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The first 20 hours


Published: Aug 21, 2013

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Do you know a colleague or friend who always seems to be learning new things and can master technology, hobbies or skills seemingly at ease? It’s enough to drive you mad.…

After all, it’s the people who can learn quickly that tend to be the most successful at work and have fulfilling personal lives.

This can make us feel inadequate because although many of us would like to learn new skills, we never seem to have the time or energy.

To make matters worse, recent research suggests that it takes 10,000 hours to develop a new skill, and just to compound it further, the early hours of practicing something new are always the most challenging.

That’s why it seems so intimidating to learn a new language or play an instrument; it’s so much more tempting to crack open a cold beer, watch TV and just chill out.

However, according to Josh Kaufman, author of ‘The First 20 Hours’, there is a way to go from knowing absolutely nothing to performing well, with just a mere 20 hours of practice.

The author presents a systematic approach for rapid skill acquisition, or in other words to learn any new skill as quickly as possible.

His methods show you how to deconstruct complex skills, make the most of productive practice time and remove common learning barriers.

Kaufman claims that by completing just 20 hours of focused practice, you’ll go from knowing absolutely nothing to performing well.

To achieve this, ‘The First 20 Hours’ highlights the following key steps.

• First you must define your target performance level, for example, do you want to be considered an expert, or just improve your competence? You then decide what your desired level of skill looks like and what you’ll be able to achieve when you’re done.

• Deconstruct the skill into smaller sub-skills. This makes it easier to figure out which ones are the most important and you can then practice those first.

• Eliminate barriers to practice by removing common distractions (at work and home) which makes it much easier to sit down, practice and learn.

• Develop ways to obtain feedback to get accurate and prompt information on how well you’re performing.

As the saying goes, ‘practice makes perfect’, so brush the dust off that electric guitar or learn your organization’s mysterious accounting system, and make this your first hour of twenty.


• The First 20 Hours’ by Josh Kaufman and published by Portfolio Hardcover.

Keith Appleton JP, BA (Hons), N.Dip.M, MInstLM has extensive experience within an academic, managerial and strategic leadership role. He is a member of the UK Institute of Leadership & Management and can be contacted at KeithAppleton@Hotmail.co.uk or follow him at twitter.com/WritingRightNow.


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