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How To Learn Anything In 20 Hours

The first 20 hours — how to learn anything | Josh Kaufman | TEDxCSU

The following article is derived from the accompanying video. It is provided as an additional resource for your reading convenience

In this TedX Talk, Josh Kaufman asks his audience, “How long does it take from starting something and being grossly incompetent and knowing it to being reasonably good?”

“In hopefully, as short a period of time as possible. So, how long does that take? Here’s what my research says: 20 hours. That’s it. You can go from knowing nothing about any skill that you can think of. Want to learn a language? Want to learn how to draw? Want to learn how to juggle flaming chainsaws?”, Kaufman says.


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“If you put 20 hours of focused deliberate practice into that thing, you will be astounded. Astounded at how good you are. 20 hours is doable, that’s about 45 minutes a day for about a month. Even skipping a couple days, here and there. 20 hours isn’t that hard to accumulate. Now, there’s a method to doing this. Because it’s not like you can just start fiddling around for about 20 hours and expect these massive improvements. There’s a way to practice intelligently. There’s a way to practice efficiently, that will make sure that you invest those 20 hours in the most effective way that you possibly can: Kaufman explains.


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Kaufman says the method applies to anything:


1. “The first is to deconstruct the skill. Decide exactly what you want to be able to do when you’re done, and then look into the skill and break it down into smaller pieces. Most of the things that we think of as skills are actually big bundles of skills that require all sorts of different things. The more you can break apart the skill, the more you’re able to decide, what are the parts of this skill that would actually help me get to what I want? Then you can practice those first. And if you practice the most important things first, you’ll be able to improve your performance in the least amount of time possible.”


2“The second is, learn enough to self correct. So, get three to five resources about what it is you’re trying to learn. Could be book, could be DVDs, could be courses, could be anything. But don’t use those as a way to procrastinate on practice. I know I do this, right? Get like 20 books about the topic, like, “I’m going to start learning how to program a computer when I complete these 20 books”. No. That’s procrastination. What you want to do is learn just enough that you can actually practice and self correct or self edit as you practice. So the learning becomes a way of getting better at noticing when you’re making a mistake and then doing something a little different.”


3. “The third is to remove barriers to practice. Distractions, television, internet. All of these things that get in the way of you actually sitting down and doing the work. And the more you’re able to use just a little bit of willpower to remove the distractions that are keeping you from practicing, the more likely you are to actually sit down and practice, right?”


4. “The fourth is to practice for at least 20 hours. Now, most skills have what I call a frustration barrier. You know, the grossly-incompetent- and-knowing-it part? That’s really, really frustrating. We don’t like to feel stupid. And feeling stupid is a barrier to us actually sitting down and doing the work. So, by pre-committing to practicing whatever it is that you want to do for at least 20 hours, you will be able to overcome that initial frustration barrier and stick with the practice long enough to actually reap the rewards. That’s it! It’s not rocket science. Four very simple steps that you can use to learn anything.”

Kaufman continues by saying, “The major barrier to learn something new is not intellectual, it’s not the process of you learning a bunch of little tips or tricks or things. The major barrier is emotional. We’re scared. Feeling stupid doesn’t feel good, in the beginning of learning anything new you feel really stupid.”

He wraps up his talk by explaining, “So the major barrier’ is not intellectual, it’s emotional. But put 20 hours into anything. It doesn’t matter. What do you want to learn? Do you want to learn a language? Want to learn how to cook? Want to learn how to draw? What turns you on? What lights you up? Go out and do that thing. It only takes 20 hours. Have fun.”


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Josh Kaufman is the author of two international bestsellers, The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business and The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything… Fast!.


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