[Continuing with notes from The Talent Code]
Coyle says that the second element in the talent code is “ignition” (something that produces the energy, passion, and commitment needed to achieve a goal). This often occurs as the result of a single, outstanding event. There is a breakthrough of success and a massive bloom of talent follows. It is amazing how this happens over and over again. Thus:
In May of 1954, Roger Bannister, a medical student at Oxford, became the first person to run the mile in less than four minutes. Sports Illustrated called it the single greatest athletic accomplishment of the twentieth century. Yet within three years no fewer than seventeen men had matched and surpassed Bannister’s time. Bannister broke a psychological barrier as much as a physical barrier. He made it clear to the world that the sub-four minute mile was really possible and, in the process, provided the spark which provoked others to try to do what he had done.
The igniting event for women’s golf in South Korea came the afternoon of May 18, 1998, when twenty-year-old Se Ri Pak won the McDonald’s LPGA Championship. Ten years later South Korea had no less than 45 women on the LPGA Tour.
For Russian women’s tennis, the moment came in the summer of 1998, when seventeen-year-old Anna Kournikova reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon. By 2007, five of the top ten women tennis players in the world were Russian.
For the Little League program of the small island of Curacao, the moment came on October 20, 1996, when the center fielder for the Atlanta Braves (and Curacao native) Andruw Jones hit two home runs in the World Series against the Yankees. Prior to this event, Little League baseball in Curacao had been largely ignored by the youth of the island. But a few weeks after Jones’ home runs, 400 kids came out to sign up to play Little League. Five years later, the Curacao Little League All-Stars played in the finals of the Little League World Series (held each year in Williamsport, PA). Curacao had qualified for the World Series only once previously (in 1980) and had never played in a championship game. To make it to the Little League World Series (a world-wide competition) two consecutive years is considered to be an amazing accomplishment. Over the past 8 years, the Curacao team has made it to the semi-finals in the Little League World Series six times, winning the world championship in 2004 and finishing second in 2005.
The igniting event is something that stirs a vision and passion to “be like her” or “to do what he did.” It imparts a small, ephemeral, yet powerful vision of one’s ideal future self — a vision that orients, energizes, and accelerates progress. It can come from witnessing a remarkable achievement; hearing an encouraging word at the right time; living around highly-skilled professionals — anything that imparts the drive to achieve a particular goal and the commitment to sacrifice the time and energy to achieve it. Without this vision, there will never be the commitment to put in the years of hard work that are essential to develop world-class skills.
[wait . . . there’s still more!]