Daniel Coyle on Deliberate Practice

The Talent Code on Amazon.
Video trailer for The Talent Code.

This post is part of my series on deliberate practice (also called deep practice or purposeful practice), which I consider very important for understanding education and human capital accumulation more broadly.

In the last few years, I have often taught an introductory macroeconomics class. Both at the beginning of the semester, and whenever a student comes to me puzzled that they have done worse-than-expected on an exam, I recommend that they read the book The Talent Code. What I hope they get from the book is a sense of what it means to study in a deep way, rather than just “going over the material.” In case students don’t read the book, I have had teams of students from an honors section of the class give a presentation on the book to the entire class of about 250 students. I strongly recommend this

Powerpoint file on The Talent Code put together by my Fall 2012 “Principles of Macroeconomics” students Hrishikesh Kulkarni and Madeline Wills,

which they generously gave me permission to post. I had the audience vote on this and presentations about 5 other books. This was voted best of all 6 presentations. I agreed with the audience’s assessment. (The other books were

Here is the essence of the 3 key slides in Hrishikesh’s and Madeline’s Powerpoint file:

Deep Practice

Chunk it up

  • Absorb–get involved with practice: imitation
  • Break it into chunks–organize practice into smaller pieces
  • Slow it down–take time to practice correctly


Learn to feel it

Self-Learning Connection

Master Coaching

  • Having someone inspire you to keep working can be effective
  • However, your greatest coach is yourself


  • Make yourself passionate about learning
  • Find your own source of ignition

Deep Practice

  • Absorb–study deeply, not necessarily a lot
  • Break it into chunks–all-nighters are less effect than spreading it out
  • Slow it down–take time to make sure you are learning
  • Repeat–practice makes perfect!

in the text above, I bolded a thought that got a particularly strong audience reaction: the greater effectiveness of spreading study out over time, instead of concentrating it in one all-nighter.