The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything … Fast.

A Portrait of the Author as a Learning Junkie

Deconstructing a skill into the smallest possible subskills; Learning enough about each subskill to be able to practice intelligently and self-correct during practice; Removing physical, mental, and emotional barriers that get in the way of practice; Practicing the most important subskills for at least twenty hours.

World-class mastery may take ten thousand hours of focused effort, but developing the capacity to perform well enough for your own purposes usually requires far less of an investment.

Embracing the idea of sufficiency is the key to rapid skill acquisition.

We’re going to start with twenty hours of concentrated, intelligent, focused effort.

Rapid skill acquisition is a process—a way of breaking down the skill you’re trying to acquire into the smallest possible parts, identifying which of those parts are most important, then deliberately practicing those elements first.

You simply decide what to practice, figure out the best way to practice, make time to practice, then practice until you reach your target level of performance.

On the other hand, I learned everything the hard way. You could certainly reach my level of competence in these skills in much less than fifteen years if you approached the topic in a systematic way.

The amount of time it will take you to acquire a new skill is largely a matter of how much concentrated time you’re willing to invest in deliberate practice and smart experimentation and how good you need to become to perform at the level you desire.

language acquisition is different from language learning.

Learning concepts related to a skill helps you self-edit or self-correct as you’re practicing.

Learning helps you plan, edit, and correct yourself as you practice.

The trouble comes when we confuse learning with skill acquisition.

If you want to acquire a new skill, you must practice it in context. Learning enhances practice, but it doesn’t replace it. If performance matters, learning alone is never enough.

Training, in this context, means improving a skill you’ve already acquired through repetition.

There’s also a huge difference between skill acquisition and training.                                That exertion and strengthening process is training. The more you train, the stronger you become, and the faster you complete the marathon.

Without a certain amount of skill acquisition, training isn’t possible or useful.

Skill Acquisition vs. Education and Credentialing

But notice the emphasis: most of the effort of obtaining a credential is devoted to the process of meeting the requirements. Whether or not those requirements actually help you acquire the skills you need to perform in the real world is a tertiary concern at best.

If you want to get good at anything where real-life performance matters, you have to actually practice that skill in context. Study, by itself, is never enough.

neurons that fire together wire together

three-stage model” of skill acquisition,

Cognitive (Early) Stage—understanding what you’re trying to do, researching, thinking about the process, and breaking the skill into manageable parts. Associative (Intermediate) Stage—practicing the task, noticing environmental feedback, and adjusting your approach based on that feedback. Autonomous (Late) Stage—performing the skill effectively and efficiently without thinking about it or paying unnecessary attention to the process.

Your mind is like a muscle: the more you use it, the more it grows.” The more you practice, the more efficient, effective, and automatic the skill becomes. Same with money? But spending it wisely siguro

Ten Principles of Rapid Skill Acquisition

Here are the ten major principles of rapid skill acquisition: Choose a lovable project. Focus your energy on one skill at a time. Define your target performance level. Deconstruct the skill into subskills. Obtain critical tools. Eliminate barriers to practice. Make dedicated time for practice. Create fast feedback loops. Practice by the clock in short bursts. Emphasize quantity and speed.

One of the easiest mistakes to make when acquiring new skills is attempting to acquire too many skills at the same time.

temporary obsession.” Rapid skill acquisition happens naturally when you become so curious and interested in something that other concerns fall away, at least temporarily.

Think of these principles as ways to identify a skill worthy of temporary obsession, focus on it, and remove distractions or barriers that distract you from effective practice.

The best thing that can happen to a human being is to find a problem, to fall in love with that problem, and to live trying to solve that problem, unless another problem even more lovable appears.

You naturally learn things you care about faster than things you don’t.

Pick one, and only one, new skill you wish to acquire. Put all of your spare focus and energy into acquiring that skill, and place other skills on temporary hold.

Focusing on one prime skill at a time is absolutely necessary for rapid skill acquisition. You’re not giving up on the other skills permanently, you’re just saving them for later.

what “good enough” looks like.

Think of it as a single sentence description of what you’re trying to achieve, and what you’ll be able to do when you’re done. The more specific your target performance level is, the better.

Once you determine exactly how good you want or need to be, it’s easier to figure out how to get there.

“A problem well stated is a problem half solved.”

the more relaxed your target performance level, the more rapidly you can acquire the associated skill.

Significant prepractice effort. Such as misplacing your tools, not acquiring the correct tools before practicing, or skipping setup requirements. Intermittent resource availability. Such as using borrowed equipment or relying on a resource that has limited operating hours. Environmental distractions. Such as television, ringing phones, and incoming e-mail. Emotional blocks. Such as fear, doubt, and embarrassment.

coaches and mentors can give you immediate feedback on how you’re performing and recommend necessary adjustments.

