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June 21, 2015 / subramanyam

Learning things quickly

How much time does to take to learn some thing new ?  What is the time that is needed to master an art, a new subject or a new practice ?  One must not be castigated for saying 10,000 hours. For all reasons that was the effect of Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers” on the world. Many of us donot know that Malcolm was talking about success in ultra competitive fields and his 10,000 hour rule was aimed at people who want to see themselves in the top 1% of the world in that field.

Coming to back to question, how much time does it take to be reasonably good at some thing . If you want to learn a new language, a new instrument or a new subject what is the time that it takes for us to learn it ? Is it 10,000 hours ? Is it less ? Is it possible to attain a reasonably good knowledge on anything by spending some lesser amount of time ?

Josh Kaufman comes up with a new proposition altogether, he says that 20 hours are enough to learn any thing new. From, 10,000 hours to 20 is a windfall isn’t it ?  It would take us at least five years to  put in 10,000 hours into learning /mastering anything and 5 years is indeed a long time isn’t it?  Now think of 20 hours, we can get these 20 hours somehow, spending 40 mins a day on that skill or activity gets us those needed 20 hours in a months time.  The question however is to figure out how we can master a skill in those 20 hours.

Here are the 4 key things we ought to do to learn something new in 20 hours time.

1. Deconstruct the skill

                     Break the skill into smaller parts. Deconstruct it to a level where it becomes something that is manageable, in the process we ought make sure that the most important parts of the skill/subject are also identified.  While giving the TedX talk on this subject Josh Kaufman says that learning a few chords lets us play tons of songs on a Guitar.  In a similar way we have the crux part for every skill and we ought to get to that quickly.  For this we need to break the learning activity into smaller chunks.

2. Learn enough to Self Correct

                       Today we have a lot of resources on any subject, the internet in itself is a great enabler and gives us a lot information.  Be choosy and pick the ones that give you knowledge to self correct yourself.. The person who is learning must learn what is needed to self correct him/her first. In a way this asks us to learn the most important sub skills of the task first.

3. Remove Barriers from Learning

                         Eliminate any thing that distracts you or wastes your time.  This can be T.V., internet, games or anything that is of lesser value than the task you are suppose to master.

4. Practice at least 20 hours

                         Ensure that you begin your practice and you do it for at least 20 hours.

These steps and the 20 hours of practice will indeed show results.

Here is the video of the Tedx talk that  Josh Kaufman gave about the 20 hour rule.


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