Summary of The First 20 Hours (Josh Kaufman) in 14 Slides

The First 20 Hours by Josh Kaufman is the second book for my reading challenge on “Memory and Learning”.  The first part of the book provides a framework to acquire skills rapidly and the second part is a chronicle of Josh learning 6 different skills: yoga, touch typing, the strategy game Go, ukulele, windsurfing and programming. 

Here’s my summary in a slideshow with the main concepts from First 20 Hours. 

Slideshow Summary of The First 20 Hours

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  1. Your local library, obviously!
    Available at the Singapore National Library.
    Call Number: English 153.15 KAU 
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1. Why Learn Rapidly? 📖💡💨

  • Make use of time efficiently
  • 10,000 hour rule is for expert level
  • Reach desired level of skill quickly

2. What is Rapid Skill Acquistion (RSA)?

  • Deconstructing: Breaking a skill into smallest possible subskills
  • Learning: Learn just enough to intelligently practice & self-correct
  • Removing: Physical, emotion & mental barriers to learning

3. Ten Principles of Rapid Skill Acquisition

  1. Lovable ❤️:  Choose a skill to learn that you love and care about.
  2. One Thing 1️⃣: Focus on learning just one skill at a time.
  3. Set Target 🎯: The goal here is not to become a world-class expert but to be good enough. Define clearly what “good enough” means for you.     
  4. Break It 🍱: Break the skill into  sub-skills to focus on practising the most important parts.
  5. Tools ⚒️: Obtain tools and resources needed to practice the skill.   
  6. Barriers 🚧: Identify and eliminate mental, physical and emotional barriers.
  7. Schedule 📅: Make time for practice. Cut low value activities.
  8. Feedback 🔁: Get quick feedback as you practice in order to adjust and learn faster.
  9. Clock It ⏱️: Practice in short bursts for 3-5 sessions a day. The Pomodoro Technique will work just fine.
  10. Quantity & Speed 📚💨: Focus on quantity & speed. During early stages of learning a skill, quantity & speed beat quality.

4. Ten Principles of Effective Learning

  1. Research the skills: Identify some books, videos, courses, websites. Skim to identify techniques.
  2. Jump in over your head: Don’t get daunted or frustrated if certain concepts are confusing. Confusion leads to clarity.
  3. Mental Models & Mental Hooks: Mental models are essential concepts of a skill. Mental hooks are metaphors for the concepts. Identify them early to learn a skill more effectively. For example, in programming a “server” is a special computer that stores and retrieves web pages for users. This is a mental model. To understand this mental model, we can relate a “server” to a librarian who handles queries from users about book availability. This is a mental hook. 
  4. Inversion: Study the direct opposite of what you want to learn. By flipping, you will gain insight on things not immediately obvious.
  5. Ask practitioners: Talking to practitioners will help set expectations as well as bust myths and misconceptions.
  6. Eliminate distractions: Eliminate distractions like TV, phone, Internet as well as people and pets to focus on learning the skill.
  7. Repeat & Reinforce: Review important concepts periodically. Use tools like flash cards.
  8. Scaffolds & Checklists: Checklist helps you remember things to practice. Scaffolds are actions so you always approach the skill in the same way. An example of a scaffold is the way a player bounces a ball before executing a free throw.
  9. Predictions: Keep a log of making and testing predictions to acquire skills more rapidly.
  10. Honour your biology: Brain and body needs food, exercise, water, rest and sleep. Use a timer and take breaks.

5. Skills Josh Picked Up

Within a span of a year, Josh picked up the following six skills in different areas:

  1. Yoga: Develop a home practice
  2. Programming: Create a web application
  3. Touch Typing: Use a nonstandard keyboard
  4. Strategy: Learn the ancient game of Go
  5. Music: Play the ukulele
  6. Windsurfing

Below is a TEDx talk by Josh where he goes into details of The First 20 Hours framework with regards to learning how to play the ukulele.

Now It's Your Turn

I hope you enjoyed my summary of The First 20 Hours. Now it’s your turn to take action:

  • Read the book
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