4 Part Method to Learning Anything in 20 Hours

“The major barrier to skill acquisition isn’t intellectual….it’s emotional.” ~ Josh Kaufman

Most of us are familiar with the concept that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert. Malcolm Gladwell made this concept the center of his bestselling book Outliers. What has happened over time is that the statement has become generalized to “it takes 10,000 hours to learn a new skill”.

Our own life experience tells us this is not true, but the statement still casts a shadow when we start out to learn a new skill.  Especially, when we are already confronted with the emotional barrier to learning caused by our aversion to feeling vulnerable or incompetent. The frustration of not knowing is very real.

In his TEDTalk, Josh Kaufman talks about pushing through that initial phase of discomfort and using a proven method to learn any skill through 20 hours of dedicated study and practice.  That’s 45 minutes a day for a month.  The learning method is broken into four parts.

The 4 Parts:

This learning method ensures you will practice efficiently and intelligently so that you are investing those 20 hours in the most impactful areas.

1. Deconstruct the skill

In learning most things, there are a very small set of tools and steps you will use every time. Decide exactly what you want to be able to do when you are done.  Analyze the skill and break it into smaller parts. Then prioritize and tackle the most items important first.  Most of the things we think of as a single skill are actually big bundles of skills. If you practice the most important things first, you will be able to improve your performance in the shortest time possible.

2. Learn enough to self-correct

Don’t get put off by thinking you need to learn 80% before you can get started. That leads to procrastination. Obtain three to five resources (books, courses, contacts, etc.) and learn just enough to practice and self-edit as you go along. The aim is to get good enough to recognized when you are making a mistake and course-correct.

3. Remove barriers to practice

In order to get those 20 focused hours of practice, you will need to remove distractions such as the television and internet. The more you are able to remove the barriers, the more you are likely to practice. Most important is getting over feeling of frustration or disappointment that will occur when you are learning something new.  The beginning of the learning curve is tough for most. Don’t be so hard on yourself.

4. Practice for at least 20 hours

By committing to at least 20 hours, you will be able to overcome the frustration barrier that exists at the very beginning of learning any new skill.

Decide What You Want to Learn

So, what do you want to learn?

Do you have a list?

Well, go out and do it then.

It only takes 20 hours.

Have fun.


About Josh Kaufman

Josh Kaufman is the author of the #1 international bestseller, ‘The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business’, as well as the upcoming book ‘The First 20 Hours: Mastering the Toughest Part of Learning Anything.’ Josh specializes in teaching people from all walks of life how to master practical knowledge and skills. In his talk, he shares how having his first child inspired him to approach learning in a whole new way.


Categories: Coaching, Interests, Personal Development, Professional Development

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2 replies

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this Sherry!! I was totally working under the 10,000 Hours rule and was feeling a bit overwhelmed, but now I know that just getting started and working a bit every day will get me there sooner than I expected!

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