myelin, habit formation, deliberate practice

How do we learn?

How do we get better at our chosen art?

Why does one person seems to progress faster than another?

Can we improve the quality of our practice?

Here are three reads to consider as you continue to plumb the depths of these questions in your practice:

1. The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle

Excerpt:

The talent code is built on revolutionary scientific discoveries involving a neural insulator called myelin, which some neurologists now consider to be the holy grail of acquiring skill. Here’s why. Every human skill, whether it’s playing baseball or playing Bach, is created by chains of nerve fibers carrying a tiny electrical impulse – basically, a signal traveling through a circuit. Myelin’s vital role is to wrap those nerve fibers the same way that rubber insulation wraps a a copper wire, making the signal stronger and faster by preventing the electrical impulses from leaking out. When we fire our circuits in the right way – when we practice swinging that bat or playing that note – our myelin responds by wrapping layers of insulation around that neural circuit, each new layer adding a bit more skill and speed. The thicker the myelin gets, the better it insulates, and the faster and more accurate our movement and thoughts become.

Read more about the Talent Code at Coyle’s website: http://thetalentcode.com/

See a slide show about how myelin works on this page: http://thetalentcode.com/myelin/

2. Can you Become a Creature of New Habits?

article by  JANET RAE-DUPREE  Published: May 4, 2008 In the New York Times:

 Excerpt:

“…brain researchers have discovered that when we consciously develop new habits, we create parallel synaptic paths, and even entirely new brain cells, that can jump our trains of thought onto new, innovative tracks.

Rather than dismissing ourselves as unchangeable creatures of habit, we can instead direct our own change by consciously developing new habits. In fact, the more new things we try — the more we step outside our comfort zone — the more inherently creative we become, both in the workplace and in our personal lives.

But don’t bother trying to kill off old habits; once those ruts of procedure are worn into the hippocampus, they’re there to stay. Instead, the new habits we deliberately ingrain into ourselves create parallel pathways that can bypass those old roads.”

read more at:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/04/business/04unbox.html?_r=1

 

3. Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin

“One of the most important questions about greatness surrounds the difficulty of delinberate practice. The chief constratint is mental, regardless of the field – evn in sports, where we might think the physical demands are the hardest. Across realms, the required concentration is so intense that it’s exhausting.  If deliberate practice is so hard – if in most cases it’s “not inherently enjoyable,” as some of the top reserchers say – then why do some people put themselves through it day after day for decades, while most do not? Where does the necessary passion come from? That turns out to be quite a deep question. But answers re truning up.”

read more from Colvin’s book at Amazon.com 

Keep learning, practice with attention and thrive!