As a kid, I was willing to do anything and everything that caught my interest. If I liked it, I could learn it… fast. It didn’t matter if I was the best person in the world at it… it just mattered that I knew how to do it. I taught myself basic computer programming when I was ten. I learned to be a killer cheerleader in Junior High even though I initially both knew nothing but also sucked at it. I didn’t have the barrier to learning that I developed as an adult. If you are anything like me, you are not a fan of doing things unless you can be really good at them. After all, we are all really busy. Who has the time to dabble? Don’t get me wrong, I will play freely with anything artistic, but where practical life skills are concerned, I have built really interesting justifications to learning new things, even if these new things could make my life a lot better. This isn’t quite cool. It makes life feel small.
When I was asked if I wanted to read and review Josh Kaufman’s new book, The First 20 Hours- How To Learn Anything Fast, I was in the midst of not publishing my e-book because I just couldn’t find someone to hire to design and load my book onto a server so that it could be delivered to you. Seriously! So, given that I was faced with these obstacles and couldn’t even find people to pay to do these things, I knew that I had to learn skills that I had a pretty wild block to learning. It occured to me that because I am not really versed in certain technical skills (Photoshop, for instance, or operating a DSLR, or editing videos in Adobe) I have significantly limited how cool the products are that I can produce. But… because I don’t have 10,000 hours to master any other skills at the moment, I thought it was better to try to find people who were experts. As a result my projects were always on hold and I was getting realy frustrated. If I could learn to do anything in 20 hours, I would have a great deal of freedom. Yes, of course, I wanted that book.
Cut to a few weeks later. I poured through The First 20 Hours in a flash. John Kaufman breaks down learning into a very cool “rapid skill aquisition” method. Key to the process is an understanding that you do not need 10,000 hours to learn something. Malcolm Gladwell’s concept of 10,000 hours of practice and doing to master a skill is something I believe in passionately, but the 10,000 hour rule does ot need to apply to everything in life. I read how Kaufman developed a yoga practice, learned touch typing and even got a grasp of the ukulele (and much more) by applying his very pragmatic approach to useful learning. I say useful because the goal is to be able to use what you learn! So, I read the book and got all this insight. Reading, however, is much different that doing.
The First 20 Hours teaches how to deconstruct a skill and understand its essence. Being aware of the potential obstacles to learning – is the skill dangerous? does it require innate talent? – is part of the process. Understanding what can be practiced, and then, yes, practicing, is another part of the process. Does this seem basic? It is, but it isn’t. Simple is always much more than meets the eye. It’s in taking action to learn and coming up against your own resistance, your own frustration and your own self-judgement that the more complex part of the process avails itself. For example: if you have to unlearn bad habits, it can be a real bitch to learn something. I type with one hand. Yes! One hand! If I even attempt to type with two hands, I am so shaken emotionally, so irritated and upset, that it prevents me from learning. Meanwhile, if I could sit with the frustration for a while, I could practice my way into actual touch typing. That, however, was not the skill I learned by reading this book!
Instead, I taught myself the ins and outs of two computer programs by the time I was done with the book, using it’s simple method. My e-book was up and running! I can take great photos with an old-school camera, but I will be using this awesome method to learn to use a DSLR…. and to use Photoshop… and Adobe Premiere! But, lest I get ahead of myself, let’s remember that in less that 20 hours, I learned two computer programs that have enabled me to do so much more than I ever thought possible for myself, on my own schedule, 100% directed by me. These skills I lacked were once holding up my life. Freedom at last!!!
Needless to say, rapid skill aquisition is not a replacement for mastering your craft… but it can certainly help along that 10,000 hour journey. If you have grown as stubborn as I have where picking up new skills and learning them is concerned, you will LOVE this book. Your resistance to learning will turn to incredible excitement! You can grab a copy of Josh Kaufman’s book The First 20 Hours- How To Learn Anything Fast right HERE! Enjoy! xoxo Dana