Capture devices, like video cameras, can help you watch yourself as you perform. Tools like computer programs, training aides, and other devices can immediately indicate when you make a mistake or something is amiss.

The solution for this is to practice by the clock. Buy a decent countdown timer3 and set it for twenty minutes.

Skill is the result of deliberate, consistent practice, and in early-stage practice, quantity and speed trump absolute quality. The faster and more often you practice, the more rapidly you’ll acquire the skill.

First, ensure you’re practicing using form that’s good enough to satisfy your target performance level. Once you’re practicing in good form at least 80 to 90 percent of the time, crank up the speed for faster skill acquisition.

completely changing your environment in a way that results in constant deliberate practice.

Ten Principles of Effective Learning

Once you’ve found what appear to be the most useful techniques, you can experiment with them in your own kitchen, saving you a ton of trial and error.

you’ll naturally begin to notice patterns: ideas and techniques that come up over and over again. These concepts are called mental model

What if you did everything wrong? What if you got the worst possible outcome? This is a problem-solving technique called inversion,

Talking to people who have acquired the skill before you will help dispel myths and misconceptions before you invest your time and energy. By knowing what you can expect to see as you progress, you’ll find it much easier to sustain your interest in practice, and avoid becoming discouraged early in the process.

Checklists are handy for remembering things that must be done every time you practice. They’re a way to systematize the process, which frees your attention to focus on more important matters. Scaffolds are structures that ensure you approach the skill the same way every time. Think of the basketball player who establishes a pre–free throw routine. Wipe hands on pants, loosen the shoulders, catch the ball from the ref, bounce three times, pause for three seconds, and shoot. That’s a scaffold.

Ten Principles of Effective Learning

  1. Research the skill and related topics.The goal is to identify at least three books, instructional DVDs, courses, or other resources that appear to be connected to the skill you’re trying to acquire.

    The more you know in advance about the skill, the more intelligently you can prepare.

    For rapid skill acquisition, skimming is better than deep reading. By noticing ideas and tools that come up over and over again in different texts, you can trust the accuracy of the patterns you notice and prepare your practice accordingly.

  2. Jump in over your head.Noticing you’re confused is valuable. Recognizing confusion can help you define exactly what you’re confused about, which helps you figure out what you’ll need to research or do next to resolve that confusion.

    If you start to feel intimidated or hesitant about the pace you’re attempting, you’re on the right track.

  3. Identify mental models and mental hooks.Once Dad learned that a server is a special computer that delivers a web page to people who request it, and that the server was a different computer than the machine we were using, he found it much easier to understand what we were doing. In this case, server is a mental model—once you’re familiar with the term, it’s easier to understand the process of publishing a website.

    mental hooks: analogies and metaphors you can use to remember new concepts.

  4. Imagine the opposite of what you want.By studying the opposite of what you want, you can identify important elements that aren’t immediately obvious. Ano yung ayaw mo mangyari? What skills do you need to prevent that?
  5. Talk to practitioners to set expectations.
  6. Eliminate distractions in your environment.Distractions are enemy number one of rapid skill acquisition. Distractions kill focused practice, and lack of focused practice leads to slow (or nonexistent) skill acquisition.
  7. Use spaced repetition and reinforcement for memorization.Whenever you learn something new, you’ll probably forget it unless you review the concept within a certain period of time. This repetition reinforces the idea, and helps your brain consolidate it into long-term memory.

    By creating flash cards as you’re deconstructing the skill, you’re killing two birds with one stone.

  8. Create scaffolds and checklists.Many skills involve some sort of routine: setting up, preparing, maintaining, putting away, et cetera. Creating a simple system is the best way to ensure these important elements happen with as little additional effort as possible.
  9. Make and test predictions.The true test of useful learning is prediction. Based on what you know, can you guess how a change or experiment will turn out before you do it?

    Observations—what are you currently observing? Knowns—what do you know about the topic already? Hypotheses—what do you think will improve your performance? Tests—what are you going to try next?

    I recommend using a notebook or other reference tool to track your experiments and form hypotheses as you practice.

  10. Honor your biology.the optimal learning cycle appears to be approximately ninety minutes of focused concentration

    By setting your timer for sixty to ninety minutes before you start practicing or researching, it will be easier to remember to take a break when you’re done.

    Research the skill and related topics. Jump in over your head. Identify mental models and mental hooks. Imagine the opposite of what you want. Talk to practitioners to set expectations. Eliminate distractions in your environment. Use spaced repetition and reinforcement for memorization. Create scaffolds and checklists. Make and test predictions. Honor your biology.

Excerpts From Josh, Kaufman. “The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything … Fast.”

Read on: March 2015

2020 © Jerico Aragon