Today, I was organizing all my Google Drive files and I found a blog post outline from 2013 that I never published. That summer I read the excellent book The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything . . . Fast! by Josh Kaufman.
Since reading the book, I have tackled learning a few skills. I’m good at #1 (choose a lovable project), but poor at #2 (one skill at a time). But I’m getting better.
Probably the best tip I have to learning a new skill is to just get started. We waste too much time looking for the best tools and hacks to learn something as an avoidance tactic for that first week (or 20 hours) of being frustrated. You can always change tools later and often we don’t know which tool is going to be best until we start the work. I touched on this briefly in my 2016 post Learn a Foreign Language SUPER FAST or Not.
Here are the notes I took in 2013.
10 Principles of Rapid Skill Acquisition
- Choose a lovable project
- Focus your energy on one skill at a time
- Define your target performance level.
- Deconstruct the skill into sub-skills.
- Obtain critical tools.
- Eliminate barriers to practice.
- Make dedicated time to practice.
- Create fast feedback loops.
- Practice by the clock in short bursts.
- Emphasize quantity and speed. (ceramics)
Barriers to practice
- significant pre-practice effort (misplacing tools)
- intermittent resource availability (using borrowed equipment)
- environmental distractions (TV, email, phone)
- emotional blocks (fear, doubt, embarrassment)
Don’t rely on willpower to overcome these barriers. Rearrange your environment.
10 Principles of Effective Learning
- Research the skill and related topics.
- Jump in over your head.
- Identify mental models and mental hooks.
- Imagine the opposite of what you want.
- Talk to practitioners to set expectations.
- Eliminate distractions in your environment.
- Use spaced repetition and reinforcement for memorization.
- Create scaffolds and checklists.
- Make and test predictions.
- Honor your biology.