The First 20 Hours by Kaufman Josh (Book Summary And Review)

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The First 20 Hours Quick Summary

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The book focuses on how anybody can learn skills rapidly and reach a decent performance level without needing to invest 10,000 hours with smart approach.

Buy the book on Amazon USA

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The First 20 Hours Detailed Summary

No matter how you look, if you are an expert in a skill, you will always be respected.

Imagine if you could learn anything quickly.

You could become an interesting person that people admire by learning skills that are hard to learn.

When you learn skills, you become useful to other people and earn respect.

In this video, we will learn insights from the book “The First 20 Hours,” written by Kaufman Josh, and learn how to acquire skills rapidly and strategically.

Alrighty, so without further ado, let’s dive right in.

Lesson #1: You don’t need to obsess over the 10,000-hour rule when acquiring new skills.

Whenever we try to learn new skills, we immediately imagine ourselves doing it with high proficiency.

For instance, many people who wish to play guitar see themselves shredding scales on their guitar, with the audience going crazy over their performance.

Then they think about how they can reach that level of proficiency and how much time it will take.

That’s when they hear the 10000-hour rule.

The 10000-hour rule says that it takes at least 10,000 hours to master a skill and reach expert level.

The problem is that, with most skills, you don’t need to reach expert level.

As soon as we hear 10,000 hours, it suddenly looks like a lot of work.

Most people get disappointed and don’t even start. And those who do start learning the skill eventually give up after a few weeks.

The truth is: If you just want to play some popular songs and have a good time with your friends, you probably don’t need to invest 10,000 hours practicing your guitar.

You don’t need to be John Mayer.

You can do fine by learning a few chords, and that’s it.

You don’t need to learn all the components of a given skill. You can learn a few essential components, and you are good to go if “perfect mastery” isn’t your goal.

Learning a skill and mastering it are two different things.

You can have a skill in a few weeks. But mastering it will require a crazy amount of practice.

So you must be clear right from the beginning and ask yourself questions like:

“How important is this skill for my career?”

“What expertise level do I want to achieve with this skill?”

“Do I want to become a world-class expert?”

For most people, the answer would be “No, not really.”

Most people pick skills just for personal enjoyment.

Also, it’s not possible to learn multiple skills if we decide to take the 10000-hour rule seriously. We only have so much time.

Lesson #2: Understand the three stages when learning a skill to learn it faster.

In the book, the author talks about the three stages we go through while learning any new skill.

The first stage is Cognitive.

In this stage, we start thinking about the skill, like what things we will need to learn, how much effort it will require, etc. Our brain tries to form a superior idea about how everything happens. We use imagination here and expect things to happen in a certain way.

But as we are beginners in this phase, we have no clear idea of exactly how things will work. It’s like trying to learn the rules of the game and trying to fit all the new information so that we get ready for the action.

A lot of hard thinking is involved in this stage.

For example: when learning chess, you first learn how all the pieces move, when it’s checkmate, etc.

The second stage is Associative.

After we learn the basics, it’s practice time.

As you keep practicing, your fundamentals become stronger.

Now you know the game.

But you are still not at masters level.

You are an intermediate who can do well enough.

During this phase, you start to notice patterns in the skill.

Taking the same example of playing chess, you start noticing patterns that can help you beat your opponent quickly. You learn the best moves and become more economical in your approach. You aren’t just randomly moving all the pieces anymore. You can plan a few steps ahead. Note that you are not worried about rules here anymore. That’s because you have already mastered the basics.

But still, you are not highly experienced yet, and therefore you are prone to making lots of mistakes.

It’s like you have just become a teenager; you are not as amateur as a little 5-year-old child, and at the same time, you are not as mature as a 50-year-old.

The third stage is Autonomous.

When you gain some experience, your actions become automatic. You stop thinking too hard. For example, when you get experienced at cooking, you don’t require as much thinking as a beginner would. You don’t feel the need to check the ingredients of a meal all the time. As you have been practicing this skill for quite some time, your brain already knows which ingredient you need to add next and how much cooking temperature you need to maintain.

Your brain has formed a long-term memory, so you don’t need to recall everything from scratch.

One thing you should note here is that you progress through these stages with practice. If you stop the practice, you will slowly start to forget the information you acquired about the skill. So practice is important.

How fast you progress depends on the quality of your practice and the individual’s capacity to process and remember information. This wouldn’t be the case, though, if we could upload information directly into our brains like we do on our digital devices.

Lesson #3: Never confuse “Learning” with “Skill Acquisition.”

The author explains how most people don’t understand the difference between learning a skill and acquiring a skill.

When you are learning, you are learning about the skill.

Just because you have learned a few things about a skill, it doesn’t mean that you can use that skill in context.

For instance, let’s say you are learning about public speaking.

Naturally, you will learn things like:

  • How to speak confidently?
  • How to maintain proper body posture?
  • How to keep the audience engaged?

And so many other things…

But even if you read and learn about these things, you can’t say that you have acquired the skill of public speaking.

You will need to practice in a real-life situation, i.e., you will need to face the audience and give some kind of speech, and then do it a few times so that your brain understands how to process all that information about “public speaking” in real time.

