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The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything . . . Fast! Hardcover – June 13, 2013

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Portfolio Hardcover; First Edition edition (June 13, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591845556
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591845553
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (132 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #207,561 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“A blockbuster in the making, The First 20 Hours breaks down the learning process into simple and effective steps with real-life examples that inspire. After reading this book, you’ll be ready to take on any number of skills and make progress on that big project you’ve been putting off for years.”
—CHRIS GUILLEBEAU, author of The $100 Startup
“If you’re like me, you’ll get so inspired that you’ll stop reading to apply this approach to your own procrastinated project. After reading the first five chapters, I tried Josh’s technique to learn a new programming language, and I’m blown away with how fast I became fluent.”
—DEREK SIVERS, founder, CD Baby,
“Great opportunities are worthless without skills. No more excuses! Kaufman proves that we all have the capacity to become experts.”
—SCOTT BELSKY, founder, Behance, and author of Making Ideas Happen
“With the amount of information and change in the world today, the person who can adapt and learn the most quickly will be the most successful. Kaufman breaks down the science of learning in useful, entertaining, and fascinating ways. If you care about keeping your job, your business, or your edge, this book is for you.”
—PAMELA SLIM, author of Escape from Cubicle Nation
“In this inspiring little book, Josh argues that you can get good enough at anything to enjoy yourself in just 20 hours. In other words, all that’s standing between you and playing the ukulele is your TV time for the next two weeks. If Josh, a busy father and entrepreneur, can make the time, then the rest of us can too.”
—LAURA VANDERKAM, author of 168 Hours and What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast
“Lots of books promise to change your life. This one actually will.”
—SETH GODIN, author of The Icarus Deception

About the Author

JOSH KAUFMAN helps people make more money, get more done, and have more fun. His first book, The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business, is an international bestseller. He lives in Colorado.
Visit and; Follow @joshkaufman

More About the Author

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: How to Learn Anything... Fast!" Josh specializes in teaching professionals in all industries and disciplines how to master practical business knowledge and skills.

Josh's unique, multidisciplinary approach to business mastery has helped millions of readers around the world learn essential business concepts on their own terms. Josh's work has been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Fortune, Time, BusinessWeek, Fast Company, and The widely-acclaimed Personal MBA manifesto and recommended reading list has been downloaded over 1.28 million times from hosts over 50,000 readers every month, and has been visited by over 2 million readers since its founding in 2005. Josh's work has directly saved prospective business students millions of dollars in unnecessary tuition, fees, and interest by providing an effective, affordable, and debt-free method of learning fundamental business principles.

Josh's current projects involve ongoing research in the fields of business, education, and skill acquisition.

Customer Reviews

There's no secret to learning new skills efficiently and Josh is very aware of that.
Santiago Espinosa Uribe
In short, don't get burned like me, wait for this one to go on sale, get it at the library, or just watch his YouTube videos and read his blog.
This book provides a simple, easy-to-follow guideline that will help you be good at anything you want to learn.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

162 of 178 people found the following review helpful By drewrhino on June 15, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I guess this book may have been the result of Kaufman applying his skill acquisition methods to writing!

All snark aside, this book fell short of what I expected. The first part of the book goes over the theory of skill acquisition that he has researched. It's very short, which is unfortunate, as he does a good job of putting things together in a nice arc. But the section is so short that it feels like a top ten list rather than an actual fleshed out theory.

Then the majority of the book is taken up by rather lengthy descriptions of how he went about learning a few different skills. I found this section too focused on the particulars of each skill; and there was little to no explicit mention of how he actually applied his theory to learning new skills. I can see how some elements were in play, but it would have been nice to see more in depth analysis of how each point on his checklists matters, rather than 20 stick figure drawings of yoga poses. It's to bad, I really wanted to like this book, and many of the skills Kaufman pursues are interests of mine, but a lot of the passages just seem to be edited versions of his personal learning journal of what yoga poses or ruby commands worked, rather than an analysis of how learning skills is itself a skill.

