What if talent wasn’t something you were born with? What if, instead, there was a formula to become successful at art?


Hi, my name is Carrie and here on Artist Strong I help artists like you refine your skill and develop your unique voice. And that is why today’s topic, the book The Talent Code, is so important for our community.


Coyle is a journalist fascinated by the idea of talent hot beds, for example, why do many soccer (often called football) stars seem to come from Brazil?

The book’s subtitle says it all: Greatness isn’t born. It’s grown. Here’s how.

I came across the book thanks to community member and creative spirit Alison Beere, a cartoonist who came to her art as an adult and now teaches adults that they too can draw. She told me it’s required reading for students who wish to work with her. I can see why!

Coyle uses anecdotes and research to help us understand the following truth:

“Skill is insulation that wraps neural circuits and grows according to certain signals.”

I know you might be thinking, say what?!

Here’s the biology: nerve fibers are how our brain makes connections and acts on information. Our brains make faster connections with the fiber lines that are most insulated. That’s where myelin comes in.

Myelin is the insulation. It’s a sheath created by oligodendrocytes, which are cells in our brain.

Our bodies were not built to insulate all of our nerve fibers because our lives and the world around us keeps changing. We need to adapt. So, how do our cells decide which lines to insulate to create faster connections? By their frequency of use.

Coyle says the way we can help the insulation in the myelin grow is through practicing the right way. And if you’ve been with me before today’s video, you’ve heard me talk about this before with the research of Anders Ericsson. In this book, Coyle gives us the formula of practice to apply to our own lives.

Before he does this, however, he takes time to prove to people why talent is NOT innate, because our culture believes in this misconception. I’ve seen this in the Artist Strong community as well: some artists feel threatened or triggered when I share the truth that we can all become skillful in art if we choose to practice the right way.

Like Coyle, and Ericsson in his book Peak both say: there is a RIGHT way to practice. Coyle breaks it down as follows:

Deep practice + Ignition + Master Coaching = Talent

So how do we do this “deep practice?” It’s a sweet spot of focused practice that is challenging and keeps you outside of your comfort zone.  It’s also about breaking down the skill you are learning into super small, achievable, focused steps.

The Renaissance is an example of a moment in time where artists applied deep practice. They apprenticed for years with experienced people and developed skills step by step.

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So, what is Ignition? Ignition is a special moment of connection and inspiration that fuels people to stick with the difficult and even boring deep practice. Sometimes it’s a special teacher or parent. It’s what I hope the Artist Strong community is for you. Other times it’s a historical moment of individual success that we inspire and connect to. It’s often this light bulb moment where we think, “well, if she can do it… why can’t I?”

Lastly, Coyle speaks about Master Coaching. Feedback is key for your success and the more specific and tailored the feedback can be to us as individual artists, the better. He highlights several master coaches and shows us how integral this piece of the puzzle can be for our success.

If you still doubt talent is something you can grow PLEASE read this book.

If you want to develop your own specific strategies to improve your art skill I highly encourage you to pick up The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle today.

Please consider using my affiliate link if you purchase the book, which is below this video. It helps me continue to offer free content like today’s video.

Be Creatively Courageous: What is one technique or area in art you wish to commit time to Deep Practice?

If you want me to break down the formula further I have a free 7 day challenge called Drawing Drills that can help you start up-leveling your skill today. Just click on the button below this video to get started.

Thanks for watching and see you next week, where I talk about the REAL ingredient we all need to succeed at our art.