Troy’s first contact with John McLaughlin was in the very early stages of the Cracking the Code project, probably around a decade ago now. At the time John’s lack of interest was more tied into belief that picking technique has to be discovered individually, and he didn’t really see the value in the kind of technical analysis we do.
This was before we’d released material showing in detail how different techniques work, so a pretty common and understandable initial response. We haven’t had luck getting in touch with him more recently but perhaps now if he had a chance to look at our stuff he’d be more open to it.
This gets at a more general answer to your other question though — in our experience it’s actually very common for elite players to not really know how their technique actually works. And indeed it seems common with any sort of intuitive physical genius: the best in the world often develop greatness at what they do via lots of time and trial and error, but without conscious understanding of how exactly it works.
So we really haven’t observed much in the way of players being explicitly averse to sharing their secrets. It’s possible that some think that way but we don’t tend to hear this directly. Much more common that they don’t recognize such secrets exist! What “special sauce” we’re able to uncover typically isn’t by getting these players to explain stuff to us, but rather trying to draw conclusions by observation e.g. with slow-mo video analysis. We often think of our approach as something like “musical Mythbusters”. Questions of intuitive / tacit knowledge vs. what we’re able to articulate and transfer and replicate.
And of course, knowing how something works makes it easier to learn, but it’s never a magic bullet…the same way that learning about efficient athletic training may help me improve my gym routine, but won’t necessarily get me to the Olympic tryouts.
I’d actually hazard a guess that most people at a truly elite level in any field aren’t too worried about others knowing how they do what they do, and often actually enjoy sharing details about their work. I’m generalizing, but think of all the chefs that happily share a lifetime of recipes for just the price of a book. Or as another example take something like Masterclass, where basically the whole premise is people world-class in their field explaining what they do. Steph Curry is happy to teach how he shoots a basketball; Annie Leibovitz is happy to teach her photography methods; Garry Kasparov is happy to teach chess…they’re not concerned about competition or hoarding their secrets.
Though…I can imagine some fields, like say quantitative trading, or pharmaceutical research, where there actually are deeply valuable and highly guarded secrets. Perhaps the line between the two is what separates those we consider “artists” or “performers” or “masters” from other sorts of experts. A hazy line to be sure, but something to think about… Anyway this reply is already longer than I planned so I’ll trail off there! Lots of great questions here, and many interesting challenges to consider studying / teaching expert knowledge. You can probable tell we have fun thinking about this stuff