I’ll pull my review straight from my second weekly inspiration post:
This week I picked up The First 20 Hours by Josh Kaufman. It’s a pretty solid introduction to the topic of mastering a skill. It introduces the key topics and terminology, provides a solid framework for quickly learning skills and busts a few myths along the way.
As the name suggests, it’s focused on the first 20 hours of skill acquisition. Kaufman suggests that it’s often at around the 20-hour mark that the initial sense of being lost disappears. If you can stick it out for 20 hours, he reckons that you’ll start enjoying yourself and things will become easier. In some cases you’ll even reach your desired level of expertise in that time.
It’s certainly true that the initial phase of skill acquisition is vital. If done right, you can develop your abilities incredibly rapidly — as Kaufman notes, a steep learning curve = a greater opportunity to learn quickly. If done wrong, you can get frustrated and quit.
Kaufman introduces a couple of checklists that are very useful — the ten major principles of rapid skill acquisition and the principles of effective learning. Understanding and implementing these two checklists alone probably justifies the purchase of the book.
Ultimately, Kaufman’s approach is to strategically plan his skill acquisition, removing potential barriers to putting in deliberate practice. He constantly reiterates how vital it is to just spend as much time practising as you can. Although simple, the message is really valuable — it goes against a lot of the habits that we develop at school or university.
If you’re new to the theory behind skill acquisition, you’ll find that this book takes you right up the skill acquisition learning curve. It gives you all the concepts you need to get through those first 20 hours as efficiently and effectively as possible.
Even if you’re pretty familiar with the subject, I’d still recommend buying the book. It filled in some important gaps in my knowledge. You can pick it up cheaply on Kindle.
TIP: I’d supplement this by picking up The Talent Code. It adds some further detail on learning / skill acquisition plus (most importantly) it explains the neuroscience behind why these things work.