The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything, Josh Kaufman [VIDEO]

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Leaning new things keeps your thinking clear, even in unrelated areas.

If you are a wood turner, then learning to play guitar helps you become better at your craft.

Learn something new to improve your brain and happiness!

Or change a career if you have to.

first 20 hours how to learn anything

When you think about learning something, then you probably see the people who have mastered the skill and think about achieving their level of competence. However, you know that to get to the expert level, to be the best of the best, you need at least 10,000 hours of practice.

When you face that 10,000 hours, then it is easy to justify not doing anything at all. And as humans, our default action seems to be no action. Josh Kaufman challenges this view and says that you can get pretty good at anything in about 20 hours.

As I wrote in my post, Improve your life: Learn Something New, you can decide to be pretty good at something and have fun with very little effort. You just have to get over the initial feeling of incompetence.

Go wild with the skills you learn.

Try wildly different things. The more variation you have in your skill set, the more creative you become. The smartest people have the most varied hobbies.

The top people in most fields have arrived there following a meandering path.

Do the same!

Let’s see how deep the rabbit hole goes.

Here are the steps to effectively learn new skills:

1. Deconstruct the skill

Do the most important parts first!

Learning to play the guitar? The chords are the most important elements you should learn. In any skill, there are a few most basic elements. Find out what they are and focus on practicing only those. You are not after expert-level mastery. You want to get a feel for something in a month or so.

2. Self-Correct

Learn just enough to self-correct.

Watch Youtube videos or read the beginner’s guide. Then focus on the basics you understand so that when you make a mistake, then you can spot it and correct yourself. The 10,000-hour rule talks about deliberate practice, which means you have to concentrate on the parts where you make the most mistakes.

3. Focus

Remove barriers to practice.

Put the daily practice on your calendar and do it every day. Maybe you have to skip a day, but don’t skip two days in a row. Create a learning habit for life. You can learn something for 20 hours and decide to move on, or you find the new skill interesting and continue to practice.

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4. Practice for 20 hours

Practice at least 20 hours to get over the frustration barrier and remove the negative emotion. I have seen many people try something new for a few hours and then say “this is not for me” or “I’m not good at math (singing, working with my hands, writing, running, etc.)” Don’t be that person. Everything that’s worth something takes time.

the first 20 hours learning curve

20 hours is not that much. 40 minutes a day for one month, and you’ll get the hang of pretty much anything. The first 20 hours let you test out new skills at a rate of 12 skills per year, and then you can make an informed decision if you want to continue to practice that skill or try something new.

Break anything up into 20-hours chunks

You can use the 20-hour learning cycle even if you are not a complete beginner anymore. You can break any part of the skill into sections and then focus on one unfamiliar section for 20 hours.

For example, when learning a foreign language, you can focus on a specific area and focus on that for the next 20 hours. If you are a foodie, you may want to learn as much as possible about food, restaurants, drinks, etc.

Systems and habits, not goals

Break the 20-hour learning periods into 40-minute sessions, and you will have a 30-day challenge that is relatively easy to complete.

The key here is that you don’t have a goal.

You have a system of doing something for 40 minutes a day. At the end of the 30 days, you can see how far you have come. Then you decide if you want to go any further.

First-20-Hours-How-to-Learn-Anything-ebook The first 20 hours book

The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything . . . Fast! by Josh Kaufman that has pretty good reviews and seems to be worth reading.

Book Description: Forget the “10,000-hour rule”… what if it’s possible to learn any new skill in 20 hours or less?

Take a moment to consider how many things you want to learn to do. What’s on your list? What’s holding you back from getting started? Are you worried about the time and effort it takes to acquire new skills – time you don’t have and effort you can’t spare?

Research suggests it takes 10,000 hours to develop a new skill. In this nonstop world, when will you ever find that much time and energy?

To make matters worse, the early hours of practicing something new are always the most frustrating. That’s why it’s difficult to learn how to speak a new language, play an instrument, hit a golf ball, or shoot great photos. It’s so much easier to watch TV or surf the web…

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Listen to the Introduction…

In The First 20 Hours, Josh Kaufman offers a systematic approach to rapid skill acquisition: how to learn any new skill as quickly as possible. His method shows you how to deconstruct complex skills, maximize productive practice, and remove common learning barriers. By completing just 20 hours of focused, deliberate practice, you’ll go from knowing absolutely nothing to performing noticeably well.

This method isn’t theoretical: it’s field-tested. Kaufman invites readers to join him as he field tests his approach by learning to program a Web application, play the ukulele, practice yoga, re-learn to touch type, get the hang of windsurfing, and study the world’s oldest and most complex board game.

Let us know in the comments what do you want to learn in 20 hours?

Here’s another video explaining the concept of a 20-hour learning tactic.

learning quote buscaglia

Change is the result of all true learning. ~~ Leo Buscaglia

Steps to rapidly acquire new skills

Here’s another step-by-step video on how to deconstruct a skill and then get the maximum out of your 20 hours of practice.

Use practice tests

Practice tests are very effective learning tools.

  1. Take a test first, before learning.
  2. Learn.
  3. Take another test.

Tests with open answers (not multiple choice) work best.

The test primes your brain to find answers to the questions you answered. Even if you didn’t know the answers, the effort to think about the subject made you more receptive for the learning material to follow.

Change careers?

When I ran a web development business, I had a programmer who was improving by leaps and bounds on the job. I was very happy that I hired him.

Only later did he let us know how he managed to get the job.

He wanted to become a programmer. He didn’t know much about programming.

So, he decided to learn enough programming to get a job as a junior developer and then continue learning on the job.

As soon as he got to the level where he was confident enough to apply for a programmer position, he did just that.

We hired him.

He kept improving and was one of the best programmers I have had in more than 20 years in the business.

Pick something now!

You can select anything that has crossed your mind in the past, but you felt it’s too hard.

Just do it for 30 days.

It doesn’t matter what the result is.

You will become a better person during the process.

Image credit Pexels


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Priit Kallas

Founder of I created FixWillpower to help you reach your goals. I have struggled my entire life to be consistent and avoid procrastination. The goal is to have a good life, do the things you love and get your results with minimum effort. FixWillpower website is about how I create motivation and productivity in my life. I write about the tools and techniques, best books, scientific research, and everything else that helps you move faster and stay on track. Minimum effort doesn’t mean slacking off. Minimum effort is about effectiveness and productivity. If there is a way to reach a goal in a shorter time or with less exertion, then you should use that. I will help you be smarter and reach goals faster. About FixWillpower