I recently read the book the first 20 hours by author Josh Kaufman. You may have heard that it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill. but, what if you don’t want to master a skill, what if you just want to be good enough to enjoy using the skill, and get value out of it, like playing a few songs on your guitar.
Well, According to over 90 years of scientific research, attaining a level of competency with any skill can happen much much quicker than you may think, if you approach skill development in a systematic way, you can climb up the learning curve and reach a point of noticeable proficiency in just 20 hours. Author Josh Kaufman says: “You would be astounded at how good you could get at any skill in just 20 hours.” however, if you approach the skill development process without the proper game plan you’re unlikely to get anywhere in 20 hours.
Here is a three-part blueprint to rapidly develop any skill and experience surprising competency after just 20 hours:
Attempting to develop a new skill can be overwhelming, the faster that you can imagine a specific target performance with your new skill the faster you’ll reduce that feeling of overwhelming. An excellent way to imagine your target performance is to picture yourself in a situation using that skill within the next few weeks, once you have that situation in mind imagine the situation being a complete disaster. Let’s say you’ve always wanted to speak Italian, the most effective way to break down the task of speaking Italian into something more manageable is to picture yourself in the next few weeks going to Italy and going to a small town where no one speaks English, you don’t have access to data so you can’t use your cell phone you are completely lost and you need to find your way around town so you ask a local for directions. As you try to explain what you want you use hand gestures and you stumble to find the right words to mitigate this disaster you’d first need to be able to introduce yourself, then you need to know how to say the Italian words for the different places you want to go nouns like hotel, restaurant or museum. It would then be helpful to know which verbs to use with those nouns verbs like to go, to want and to and to help the local understand what you want you would need to learn how to structure a question by using interrogatives like where, when and how. By imagining a situation where not having
2. Know just enough
Now that you know what to do. You’ll need to know how to do it. At this stage in the skill development process, people spend too much time studying a skill and too little time practicing a skill. If you were learning how to toss a football, it’s not very productive to study the physics of throwing a football for five hours before playing catch in the backyard the sole purpose of studying a skill before doing it is to be knowledgeable enough to know if you’re doing something wrong and how to fix it the professor of linguistics at the University of Southern California stephen krashen calls this the monitor hypothesis it states that learning before practicing is only valuable if what you’re learning allows you to plan edit and correct yourself while practicing when learning to toss a football it would be helpful to spend a few minutes watching a collection of highly rated YouTube videos or flipping through a stack of top rated football instructional books once you’ve found a consensus from three or more sources on what a proper football tossing technique should look like and feel like then it’s time to go outside and start practicing the moment you understand how to execute a sub skill and how to self-correct drop the books turn off the videos and go practice as you practice you’ll come up with more questions to study and you can go back to the resources looking for specific answers if you want to shorten your study time use coaches or mentors to point out exactly what you’re doing wrong when possible use software programs like use ition an app that gives you real-time feedback as you play the guitar to help you self correct while practicing to make the most of your first 20 hours learn just enough to self-correct.
3. Struggle and sleep
Author Josh Kaufman wanted to see if he could learn a skill in 20 hours. I would overwrite a skill he had been using for most of his life so he set out to learn a new typing method he wanted to go from the standard QWERTY keyboard layout to a more efficient COLEMAK layout his research revealed that typing with a COLEMAK configuration reduced finger movement improved typing accuracy and reduced his chances of getting carpal tunnel. So, Josh made the switch and he was frustrated immediately, his typing speed went from 60 words per minute down to 5. Josh
Josh also found a direct correlation between how intensely practice and how much he improved the following day if he spent a few hours casually typing in the new configuration he made zero improvements in typing speed and accuracy it turns out the brain only bothers to upgrade your abilities during sleep if you struggled during the day therefore the equation for rapid improvement is short bursts of struggle plus sleep the more intervals of struggle and sleep you experience the faster you’ll improve to make the most of your first 20 hours I recommend practicing your desired skill for 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes at night for an entire month the morning will give you an opportunity to practice without distraction and practicing in the evening will increase the odds of consolidating that skill while you sleep if you practice intensely and systematically for 40 minutes a day at the end of the month you will accumulate a twenty hours of deliberate practice and be surprisingly good at whatever skill you want that was the core message that I gathered from the first twenty hours there are many more examples in the book of how to rapidly improve your skills I highly recommend it.