"> 16 key takeaways from The First 20 Hours by Josh Kaufman

16 Key takeaways from the first 20 hours by josh kaufman

In this book about learning anything as fast as you can, author Josh Kaufman, offers a stepwise approach to make learning effective. The book argues that you can get sufficiently proficient at any skill within the first 20 hours if you plan well for it. Getting to expertise requires 10,000 hours though.

1 Four steps to rapid skill acquisition

Josh Kaufman recommends four steps to learn anything fast.

  1. Deconstruct the skill into smallest subskills
  2. Practice each subskill and self-correct
  3. Remove physical, emotional, and mental barriers to learning
  4. Practice the most important subskills for 20 hours

2 Choose a lovable project

The more excited you are about a project, the more likely you will stick to the plan and let the learning happen.

3 Focus on one skill at a time

Do not squander your willpower, time, and energy on more than one skill at a time. Acquire the skill to your desired performance level and move on.

4 Define target performance level

Although you do never quit learning something, it helps to look forward to a destination. Keep it reasonable, because to become an expert at something, to make it second nature, you need 10,000 hours of practice. But most of the important subskills can be learned in 20 hours.

5 Deconstruct skills into subskills

Break the learning into essential pieces and learn the whole in parts. Book chapters and sections usually do a good job of breaking down the subject matter into subskills that you can learn. Find out which subskills are important for mastery, and focus on those.

6 Obtain critical tools

Get at least the bare minimums. You will need a racket and a ball to learn tennis. Similarly, an ukulele is essential to learning to play one! You do not have to go splurge on the latest and the greatest. Just the bare minimums that will keep your interest alive till you get better at it.

7 Make dedicated time to practice

Set up a dedicated time to practice something. Unless you do, you will skip practice, and the 20 hours will take 20 months to fit in a simple skill.

8 Create fast feedback loops

Fail fast, and learn fast. In some skills, such as skating, or skating, falling down is an immediate feedback. For others, such as math, you need to create feedback loops such as solving problems and sub-problems that will get you learning faster.

9 Practice by the clock in short bursts

Research has shown that studying or learning short bursts is more effective than focused long hours of study/practice. Take ample breaks and go do other activities while your brain organizes the information for efficient retrieval.

10 Emphasize quantity and speed

Remember, for the first 20 hours, you are interested in getting through most of the important stuff. Do not bother about quality and pleasure at this time. That will come later, once you have gained the initial skills. Its ok if you are not playing the instrument perfectly, or if you are not solving the greatest math problems. Remember, you are focusing on rapid skill acquisition.

11 Research the skill

Spend 20 minutes researching the skill and the associated subskills. Identify the key resources, videos, tutorials, and experts that can help you get better faster.

12 Mental hooks and mental models

Start associating every subskill you learn with something you are familiar with and form a mental model or mental hook. Researching the skill online will help you in this regard.

13 Talk to experts

Experts are people who have been there, done that. They have figured out the most effective way of learning the stuff that you are trying to learn. Enlist their help and utilize their experience to learn faster.

14 Eliminate distractions

Do not try to multitask while learning some new skills. Switch off the TV, radio, books or anything else that is bothersome and distracting.

15 Rest and rejuvenate

Your brain learns most efficiently when it relaxed and rested. Find the time to rest and rejuvenate, have ample nutrition, exercise, and sleep.

16 Make and test predictions

Make and test predictions Test yourself often and make predictions about what is to come in the next subskill. It is ok to fail, because then the brain immediately creates a mental note about that failure and you will remember it next time.

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