How to Learn Any New Skill in 20 Hours

Malcolm Gladwell made famous the idea that it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill, but what isn’t explained is that after 10,000 hours you’ll be at the top of the field—a professional athlete, a concert pianist, a master painter. But what if you don’t want to compete at the top levels? What if you just want to learn how to do something, and do it well enough to be able to enjoy it?

In a TEDx talk, Josh Kaufman explores how you can go from being grossly incompetent to reasonably good. Kaufman estimates that it takes roughly 20 hours. Or course it is easier if you use a proven, effective method.

Josh Kaufman giving Ted Talk

Start by deconstructing the skill into smaller pieces that you can work on. Big skills are actually combinations of little skills. Practice the most important skills first. Then learn enough to self-correct. Third, remove any barriers to practice—distractions like television or the internet. Finally, practice for at least 20 hours.

The biggest challenge may be overcoming that grossly incompetent part, which causes us to be so frustrated that we give up. Get past that and you’ll be able to start learning that skill.

So what do you want to learn how to do? According to Kaufman, you’re only 20 hours away.

Check it out