10,000 hours or just 20 hours to learn something new?

About three years ago I picked up a copy of Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell which was a wonderful read. It set out to answer: what makes high achievers different? He looked for common threads between those few individuals who are at the top of their game. Among others, he looked at top soccer players and the rock group, The Beetles to find out what made them great. He discussed the 10,000 hour rule of thumb as the amount of practice that it takes on average in order to be great at something. This was definitely a fascinating and entertaining read. It was also somewhat of a discouragement because when it comes to learning something new, I don’t have 10,000 hours.

This is why I was relieved to find The First 20 Hours; How to Learn anything..Fast by Josh Kaufman. Josh is the best selling author of The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business and he also blogs on joshkaufman.net. In his book he goes on to say that to be functional enough to enjoy doing performing a new skill, all you need to invest is about 20 hours of practice. If anyone has a valid point to make on this topic Josh would know considering he defines himself as a learning junkie. This book contains a lot of practical tips on how to make real progress toward learning a new skill in a short amount of time. Below are Josh’s principles to speed up the learning process.

Ten Principles of Rapid Skill Acquisition

  1. Choose a Loveable Project
  2. Focus your energy on one skill at a time.
  3. Define your target performance level.
  4. Deconstruct the skill into sub-skills.
  5. Obtain critical tools.
  6. Eliminate barriers to practice.
  7. Make dedicated time to practice.
  8. Create fast feedback loops.
  9. Practice by the clock in short bursts.
  10. Emphasize quantity and speed.

Perhaps you have that lingering skill that you have been wanting to learn but keep putting aside. Perhaps you want to learn to play the guitar, learn to paint, learn a new language or code in a new language, I hope this will wet your appetite for that thing that you have been putting off. My suggestion to you? Pick up a copy of this book, become familiar with these principles and have fun learning that new thing!

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