Have you ever wanted to learn to play an instrument, become a writer, or learn how to speak a new language?
Well, your not alone, as humans we are in the constant pursuit of improvement whether it be health, wealth, or happiness. So why is learning a new skill so hard?
Are we incompetent, short on time, or maybe not talented? Thousands of excuses come to mind when it comes to learning new skills, so what makes the difference between learning and struggling?
For a while now there has been a theory out there that says that 10,000 hours is the minimum amount of time to learn a craft. Although putting in that many hours wouldn’t hurt it’s a bit ridiculous.
I mean after all, how would anybody pick up any skill if it took that long?
Malcolm Gladwell presents this theory in his book Outliers. He conducted research on several world class performers and came to the conclusion that the one common characteristic between all of them was in fact time.
Yes, we know how important practice is to perfecting your craft but isn’t 10,000 hours a bit much?
When Malcolm Gladwell conducted his research for the writing of his book Outliers, he gathered information on the best of the best.
The fastest, the strongest, and the top tier professionals in their respective fields.
They have dedicated their lives to those skills which they acquired, and it resulted in a level of mastery that was unmatched.
So it should be no surprise that these individuals were at the pinnacle of their respective skill sets.
However, this isn’t the golden rule for people just trying to learn a new skill that they can use right away.
This 10,000 gets quoted as fact when it comes to learning and it’s an excuse for many to not pursue a hobby or skill.
Studies have stated that if you take focused practice with the proper motivation, you can acquire skills such as playing instruments and learning languages relatively quickly. You just have to apply a fundamental approach to the learning process.
Josh Kaufmann covers this conundrum in his book The First 20 Hours, how to learn anything fast. If you didn’t already guess from the title, he says 20 hours is the amount of time it will take for anyone to achieve skill levels that can impress anyone, yourself included.
According to Josh Kaufmann, there are three steps needed to take your skills to the next level.
Which are know just enough, deconstruct the skill, and focused practice followed by sleep.
Knowing just enough
How many times have you sought out to learn something and did intense research on the matter? Buying books, surfing the web, watching videos and just drowning yourself in information. I’m sure we all have, but smothering your brain with several techniques can become overwhelming. Study should be used for referral and self-correction.
Meaning that once you start practicing, whenever you make a mistake is when you should mentally refer to the information.
A good way of learning just enough is to pick out a few quality books, watch good videos and look at the reoccurring themes. After you have determined the similarities store it to memory and practice, practice, practice.
Whenever you stumble in certain areas, take mental notes and refer to books, videos, and other information sources to troubleshoot your deficiencies. You’ll soon find that information ten times more effective on the back end, rather than front-loading before you start.
Deconstructing a skill
Whatever craft you wish to sharpen, take a step back and throw yourself in a bad scenario.
Meaning a situation where that particular skill would particularly helpful, for example, let’s say you want to speak French.
So imagine you’re in Paris, and you want to find directions to the Eiffel tower, but you have no idea what people are saying and have no clue how to formulate a sentence.
What would you need to know to convey your message to natives? First, you would need to know common words and phrases. Then understanding directions and destinations wouldn’t hurt. Throw it all together, and you would be able to produce enough French to get directions.
By breaking down the skill set into smaller chunks, you can pinpoint what you need to know. So identify the essentials and work on those first.
Practice and sleep
Having a structured training schedule is the most efficient way you can improve on any skill. You must set aside a certain block of time and take focused action to becoming more competent.
Getting over the initial stages of frustration will be difficult, but once you push past this, you will see significant levels of improvement.
However, your practice cannot be casual it must command your full attention. There is a direct correlation with how intensely you practice with how much you improve.
Then follow your practice with sleep which helps your brain consolidate all the information you learn. Scientists have determined that humans develop motor skills most effectively if exercised within 4 hours of going to bed.
When pairing intense practice coupled with sleep, you will see vast improvements in your desired skill set.
You only need 20 hours of focused practice to acquire your next skill set and become the next garage guitar hero. Take this new found approach to your next endeavor and tackle that ability that you have wanted for so long.
Let us know what learning techniques you use to acquire new skills. We would love to hear your feedback.