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The First 20 Hours is a book about rapid skill acquisition: how to pick up new skills as fast as humanly possible.

The First 20 Hours

The First 20 Hours

by Josh Kaufman

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7.32K reads

"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."

Use Rapid Skill Acquisition to Learn Within 20 Hours

Josh Kaufman starts by highlighting it is likely you have a skill you have always wanted to learn. For instance, maybe it’s competently playing the piano, doing well on the tennis court, or becoming conversational in French. Crucially, it is never too late to learn your chosen skill. One of the m...

Ten Principles of Rapid Skill Acquisition

  1. Choose a lovable project.
  2. Focus your energy on one skill at a time.
  3. Define your target performance level.
  4. Deconstruct the skill into subskills.
  5. Obtain critical tools.
  6. Eliminate barriers to practice.
  7. Make dedicated time for practice.
  8. Cre...

"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."

Learn Your Chosen Skill By Focusing Your Energy

There are probably many skills you’d like to acquire. Still, an essential first step of rapid skill acquisition is choosing to focus on one. Start by making a list of all the skills you’re interested in, and pick the one most exciting to you right now. This excitement will help you stay motivated...

Ten Major Principles of Effective Learning

  1. Research the skill and related topics.
  2. Jump in over your head.
  3. Identify mental models and mental hooks.
  4. Imagine the opposite of what you want.
  5. Talk to practitioners to set expectations.
  6. Eliminate distractions in your environment.
  7. Use spaced rep...

Choose Your Skill Level

Deciding how talented you want to become at your chosen skill is the third principle in rapid skill acquisition. This is called your target performance level. It’s important because if you can envision the end goal, it’ll be easier to get there. Decide what level of skill is “good enough” for you...

Utilize Smaller Steps

As well as choosing your skill level, you also have to utilize smaller steps. Break your chosen skills down into bite-sized pieces you can tackle one by one. You don’t attempt to down an entire meal in one bite, and you shouldn’t try to learn a skill in one swing. By dividing up the work ahead of...

Acquire the Tools You Need

As well as defining the specific skill level you want to pursue, Kaufman also suggests you need to identify the tools you need to succeed at your skill level. These tools are the fundamental building blocks of your skill. For example, for Kaufman’s ukulele pursuit, the first tool he required was ...

Limit Distractions

When learning a skill, there will always be barriers that interfere with your learning process. Therefore, consider any emotional roadblocks that may stand in your path, like fear or self-doubt, as well as distractions (like a ringing phone). After completing this process, try to eliminate any hi...

"If you rely on finding time to do something, it will never be done. If you want to find time, you must make time."

Give Yourself Time to Practice

In today’s world, people are busier than ever. So, if you want to learn a new skill, you need to make time to practice. This is Kaufman’s seventh principle of rapid skill acquisition. Identify other activities in your life that you aren’t fond of, and work to cut those out to fill that time with ...

Give Yourself Feedback

You must get feedback on your progress. For instance, perhaps you are trying to learn Chinese. You should find a way to get fast feedback on your progress, so you’ll know if you’ve put a step wrong. After receiving this feedback, you can choose to approach your skill acquisition differently. 

...

Prioritize Quantity and Speed By Practicing in Short Bursts

Shortening your working periods helps mitigate the risk of working on difficult or tedious activities for extended periods. This is crucial as prolonged challenging work can be draining and often leads to inefficiency. When you first start learning, the hours of practice seem to drag on longer an...

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