In simple words, if you can’t perform the skill, you don’t have the skill, regardless of how much you know about it.

Does this mean that learning about the skill is useless? No, not really.

Learning helps you plan and form concepts in your brain so that skill acquisition time is reduced.

Without learning about the skill, you can’t perform properly.

Yes, you can go out there to practice public speaking, but it won’t be that impressive. It’s bound to be unorganized and imperfect.

Without learning about the skill, you will give a bad performance and start doubting your abilities.

Learning about the skill gives you enough confidence. It tells you how and how much you have to practice. During the learning phase, you learn what essential components you need to learn first.

You need both learning and practice to be able to perform a skill smoothly.

Lesson #4: To acquire a skill rapidly, you have to love it enough so that you concentrate on the grind and give it enough time.

The goal is not just to learn the skill; you have to be able to learn it rapidly.

First, if possible, choose a skill that you can love for a long time.

Let’s first realize that even if you don’t need to practice those 10000 hours, you still have to give time, focus, and concentration to that skill.

If you don’t love it, it’ll be harder for you.

It will require more willpower, and you won’t have much desire to accelerate your learning process.

In short, by not loving your skill, you are more likely to slow down your progress.

Before you choose the skill, simply ask yourself, “Does this skill get me excited?”

You will have to go through a time when you will be bored and won’t be making much progress while learning that skill.

This is why you must make sure that the skill is exciting enough.

If you can enjoy the boring drills and practice sessions, then you love the skill and enjoy the process.

Lesson #5: Don’t try to learn too many skills at the same time.

The last thing you want while learning a skill is to add other skills that force you to use your limited time.

Look, no matter how fast a learner you are, you have a limit on how many things you can learn in a given time.

Learning too many skills at once is unproductive.

A lot of people fall into this trap out of excitement.

They think that if they learn too many things at once, they will become ultraproductive.

But in reality, they end up not learning anything properly.

If only they spent that time focusing and learning only one skill first, they would have gotten enough proficiency. And then moved on to learning the next skill.

This is why, as soon as you decide to learn a particular skill, dedicate yourself to learning that one skill only.

Choose your skills wisely.

If you already love your skill enough, you won’t run after other skills out of boredom.

Lesson #6: Try to classify your skill into subskills and also think about what your target performance level looks like.

Kaufman says that every skill can be classified into subskills.

If you can classify a complex skill into critical subskills, you can acquire it rapidly.

For example, if you want to learn to code.

You can identify the smaller subskills like building logic, learning essential keywords in programming languages, understanding algorithms, modifying the programs, debugging errors, etc.

Before you jump into learning them, it is also essential that you understand your “target performance level.”

It means you need to decide the end result.

How good do you want to become at the skill?

What will it look like when you have become good enough at your skill?

Once you have defined your target performance level, you can start identifying which subskills you need to learn first.

Deconstructing complex skills into simpler subskills helps you avoid overwhelm and, at the same time, improves your learning experience.

Whenever you learn any skill, ask yourself, “How can I make it easy?”

When you don’t know how to learn a skill smartly, you waste a lot of time figuring things out.

Lesson #7: Find resources and tools to overcome learning barriers and make rapid skill acquisition easier.

You have the motivation. You have the strategy. You have the time. But if you don’t have the proper resources and tools to learn the skill, it’s difficult to acquire it rapidly.

Research what kind of resources or tools you would need to learn that skill.

For example, if you want to learn animation, you need to have a digital drawing tablet and software. So research which software is required, how much that drawing tablet will cost you, whether you need courses to learn that software or not, etc.

Once you have the necessary tools or resources, you should try to eliminate any barriers to practice.

Most of the time, there are two major barriers people face: Environmental distractions and Emotional Blocks.

Or you can also call them external distractions and internal distractions.

External distractions include environmental noise, random people talking loudly, not having enough space for equipment, etc.

Internal distractions include anything emotional that is preventing you from giving your all. Like fear of failure.

The fewer barriers, the faster your skill acquisition.

The First 20 Hours Review

The book is a good start if you want to learn the science behind learning skills.

But I find title a bit misleading. You don’t learn high-value skills in just 20 hours.

Although the book explores the idea of “rapid-skill acquisition,” I think it’s not going to work for everyone.

And even if the 10,000 hour rule is being taken for granted, the reality is that mastery is not easy. It’ll take that many hours of practice for any average person.

Knowing our learning speed is important. If you can learn things quickly naturally, you will require less hours of practice.

Learning skills is no different from going to gym and building muscles. Some people are genetically blessed and build good body in less time.

The science of learning skills, as discussed in this book, is the basic that everyone must know.

So I highly recommend that you read this at least once.

Buy the book on Amazon USA

Listen to audiobook on Audible 30 days free trial.

Now You Tell Me

What are your best takeaways from this book summary?

Do you have some feedback?

You can contact me anytime and let me know.

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Thanks for reading.

Shami Manohar

The Brain Behind

I am Shami Manohar, the founder of WizBuskOut. My obsession with non-fiction books has fueled me with the energy to create this website. I read at least one book every week on topics such as business, critical thinking, mindset, psychology, and more.

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