How to quickly learn a new skill

If you want to get really good at something, and you don’t have 10,000 hours to do it, you may be in luck. In his book The First 20 Hours – How to Learn Anything… Fast, Josh Kaufman explains how you can get good – really good – at any new skill, in as little as 20 hours.

The 10,000 hour rule for becoming world class at something gained popularity from Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers – The Story of Success.

Kaufman covers the 10,000 hour rule and explains that this is the process for becoming one of the best in the world in that category. But what if you just want to become really good at something new? Or a lot better at something you can already do.

Well, you can do that in about 20 hours. Around 40 minutes a day for about a month will get you somewhere between good and really good at a new skill. And for most people, who are not actually trying to be the best in the world, this is pretty great.

According to Kaufman, there are five steps to learning a new skill. Decide your outcome, deconstruct the skill, research and self correct, remove barriers to practice, and pre-commit to the 20 hours.

First, you need to decide what skill you want to learn. You need to be clear on what it is, and how you’ll know you’ve done it. For example, I want to learn to play a song on the guitar. I know what I want to be able to do and will know it when I get there.

Second, deconstruct the skill. Break it down to the basics. Get to the point where you truly understand it. There are fundamentals that make up the actual skill and the rest is just fluff.

Third, research and self correct. This is the part where you keep an eye on your progress and get back on track as you drift. Constantly assess if you are getting closer to your goal and alter your effort if you are not.

Fourth, remove barriers to practice. Set yourself up to succeed. Plan for it to be easy. Think of what might stop you or get in your way and move it before you start.

Last, commit to 20 hours. Don’t allow yourself to get discouraged or bored and give up in the early stages. You’ll be tempted to quit. Don’t. Not until you have gone at least 20 hours. Make that promise to yourself and set the expectation at the very beginning.

Here is John Kaufman explaining the process:

P.S. This is something that anyone studying martial arts should learn to do. The steps outlined by Kaufman will help you hone your skills and become effective at the things we practice.