Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Get Me There … FAST!

A fellow Trapezoid (thanks Phill!) has recommended a video by Josh Kaufman, author of The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything … Fast!

I like this guy's attitude.

Maybe you've heard that it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill. This idea was put forth in Malcolm Gladwell's book, Outliers, and is often quoted in guidelines for "practice".

But who has 10,000 hours and 10 years to spare?? That's a little overwhelming, isn't it? And maybe we don't expect to be "experts" in our chosen field, anyway. Maybe we just want to be good enough to have fun.

Kaufman suggests that a person can go from zero to reasonably skilled in a shorter amount of time. How does 20 hours sound? That's 40 minutes per day over one month. You think you can do that?

Based on research regarding how we learn, Kaufman says (and this is key) if we systematically increase deliberate practice, we can increase skills in any given area. His outline for success:

  1. Set a goal. Clearly define what your end result will be.
  2. Deconstruct the goal into its most essential component parts.
  3. Research. Skim your resources. Learn just enough information to identify what's really important in order to self-correct. Don't use this step to procrastinate!
  4. Remove barriers that will interfere with practice time. Turn off the TV, the computer, the phone. Keep things set up and handy. Make practice convenient.
  5. Pre-commit to at least 20 hours of practice. It's reasonable. It's do-able!
After 20 hours, re-evaluate:
  • Are you having fun? Is this something you want to continue? What's your next goal? Go for another 20 hours!
  • Having more frustration than fun? Thinking this particular skill may be not for you at this time? Be grateful for the experience. Adjust your goal. Move on to something else.
Here's the link to the video:

Sometimes the hardest part is identifying goals. I challenge each of you to set a goal for your next 20 hours of practice. If you're one of my students I would be happy to help you identify the sub-skills required to meet your goal. Imagine what you might accomplish in 20 hours over the next month or so! Share your results here, if you like. Let's do it!


  1. I think the hardest part is removing the distractions (hide that iPad! Do not check email and Facebook every half hour!). Excellent article, with much to consider.

    1. Distractions! You are so right, Marya. I've been on the computer much of the morning … some legitimate work, some not. Time to walk away from the screen!