In short, don't get burned like me, wait for this one to go on sale, get it at the library, or just watch his YouTube videos and read his blog.
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170 of 196 people found the following review helpful By Adult Reader in Calgary on June 18, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed Kaufman's first book and was looking forward to this one, especially since it deals with rapid learning.

Unfortunately, "The First 20 Hours" is disappointing. The initial 20% of the book describes some general and fairly superficial principles for rapid learning. The remaining 80% provides an amateur's description of six topics of personal interest. If you're interested in Yoga, ukulele, web programming, wind surfing, touch typing, or the game "Go", and further want to know what an admitted amateur has discovered for himself about these topics, then you may find this book worthwhile. Otherwise I fear you will find it just a waste of time and money.

You might assume I'm judging the book unfairly, and that the specific skills are actually being used to illustrate the application of the rapid learning principles. Oddly that is not the case. There's relatively little connection between what he writes about (say) the history and practice of Yoga and the principles expounded in the first few chapters. What you are left with is an odd "Wikipedia-grade" description of an eclectic handful of subjects. Like ... who cares?

I'm sorry for the negative tone of this review, but I was disappointed. "The First 20 Hours" was not a good purchase for me and I do not recommend it.
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41 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Jack Reader on June 25, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Before you buy this book you have to ask yourself this basic question: do you want the be a Jack of all trades or the master of some? Then, you may ponder about the "self-help-ish" or "magic number-ish" 20 hours issue (you will learn that this is the personal experience of the author). But, the title sounds too good to ignore, too enticing to leave, so you still buy the book. You will be disappointed.

You will find that the author wants to do soooooo many things, but there is never enough time to do them all. (Aren't we all staring at our bucket lists with the same quiet desperation?) But, here is a method that allows you to beat the confining principles of being realistic, prioritization AND focusing. It contains 10 principles of rapid skill acquisition (1, love the stuff; 2, focus on the stuff; 3, decide how good you really want to be; 4 through 9 are really no brainers and 10, emphasize quantity and speed) and 10 principles of effective learning (1, research the stuff; 2, just do it; 3, identify mental models, etc.). The method is then demonstrated using the author's preferred random skills: yoga, programming, typing, go, ukulele, windsurfing.

So, why will you be disappointed? Because most of us have only a few "dream skills", but would like to do them at a higher level than many disconnected things at an average/below average level. It may be the question of a high enough dose of Ritalin, but an average adult does not dream to do a periodization of 20 hour cycles of random skills. If one jumps from one skill to the next, what becomes of the necessary practice time of the earlier skill? I understand that the author simply wanted to demonstrate how well his method applies to unrelated "arts", but here is where the book falls short.
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100 of 124 people found the following review helpful By Ivan Kreimer on June 12, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a very particular book about a very particular topic: skill acquisition.
As soon as I saw Josh was going to publish a new book about this (almost mysterious) topic, I immediately knew it was going to be great. Just as his past book, The Personal MBA.

As soon as you start reading the book, you will be surprised, as this book is not what you expect it is. But wait, that's not a bad thing. In fact, that's great.

Instead of explaining the psycological side of skill acquisition, or instead of showing you some random scientific studies about the topic (as almost any other book on the topic has done), he starts right off the bat with the method he used to acquire 6 skills: yoga, programming, touch typing, go, ukulele and windsurfing.
Yes, quite random skills, you may think. But that's also great. Why? Because you can extrapolate many of the principles of how he learned those skills to similar skills.

For example, if you want to learn a martial art, you may see a lot of similarities with the windsurfing experience he had.
If you want to learn how to program any language, you can almost copy paste what he did to learn Ruby.
If you want to learn how to play a new instrument, the same applies.

The book can be separated in two parts: at the beginning, he shows you with no fluff the 10 principles of rapid skill acquisition, and the 10 principles of effective learning. Even though he explains the 10 principles quite fast, don't worry, there's not many more things to talk about about those principles.
Then, in the second part, he starts to explain how he learned all those 6 skills.

The big advantage of this book is that you will learn at firsthand how you can also learn almost any skill you want.
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