is operating at a much more complex level. That is one of the reasons why I tap into different experts over time to help my own children’s talents. (Another reason is because a marketable talent should not be made up of one type of skill that can be learned from one expert). When it comes to custom talent, one that does not have an easy title set to it, I recognize that I have a special advantage as a parent to help guide my son or daughter. For someone else other than the parent, it can be a risky endeavor to accurately judge the character and emotional maturity of a young person. But I have inside knowledge on how ready my own child is. I act as the “talent whisperer” within our family, even though the specific skills are often learned from someone outside our household.

For example, I know that for my thirteen year old daughter to transition out of one learning context into another, it can sometimes be a tricky maneuver. That is an almost impossible task to do for a 13 year old girl without risking offending and alienating those who have already helped her along the way. As the other resident household “talent whisperer”, my wife will insert herself into our daughter’s talent journey and closely guide the transition process. If the expert teachers and mentors are self-aware of their role, they will themselves gently give you the cue that it is time for your 13 year old to find another mentor. Many times though you don’t have the luxury of choosing such self-aware mentors and it is imperative to move forward, regardless of sensibilities. That’s when dad or mom can save the day.

Either way, gladly accept that there are various learning seasons in life for your child. Embrace your “talent whispering” persona realizing you are critical to a smooth progress. If she is transitioning then that means she is in fact growing! It is thanks to you that she is beginning to catch her own vision.