How to Kick Ass

Location: Marina Ballroom D Level: Novice

What does it take to be really, really, really good at something? Neuroscientists now know that even the adult brain can still grow new neurons, but how do we make it happen? More importantly, are our tech tools making us smarter, dumbing us down, or…? The good news: having a “natural talent” for something is a lot less crucial for expertise than we thought.

Not a musician? The math is in your favor. You could pick up the violin at, say, age 40, and have 20 years’ worth of practice by the time you’re 60. Still fantasize about winning that chess tournament? It’s probably not too late. Write that novel? Be a large-animal vet? Documentary filmmaker? There’s never been a greater opportunity to learn and develop new expertise, and now we finally have the brain science to tell us how. But we also now have cultural barriers that make it less likely we’ll do what it takes, and those barriers are even higher for the youngest “digital natives.” But there’s hope…

Photo of Kathy Sierra

Kathy Sierra


Kathy Sierra worked as a game programmer, interaction designer, and learning specialist (Sun Microsystems, UCLA Extension) before creating the best-selling Head First series for O’Reilly. She was the original creator of one of the largest software developer communities,, and the author of a Technorati Top 100 blog, “Creating Passionate Users.”


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