How to Learn Anything in 20 Hours

This is a fun video by Josh Kaufman. One of my big interests is learning, and of course helping others to learn through teaching. One of the impediments to learning that I’ve often noticed is that people are afraid of looking silly, and without stepping out of our comfort zone, we are never really going to learn anything.

In the talk, Josh addresses this issue well in this video when he says: “The major barrier to skill acquisition is not intellectual – it’s emotional. We are scared because we feel stupid when we are learning something new.” I’ve seen this same block with people trying to learn languages, trying to learn musical instruments, and trying to learn new life skills. It’s getting over that initial emotional fear of looking stupid that is key.

One of my life mottos has always been “it’s better to do it than to worry about it.” Nice to see a more thought-out version of that by Josh. Here’s the video on Youtube. Enjoy! I’ve also jotted down a quick summary below the video that may be useful.

Scientists do this kind of research. When you start something new, it takes you a long time to do it. Once you practice a lot, you need less time for this performance.

In general, we are more interested in how good we are after a certain amount of practice and it looks like this.

How long does it take to go from nothingPretty good

20 hours of focused deliberate practice (that’s about 45 minutes per day for about a month) will get you up that curve really quickly. 

But it’s not just fooling around. You need to practice efficiently with the four steps shown below. 

 

  1. Deconstruct the skill
    Decide exactly what you want to be able to do and chunk it down into little bits – what are the parts that are most important. Practice those first – then you’ll be able to get really good at them.
  2. Learn enough to self-correct
    Get 3-5 resources – books, Dvds, websites, etc. Don’t use them to procrastinate. Use them to learn just enough so that you can notice when you are making a mistake and then do something different.
  3. Remove barriers to practice
  4. Commit to practicing at least 20 hours
    The frustration barrier makes us feel stupid. By pre-committing to at least 20 hours, you will be able to overcome the initial frustration barrier for long enough to reap the rewards. 
    The major barrier to skill acquisition is not intellectual – it’s emotional. We are scared because we feel stupid when we are learning something new.