The popular belief is that to become good at something, you have to invest 10,000 hours. That’s a full time job for 5 years. Fortunately, it is not true. If you want to become the very best of the best, and excel in a highly competitive field, you need to invest 10,000 hours of focused practice. But, according to Josh Kaufman’s TEDx talk, you only need 20 hours to learn pretty much anything you can think of, from business skills to sports to playing the ukelele.
For most of the skills you need, in business and in life, being proficient is all that is necessary. You don’t have to be the best in the world, just good enough to do what you need to do.
When you start at something new, you are completely incompetent. It is fairly quick and easy to go from completely incompetent to fairly competent. In fact, you can go from incompetent to reasonably good at almost anything in 20 hours of focused practice. That means deconstructing the skill, breaking it into small pieces, and learning the most important pieces. And learning enough that you can self-correct and you improve with practice. With continued practice, you will continue to improve; however, the biggest gains in competence will come in your early stages of learning, as you go from incompetent to competent. After that, improvement is incremental.
Perhaps the most important thing to note from his talk comes at the end, and that is the challenge you face when tackling something new. The major barrier to learning something new isn’t intellectual, it’s emotional. As Josh says, “We’re scared. Feeling stupid doesn’t feel good, and in the beginning of learning anything new, you feel really stupid.” So the major barrier isn’t the learning itself, it’s the emotional obstacle of allowing yourself to look and feel silly in the beginning. But put 20 focused hours into anything – whatever it is you want to learn – and you can do it.
Watch this video where Josh Kaufman explains all of this–and then shows how you can play just about any pop song from the last 50 years if you know just four chords. Really! It’s in the video, so check it out. Then set aside 20 hours to learn something you want or need to learn. And leave a comment here to let us know how you are going to invest your next 20 hours of learning.