The Sweet Spot
Critical Review of “The Talent Code” Chapter One
Coyle’s The Sweet Spot surprised me on many points during reading. It was like, the illusions, which seemed light or insignificant but controlled my mind and stopped action in many occasions of my life, were shattered one by one, leaving my mind relaxed, light-weighted, and motivated, clearing all sorts of obstructions from my path in achieving my goals, and even making more goals in my life.
As the chapter starts; “You will become clever through your mistakes” is ‘one’ of the controlling ideas. On many points during this text, the writer puts emphasis on the importance of realizing one’s mistakes and overcoming them through practice. Mistakes are good because they make you better with the time and at last may be perfect. For example, the lines; “so they will screw up. And somehow screwing up is making them better”(14). However, there are some situations in life when there’s a “Do or Die” situation. In those rare conditions, this idea may not be applicable.
Then Coyle introduces a beneficial concept of deep practice. And, “The best way to understand the concept of deep practice is to do it” (15) Deep practice begins after we find the sweet spot. It’s a time when a person recognizes what are his mistakes and how to correct them in a very short time. But the condition is that he must be focused, completely on what he is practising. “Deep practise is built on a paradox: struggling in certain targeted ways—operating at the edges of your ability, where you make mistakes—makes you smarter […] We think of effortless performance as desirable, but it’s really a terrible way to learn,” said Robert Bjork” (18) So, these are some of the evidences which suggest, mistakes are a blessing.
Then Coyle explains how to find The Sweet Spot. When a person recognizes his shortcomings, that’s where the learning process takes off. As Coyle says: “It’s all about finding the sweet spot,” Bjork said.
“There’s an optimal gap between what you know and what you’re trying to do. When you find that sweet spot, learning takes off.” (19)
Group A & B example highlights the importance of practice and tests. That what a test can do to one’s memory rather than reading and re-reading repeatedly. “One real encounter, even for a few seconds, is far more useful than several hundred observations.” (18) The parts of this text which touched my emotions and gave me motivation were: How the people do deep practice and this practice is not limited to adults and mature people, but children do that too, without realizing
He talks about Brunio that how he was practising a move, “He stops and thinks again. He does it even more slowly, breaking the move down to its component parts—this, this, and that. His face is taut; his eyes are so focused; they look like they’re somewhere else. Then something clicks: he starts nailing the move. ” (13)
He explained method used by the successful people that how they do the things and make themselves perfect. “They slammed to a halt; they stopped, looked, and thought carefully before taking each step.” (Page 13) He describes how people give birth to a new inner self and do deep practice and upgrade themselves.
The words remembering practice on page 16: “You didn’t practice harder when you looked at column B. You practised deeper” made me reflect on the importance of practice in life. How a little struggle made me remember things for which I didn’t even feel that I was struggling, so what will happen when I’ll actually struggle for the things which I want to achieve in my life. But there are exceptions. When I tested it on one of my friends, he remembered the words from column A. The reason was that he found it easy to remember the words which were complete. He recalled them easily because he saw them complete. But that doesn’t deny the fact that practice makes a person better. Only the example of A & B columns may not be applicable to all the people.
The part of the text which clicked the minds of many people was: “The reason, Bjork explained, resides in the way our brains are built. “We tend to think of our memory as a tape recorder, but that’s wrong,”he said. “It’s a living structure, a scaffold of nearly infinite size. The more we generate impulses, encountering and overcoming difficulties, the more scaffolding we build. The more scaffolding we build, the faster we learn.”(19) A delusion is shattered that our memory is like a tape recorder. These are motivational lines and urge the people to get out of their comfort zones and practice. That’s what makes a man better.
Then he introduces the method: How to practice deeply. When a person does deep practice, all other areas become blur and the thing he practices, sharpens. All the other things going on around him doesn’t bother him. He sets a goal higher than the previous one.
“When you’re practising deeply, the world’s usual rules are suspended. You use time more efficiently. Your small efforts produce big, lasting results. You have positioned yourself at a place of leverage where you can capture failure and turn it into skill. The trick is to choose a goal just beyond your present abilities; to target the struggle. Thrashing blindly doesn’t help. Reaching does. ” (19)
There are many points in the Sweet Spot when Coyle breaks the bubble of illusions which we have set in our mind. This text is like a rebel against the traditional ways of thinking regarding talent and the concept of ‘inborn” attached to it. The example of a “naturally strong blade” of knife and whetstone, and then the idea of generating a heart which accepts mistakes, and takes them as sandpapers (which leave us shiny and polished in the end) breaks many traditional ways of thinking.
“Deep practice is a strange concept for two reasons. The first reason is that it cuts against our intuition about talent. Our intuition tells us that practice relates to talent in the same way that a whetstone relates to a knife: it’s vital but useless without a solid blade of so-called natural ability. Deep practice raises an intriguing possibility: that practice might be the way to forge the blade itself” (19)
The last paragraphs of the chapter, ‘The Sweet Spot’, where Coyle discusses some technical aspects of how pilots fly planes and the method by which Link made his machine, to some people, who may not be aware with those technicalities, the text may get boring. And where the text contains too much information about the Brazilian Football team. It would have been much easier, for the common people who need motivation in their life to understand Coyle’s text more clearly, if the text had a little less explanation of how the pilots work or if the text would have been made a little simple where those two examples were used.
The last thing which clicked my mind was that what a foolish thing it is to avoid the mistakes and see them as a nightmare or becoming afraid of doing mistakes. “The second reason deep practice is a strange concept is that it takes events that we normally strive to avoid—namely, mistakes—and turns them into skills […] In fact, let’s consider an extreme example, which arrives in the form of a question: how do you get good at something when making a mistake has a decent chance of killing you? “ (20)
Here I would like to quote Paulo Coelho’s famous line from “The Alchemist”,
“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.”
It’s called ‘The mistake-phobia’. Coyle indirectly tells that
“If you’re going through hell. Keep going.”
(J. Woodruff Smith)
We should consider the mistakes as a significant point in the learning process. “To understand how deep practice works, then, it’s first useful to consider the unexpected but crucial importance of errors to the learning process.” (20)
These were all the prominent ideas Coyle discussed in “The Sweet Spot”. I would like to end this with Paulo Coelho’s famous quote:
“When you find your path, you must not be afraid. You need to have sufficient courage to make mistakes. disappointment, defeat, and despair are the tools God uses to show us the way.” -Paulo Coelho
Coyle, Daniel. The Talent Code. New York: Bantam Dell, 2009. Print
Coelho, Paulo. The Alchemist. San Francisco: 1998. Print
Brida by Paulo Coelho.
Christian Science Sentinel, an article by J. Woodruff Smith (July 1969).