‘The Talent Code’ and Keith Richards

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Following the advice of Terry Pettit, I try to read reasonably widely, or at least not just about volleyball or coaching.  After volleyball / coaching / sport my favourite reading topic has become rock star auto/biographies, the latest of which is ‘Life‘ by Keith Richards.  As Pettit wrote, everything comes back in one way or another to coaching.  In this case Richards’ description of how he came play the guitar and then how he came to master the guitar and song writing.  The process was almost exactly as described in books like ‘The Talent Code‘ and ‘Talent is Overrated‘ (review to follow, hopefully).  He came to play the guitar through a favourite grandfather, who ignited his interest by making the guitar seem exclusive (one of the ignition methods listed in ‘The Talent Code’).  To master the instrument he, together with his bandmates, literally sat around all day listening to their favourite records and then trying to work out how to play what they were hearing, a perfect example of effective/deliberate practice, although he didn’t report whether they hit the magical 10,000 hour mark.  Then he and Mick Jagger went through similar process learning to write songs, writing constantly for about nine months until they wrote the first song they were prepared to even present to the band.  I can only presume his other ‘talents’ were developed in the same way.

And so the lesson is, as always, the only way to become good at something is to practice and practice hard with feedback.  It’s not brain surgery.  Although it is how you learn brain surgery.


  1. Surgeons and physicians are an interesting point. Surgeons need mre motor skill straining, which of course requires practice. You could argue that a lot of this skill could be more appropriately taught in vocational education rather than universities.

    In the old days, a surgeon was the town carpenter or barber – someon skilled at cutting things. the candy stripes in front of a barber shop is imagery from bloodied towels.

    The livery company (trade association) associated with surgeons (and some doctors) still retains its medieval name, “Worshipful Company of Barbers”.

    SHouldn’t surgeons be trained somewhere to get to 10,000 hours of motor skill practice a bit quicker? do they really deserve to be called “doctor”?


  2. I can’t believe people get money research this stuff. When I was 10, I knew I sucked at junior golf, now at 25 I still suck because I never practiced. Other things I’m good at because I have practiced and level of competence is related to how much I practiced those things.

    Every one’s different and requires different levels and types of practice but it still follows the same rule that practice is important.

    Your mission, should you choose to accept it is to find a world class athlete that never practiced their sport before competing on the world stage……….Happy Gilmore doesn’t count. Even he had a round of mini golf.


    1. People get research money for many things. One of the biggest reasons is to prove things that people already know. Because science doesn’t accept something is real unless you can prove it.


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