Archive for March 2015

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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