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

3.7 out of 5 stars 155 customer reviews

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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, sivers.org
“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 first20hours.com and joshkaufman.net; Follow @joshkaufman

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Portfolio; 1st edition (June 13, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591845556
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591845553
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (155 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #105,536 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Josh Kaufman is the author of two international bestsellers, "The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business" and "The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything... Fast!" Josh is one of the top 100 business authors in the world, and has been featured as the #1 bestselling author in Business & Money, as ranked by Amazon.com.

Josh conducts ongoing independent research in business, entrepreneurship, skill acquisition, productivity, behavioral psychology, systems design, and optimization, and focuses on helping people learn how to make more money, get more done, and have more fun in daily life.

Josh's unique, multidisciplinary approach to business mastery and rapid skill acquisition has helped millions of readers around the world learn essential concepts and skills on their own terms. The widely-acclaimed Personal MBA manifesto and business reading list has been downloaded over 3 million times, and his TEDx talk on The First 20 Hours has been viewed over 4.5 million times worldwide, putting it in the top 10 most-viewed TEDx videos and top 100 most-viewed TED talks published to date.

Josh's research has been featured by The New York Times, The BBC, The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, Fortune, Forbes, Time, BusinessWeek, Wired, Fast Company, Financial Times, HarvardBusiness.org, Inside Higher Ed, Lifehacker, MarketWatch, The Independent, Bloomberg TV, PBS Next Avenue, CCTV, and CNN's Sanjay Gupta MD.

Josh has been a featured speaker at The Aspen Ideas Festival, Stanford University, World Domination Summit, Pioneer Nation, Microconf, BaconBiz, Google, and IBM.

JoshKaufman.net was named one of the "Top 100 Websites for Entrepreneurs" by Forbes in 2013.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Kindle Edition
My viewpoint is that when I read a book or attend a lecture if I can get one useful idea, it was worthwhile. This was not worthwhile. I really hoped/expected that this book might have some useful tricks and/or tips on learning a new skill. And while it made a small attempt at doing that in the beginning of the book by giving extremely obvious suggestions on how to approach a new subject, the vast majority of the book (80%+) was spent going through a detailed synopsis of how he tried to learn several skills, which is not helpful at all in learning how to learn new skills. it was probably reasonably helpful if you wanted some information on those skills in particular, but did nothing for the process of skill acquisition in general.

The best advice the book gave was that new skills are difficult in the beginning, so don't get bogged down in not understanding everything right away...don't be afraid; jump in and learn anyway.
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