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The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything . . . Fast! Paperback – May 27, 2014
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“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.
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Top customer reviews
You are avid to be knowledgeable but you don't have 10 000 hours at your disposal to be an outlier?
The author has made the calculation. Ten thousand hours equals eight hours of deliberate practice every day for approximately three and a half years, with no breaks, no weekends, and no vacations. Assuming a standard 260 working days a year with no distractions, that's a full-time job for almost five years, assuming you spend 100 percent of that time exerting 100 percent of your energy and effort.
It is pretty overwhelming.
But What about 20 hours?
Josh Kaufman explains what you can expect to achieve in 20 hours and how to organize yourself. Granted you will need a bit of practice and probably struggle by yourself as the author doesn't deconstruct his brain that much and clearly has experience in organising himself and finding his information. But with good will, it is doable for everyone. I think.
Who can't spend 20 hours doing something? These 20 hours can change your life if you break the pattern of procrastination and just do it.
Give you a chance. Give you 20 hours to try. I am giving it a try. It works.
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. Instead of demonstrating how generally applicable the method is, I would much rather get into the method itself through the acquisition of a single skill (not to forget the difference in between learning unicycling or playing the piano, doing karate or breeding Saint Bernards). Some demands extensive knowledge of theory, while others based on mostly practice. (There is also no breakdown of how the 20 hours was spent, say, while learning yoga. At one point a 90 minute instruction is mentioned, then a 3 hours instruction. How much time was spent with researching the basic theory?) Mental scaffolding or mental models/lattice work could have been used to demonstrate applicability of this single skill, instead of creating an easy target for criticism by rushing through eclectic ventures. I would have expected more learning about learning itself and how elements of knowledge/skill aquisition are similar (but not the same) in between widely varied topics. But it is questionable, if there is one general "learning DNA" that could generate both flea an and elephant skills.
Principle 3 of rapid skill acquisition "Define your target performance level" is why most of us will give up on this book. At the end it is not about frustration barriers, 20 hours, methods or skill acquisition, but dealing with plateaus. George Leonard in his excellent book "Mastery" describes exactly the type of path this author wanders upon. It is the "Dabbler", the eternal kid. The end of the first 20 hours may actually signify the first inevitable plateau, where admitting how demanding something can be and how much more effort and commitment it requires to move on to the next level is simply dismissed by moving on to a brand new project. I may be wrong, but the "target performance level" is much more of the journey itself than a destination.
On a side note: I set up a new wiki so that we can collectively make the research part of the learning process easier by listing the set of sub-skills that are needed to learn something new: skilldeconstruction.wikia.com. Check it out and please contribute.