The First 20 Hours

The major barrier to skill acquisition is not intellectual... it's emotional

You've probably heard of the 10,000-hour rule, an idea popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers.

Apparently, that has been debunked.

And Josh Kaufman believes that if your goal is to just learn a new skill, not be a world expert, it only takes 20 hours.

He shares the following methods in his TED talk to do so:

  1. Deconstruct the skill
  2. Learn enough to self-correct
  3. Remove practice barriers
  4. Practice at least 20 hours.

First, decide exactly what you want to be able to do when you're done.

Is it coding your own personal portfolio in React & Next.js? Building blazingly fast app using Rust? Creating a compiler from scratch? Be specific.

Skills are just big bundles of other skills. Look into the skills you need to achieve it and deconstruct; break it down into smaller pieces.

The more you break apart the skill, the more you're able to decide what parts of the skills that will actually get you to what you want. Then practice those first.

To practice, you need reliable sources. Do some research, find 3-5 best resources. Don't use this as a way to procrastinate. Figure out the optimal stopping time for exploration, then start exploiting.

Second, you don't have learn everything. You only need to learn enough to the point where you can practice, and self-correct as you practice.

Learning is getting better at noticing when you're making a mistake, and doing something a little different every time.

In programming, that means having the ability to debug and fix errors in your code. It also means spotting opportunities to make your code more optimized.

Third, life is full of distractions and the internet is full of noise. They get into the way of practicing.

Devote time to learning. Block time out on your calendar. Set a timer and start working. Get into the flow with some music. Turn off notifications on your phone. Set website blockers.

Fourth, we don't like to feel stupid. And when learning anything new, there's an initial frustration barrier.

Commit to practicing. Learn in public. Get a study buddy. Write about what you learn. If you stick with the practice long enough, that barrier melts away.

You just have to practice 20 hours. That's 45 mins a day, for a month.

And most importantly, have fun.