Summer hols are on the horizon so it’s time to consider some important questions; ‘Will Easy Jet bankrupt me if I attempt to check in a windsurfer?’; ‘Is this really the ideal moment to be buying Euros?’; ‘Will the residents of my chosen European destination still welcome me with open arms?’ and, ‘What am I going to read on the beach?’
The answer to the first question is without doubt, ‘Yes!’ so I won’t bother – it wouldn’t fit in the taxi anyway (even if I still had a windsurfer!) The next two questions? I’ve no idea! The final, literary, question? Not, as you might have imagined, the latest enthralling offering from Jilly Cooper. The last time I went on holiday I read a book called ‘The Talent Code’, which probably sounds a little sad, not quite the same heady mix of sex, show jumping, and improbably named characters like Perdita, Xavier and Taggie, just a really interesting look at the concept of ‘TALENT’. To continue this rather sad theme, my little girl has just given me a copy of a similar book called ‘Black Box Thinking’ to take on holiday, she obviously thinks I’m too old for trashy novels and could still do with a bit of educating.
I’ll have to get back to you on the contents of this latest beach read, which is waiting patiently with my swimming trunks and flip-flops, but it reminded me of the contents of ‘The Talent Code’, a fascinating look at what ‘talent’ really is. My thinking is that the ideas put forward in the book should fill you with hope; the basic, and perhaps slightly controversial, theory is that, put very simply, you don’t get born talented, you just get good at things by putting in loads of practice. So how do you explain the person who wants to learn a new skill, woodworking perhaps, and they seem to have a natural aptitude for it? Well it might be that they’ve been doing practical things with their hands for many years and the, ‘Gosh, you’re really talented at woodwork!’ should actually be, ‘Gosh, all that practice, doing stuff with your hands, refining those motor skills and coating your nerve fibres with Myelin, is really paying off. Not surprisingly you’re pretty good at woodwork!’
If you believe the book, and it seemed to make a lot of sense to me, ‘skill’ is not down to an innate ability but masses of practice. I think that should reassure everyone who wants to learn a new craft, it’s definitely borne out by my really industrious students, their learning curve is an incredibly steep one, it’s amazing what a bit of diligence will do for you when you’re in the process of acquiring a new skill set. Of course it helps if you’re practicing the right things (perhaps a good course helps!) – ‘Purposeful Practice’ is what it’s all about. So, if you’ve spent you’re life doing stuff with your hands you’re very likely to appear ‘talented’ at woodwork, or any other craft for that matter. If you haven’t, but you have a burning desire to become really skilled at cutting dovetails, you’ll get there quickly enough – because you’ll be prepared to put in the practice.