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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Building Skills 8

More from Daniel Coyle: Tip#11 "Don't Fall for the Prodigy Myth."
Coyle makes the point that prodigies (talent expressed at an early age) aren't really predictors of ultimate success. He gives some examples:
Many top performers are overlooked early on, then grow quietly into stars. This list includes Michael Jordan (cut from his high school varsity team as a sophomore), Charles Darwin (considered slow and ordinary by teachers), Walt Disney (fired from an early job because he "lacked imagination"), Albert Einstein, Louis Pasteur, Paul Gaugin, Thomas Edison, Leo Tolstoy, Fred Astaire, Winston Churchill, Lucille Ball, and so on.
He then mentions Carol Dweck, whose research I profile here and here. Her work involves two mindsets, one that is fixed and where the individual assumes that their talent is fixed (and therefore failure is not a good thing); and one that she calls the growth mindset, where growth (and the failures that go with the attempts to do things one can't yet do well) is valued.
He also speaks of various sports "talent hotbeds," where they are, "not built on identifying talent, but constructing it."
While this feeds into our own skill building (and our willingness to explore things we don't yet do well and accept failure as a way to learn new things), I think it goes more to the development of our own singers'/students' skills.
It tells us that we must be careful not to assume too much from the current level of some of our students. We don't really know who will develop and who won't. It's our job to do everything we can to build the skills of each and every student. Coyle quotes Anson Dorrance, head coach of the University of North Carolina women's soccer team, who's led his team to 21 championship wins: "One of the most unfortunate things I see when identifying youth players is the girl who is told over the years how great she is. By the time she's a high school freshman, she starts to believe it. By her senior year, she's fizzled out. Then there's her counterpart: a girl waiting in the wings, who quietly and with determination decides she's going to make something of herself. Invariably, this humble, hard-working girl is the one who becomes the real player."
What does that tell us about how we treat our young singers?
Think about it!

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