The Talent Code… for Artist Business Owners

I read a book called The Talent Code this weekend and I now recommend it to you.  Many of the ideas are directly applicable to the being a musician or a business owner.  Below I will paraphrase some ideas from the book as they apply to our industry:

1.  Talent is nurtured – it takes time and consistent effort.  According to some of the greatest coaches in sports, it is rare that a genius with innate skills and abilities comes along.  Most stars are people who practice consistently and wisely to get where they are.  The book discusses the science of myelin, which is a tissue that wraps around your neurons each time you practice a skill.  It is this insulation that helps you improve a skill and it takes both time and repetition to grow the myelin.  Additionally, myelin is always breaking down and growing anew so if you don’t practice a skill for a while you “get rusty” because your myelin has broken down a bit.  A mantra often repeated in the book is:  Skill is insulation that wraps neural circuits and grows according to certain signals.

2.  Surround yourself with other driven people who you admire.  Though the book didn’t say this outright, I’m combining with an idea I talk about in coaching and one I’ve read from other successful people: The people you hang out with are a reflection of you.  In many talent hotbeds (like the Seattle grunge era or the rock scene in 1960s San Francisco) the author found that the athletes or musicians were surrounded by other artists honing and producing their craft.  This served as a positive feedback loop in the person’s mind.  One artist sees another doing great work and thus it makes it much more real for that person.

3.  Playing an instrument requires skill, so does running your business. As you know, it wasn’t easy to start playing an instrument.  It took lots of hard work to get to the point where you are now.  Business is a whole new set of skills.  You’ve got to experience what it means to run a business much like when you first picked up an instrument.  This is a reality.  If you want to succeed as an artist business, you must not shy away from the practice required to build your business myelin.  It may be hard when you first start out but it gets easier with time, just like learning your instrument.

4.  Imagine your future. This isn’t just some empty self-help advice, it’s real advice that has been studied.  The book points out a study of new music students that were asked how long they planned to play their instrument.  The students that imagined playing the instrument forever were the most successful group by far… and the ones who imagined this and practiced the most each day were the best of those students.

For every new coaching client I take on I ask them what their big vision is – where they imagine their career going.  Most artists tell me they can’t see that far into the future, but I think most people have just been trained not to shoot for the stars.  Take a moment to list 30 things you’d like to be or do in your life.  What does the future look like?  If you don’t define it, no one else will.  If you do define it and believe it, you’ll step up to the challenge of making it real.


There were many other great topics discussed in the book like what makes a great coach, the concept of deep practice, how to ignite someone’s drive to learn, and the different types of neural circuits.  Too much to go into unfortunately, but if you’ve got the time, check it out and let me know what you think:

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