I have a problem. And it’s stopping me from learning.

I’ve swallowed the line that it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill, and it’s scared me off learning new things.

I am naturally curious. I want to learn, but I put off doing so because I know I’ll never be an expert in that field. So instead I potter around the fringes and play with things half-heartedly.

That was, until I watched this TEDx video: The first 20 hours  (20 minutes)

In it, Josh Kaufman discusses why you don’t need to burn 10,000 hours on a subject, why 20 hours of focused practice is “good enough”, and how to overcome the inertia that prevents you from learning new things in the first place.

It’s well worth a watch, especially if – like me – you’re putting off learning because you’re scared of the amount of effort it’ll take to be good: because 20 hours is good enough 🙂

A quick summary of what I picked up

20 hours in perspective:

  • 20 hours is only 45 minutes per day, for a month. That means you can pick up a new subject/skill in around a month of lunches! How’s that for motivation?

4 steps to rapid skill acquisition:

  1. Deconstruct the skill
    1. Decide what you want to do when you’re done
      1. Example: be proficient in setting up and managing VMware vSphere
    2. Then break down the skill into chunks/pieces, that will get you to that total goal
      1. Example: VMware vSphere. Break it the learning down into individual components and focus on those. Install, Configure it, and troubleshoot. Also focus on day-to-day management tasks like setting up Datastores, troubleshooting performance issues, and  setting up vMotion.
  2. Learn enough to self correct
    1. Once you start learning, you can begin to self-correct yourself based on earlier learning.
  3. Remove practise barriers (distractions)
    1. TV, Twitter, email client, mobile phone.
  4. Practice at least 20 hours. Don’t give up!
    1. Break through the initial frustration barrier, where things feel like they don’t make much sense or that you’re not making much progress. Stick with it, long enough to learn it properly and you’ll be pleased with the results.

Written by Phil Wiffen

Phil is an IT Professional working in Cambridge, England. He generally blogs about useful solutions that he comes across in his work/play.

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