How Long It REALLY Takes to Learn Anything
It takes 10,000 hours to learn a skill. Or so we thought.
In an interesting TEDx talk by Josh Kaufman, he debunks the widespread notion that it takes 10,000 hours to learn anything.
We’ve all heard and read it by now. Popularized by Malcolm Gladwell, the concept of 10,000 hours of deliberate practice is nothing new for most creators and personal development enthusiasts. “Ten thousand hours is the magic number of greatness,” Gladwell writes in his book Outliers.
It takes 10,000 hours to be considered a true expert in one’s craft.
But as Kaufman pointed out in his talk, as more and more people referenced and quoted Gladwell’s 10,000 Hour Rule, the message slowly evolved:
- It takes 10,000 hours to be a world-class performer in any field.
- It takes 10,000 hours to be good at anything.
- It takes 10,000 hours to learn anything.
The subtle difference in language might have discouraged you from trying to learn new things.
After all, there can only be so many hours in a day!
Yet, in reality, the things we want to learn don’t usually require us to be elites. Sometimes we just want to acquire a skill for fun or manage our everyday lives better.
And the fantastic news Kaufman offers is this: it takes 20 hours to learn anything! It takes 20 hours to go from not knowing how to do something to learning how to do it at a decent level.
Learn a new language for your next trip. Cook dinner without burning your house. Play an instrument to pass the time. You only need 20 hours to learn something and make life more interesting!
But why do most of us shy away from trying to learn new things?
Kaufman offers, “the main barrier to learning is not intellectual — it’s emotional.”
As I transitioned from being a copywriter to learning more about marketing strategy, I busied myself with reading, taking courses, and listening to podcasts. In their book Snow Leopard, the Category Pirates call this “active consumption.”
We consume content to learn about something that we want to do. Nothing wrong with that! But the authors point out, “The problem is that Active Consumption can easily become a procrastination technique to avoid Creation.”
We tend to bury ourselves in learning mode before dipping our toes in the water because we get intimidated. We feel unqualified. We don’t wanna look foolish.
But before anyone got so good at what they do, they fell and failed too. They just went on and kept trying to figure it out.
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