10 Favorite Tips from The Little Book of Talent: 52 Tips for Improving Your Skills

August 30th, 2014 8 min readPersonal Development

If you want to get better at getting better, The Little Book of Talent is a good start. With over 5 years of research and investigation of principles that have existed for even more years, the author, Daniel Coyle brings together the essence of skill development into 52 practical tips that will help to cultivate talent. Here are some of my favorite tips from the book.

TIP #10: Honor The Hard Skills

Most talents are a combination of soft and hard skills. Prioritize the hard skills because in the long run they're more important to your talent. 1

One way to keep this idea in mind is to picture your talent as a big oak tree— a massive, thick trunk of hard skills with a towering canopy of flexible soft skills up above. First build the trunk. Then work on the branches. 2

Remark: Hard skills usually take more energy and time to develop, so that is where I also try to put most of my focus on in small increments over time. The soft skills are still important but you have more wiggle room for developing them whereas hard skills need more deliberate practice.

TIP #12: Five ways to pick a high quality teacher or coach

  • Avoid Someone Who Reminds You of a Courteous Waiter
  • Seek Someone Who Scares You a Little. Look for someone who: Watches you closely, is action-oriented, and is honest, sometimes unnervingly so.
  • Seek Someone Who Gives Short, Clear Directions
  • Seek Someone Who Loves Teaching Fundamentals
  • Other Things Being Equal, Pick the Older Person

Remark: Finding mentors and teachers can be a hard but very important task. I found this tip helpful and it can serve as a good checklist for better consistency in finding guidance from another person.

TIP #15: Break every move down into chunks

  1. What is the smallest single element of this skill that I can master?
  2. What other chunks link to that chunk? Practice one chunk by itself until you've mastered it - then connect more chunks, one by one, See the whole thing. Break it down to its simplest elements. Put it back together. Repeat.

Remark: You can increase your success at solving difficult problems or attaining difficult skills by breaking them into smaller easier to manage pieces. When it comes to learning our minds work better dealing with small modules and we can pay attention to those modules and absorb them better.

TIP #18: Choose five minutes a day over an hour a week

The way our brains grow - incrementally, a little each day, even as we sleep. Daily practice, even for five minutes, nourishes this process, while more occasional practice forces your brain to play catch-up.

Remark: It is easier to develop habits by starting small. Doing tasks in small intervals lowers the resistance to actually getting the task done and when done over time your results are exponential and more efficient.

TIP #22: Pay attention immediately after you make a mistake

A vital instant, 0.25 seconds after a mistake is made. Develop the habit of attending to your errors right away. Don't wince, don't close your eyes; look straight at them and see what really happened, and ask yourself what you can do next to improve. Take mistakes seriously, but never personally. 3

Remark: This is something that I've had to deal with a lot as I used to be very ashamed of my mistakes and shy away from that. Back in highschool, if I did bad on an exam, that exam was thrown away faster than a criminal trying to get rid of evidence. I did not want to look at my mistakes. Now I am more aware in many aspects of my life to use mistakes as learning opportunities so I can improve and reduce the probability of making the same mistakes down the road.

TIP #29: When you get it right mark the right spot

When you have your first perfect rep, freeze. Rewind the mental tape and play the move again in your mind. Memorize the feeling, the rhythm, the physical and mental sensations. The point is to mark this moment - this is the spot where you want to go again and again. This is not the finish - it's the new starting line for perfecting the skill until it becomes automatic.

Remark: Being aware of what works allows you to make a habit of success and better enables you to develop systems to repeat what works so you can mantain a steady rate of progress overtime.

TIP #33: To Learn from a book, close the book

Closing the book and writing a summary forces you to figure out the key points (one set of reaches). Then process and organize those ideas so they make sense (more reaches) and write them on the page (still more reaches, along with repetition).

Remark: I read a ton of books and I even develop systems around getting better at reading so that I can gain more from what I read as time goes on. This tip is a good reminder to be more aware while you read and better engaged with what the author has written so you can retain more of what you read.

TIP #43: Embrace repetition

Embracing repetition means changing your mindset; instead of viewing it as a chore, view it as your most powerful tool.

As the martial artist and actor Bruce Lee said, “I fear not the man who has practiced ten thousand kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick ten thousand times.” 4

Remark: James clear has written about prioritizing systems over goals because personal systems allow you to have more long-term consistency through habits aligned with a process that you can measure and iterate on to improve. Through repetition you better become what you consistently do. I've written about my person system here.

TIP #46: Don't waste time trying to break bad habits - Instead build new ones

Ignore the bad habit and put your energy toward building a new habit that will override the old one.

Remark: My mindset really changed when I realized the essence of this tip and it has helped to change my life drastically. Our time is finite, instead of trying to deplete your willpower thinking about breaking bad habits, change your environment or make it so you're too preoccupied to even indulge in your bad habits. Some examples I took: I wanted to stop watching TV, I canceled my cable and when my favorite shows would of showed during a set time block, I would do my next favorite thing and go to the gym during that time frame. I wanted to read more books, so I changed my perspective of what it means to ride the train to work, I see it as a tax on my time and by reading, I can get back a rebate or return on my time invested for traveling.

TIP #50: Cultivate your grit

Grit is that mix of passion, perseverance, and self-discipline that keeps us moving forward in spite of obstacles. 5

Remark: Grit to me determines how you can survive through uncertainty and even chaos. It is your ability to bounce back and adapt. Having grit allows you to go the distance and take more risks. Changing the world takes grit. You can purchase the book on amazon here. If you read the book what were some of your favorite tips? Or if you haven't yet which were your favorites from my favorites. Comment your thoughts below. Share these tips to spread the seeds of talent!


  1. Coyle, Daniel 2012-08-21. The Little Book of Talent: 52 Tips for Improving Your Skills p.27. Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
  2. Coyle, Daniel (2012-08-21). The Little Book of Talent: 52 Tips for Improving Your Skills (Kindle Locations 346-347).
  3. Coyle, Daniel (2012-08-21). The Little Book of Talent: 52 Tips for Improving Your Skills (Kindle Locations 554-555). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
  4. Coyle, Daniel (2012-08-21). The Little Book of Talent: 52 Tips for Improving Your Skills (Kindle Locations 839-841).
  5. Coyle, Daniel (2012-08-21). The Little Book of Talent: 52 Tips for Improving Your Skills (Kindle Locations 924-925).
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