20 Hours for Learning New Skills

Jeffrey T. McCormack
Posted by in Technology

Technology is ever-changing, and therefore so must your skill sets. It is far too easy to get set in your ways, and continue doing things the way you have done them for years. That may be fine for a few years, until the day you wake up and realize your work is really extremely outdated. They key way to keep this from happening is to watch out for new advancements in your field, and learn them gradually as you go. However, this is not always possible, plus there are always totally new technologies that would greatly benefit our skill sets for job advancement (or landing a job in general).

 

For many people, learning a new skill is not the easiest thing to do, depending on the learning curve involved. Author Josh Kaufman’s new book, The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything...Fast! offers helpful tips to get over that initial learning curve wall that we tend to hit and stop at when first starting to learn something. An excerpt from the book sets the stage that reveals the mindset of the greater majority of us, stating, “Do you feel like you’d need 36 or 48 hours in a day to finally sit down and learn a useful or interesting new skill? There’s an old cliché: “work smarter, not harder.” As it turns out, the process of skill acquisition is not really about the raw hours you put in... it’s what you put *into* those hours.”

 

I know I feel that way many days, and while I have heard and understand that little cliché, it doesn’t always mean I know how to put it into action. That is where Kaufman’s book could come in handy. In an article by Thorin Klosowski at Lifehacker, he quotes Kaufman as saying:

 

"Rapid skill acquisition, as a process, is quite simple: Decide what you want, then break complex skills down into smaller sub-skills. Do a bit of research to identify the sub-skills you’ll use most often, then practice those first. Remove unnecessary barriers to practice by changing your environment to make it easy to avoid distractions. Pre-commit to completing at least 20 hours of practice to push through early frustrations and avoid giving up before you see results...

 

The 20-hour precommitment, in my experience, is key. The first few hours of practice are always frustrating. Deciding to invest a certain amount of time before you begin makes it much easier to persist long enough to see improvement."

 

I can totally relate as many of you probably can too. We start learning some hot new skill, but then start to get confused, and frustration sets in and so we lay it down to come back later, but often never do. The idea here is to set a goal and stick to it. Setting the 20 hour goal may not actually get you to the final destination of skill mastery, but it should definitely get you past that wall and frustration. Pushing through and keeping the 20-hour commitment should get you into that break-through moment when things begin to fall into place.

 

Rapid skill acquisition has four major steps:

 

  1. Deconstructing the skill into the smallest possible sub-skills;
  2. Learning enough about each sub-skill to be able to practice intelligently and self-correct during practice;
  3. Removing physical, mental, and emotional barriers that get in the way of practice;
  4. Practicing the most important sub-skills for at least 20 hours.

 

On continuing to read Kaufman’s interview on Boing Boing, he goes on to speak of how his system is also helpful beyond the initial 20-hour goal. The system can be layered, in that once you grasp the basics and get past that learning curve after the first 20-hour goal, you follow the steps to set another 20-hour increment to improve your skills even more.

 

The 20-hour goal is to achieve a general working knowledge capacity for the skills, not an overall mastery. The goal is to get past that hump that stops most people, and get to the point where you grasp and can function at the skill, and then you’ll grow from there with continued use. Learning a new skill is almost always a big plus for your resume, so if you are unemployed and actively job hunting start setting aside a little time to begin learning new skills to make you an even better candidate for hiring.

 

Image courtesy of Amazon.com

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