Saturday, June 4, 2016

The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything Fast by Josh Kaufman

I was pretty excited about this book, so, despite the fact that it was by far not the book that's been sitting on my shelf the longest, I picked it up to read.  I don't have a particular skill I'm looking to acquire right now, but I love books like this anyway.  I enjoy reading about learning, skill acquisition, people learning to do cool things, pretty much everything this book had to offer.  And, at first, I was not disappointed.  Within a couple of chapters, I was brainstorming about what new skill I wanted to learn (this part I'm not always so great about following through on, just sayin').

In The First 20 Hours, Josh starts by talking about the dreaded 10,000 hours to become an expert that is floating out there, popularized by Malcolm Gladwell (I'm a fan of his books, too).  I've read some things that question the 10,000 hour thing.  One of the principles is that talent doesn't exist, for example, and there's quite a bit of backlash about that.  In fact, I'm a believer in some innate ability.  Some people really are more coordinated than others or have a better ear for music.  Anyway, Josh comes at it from a different direction.  He doesn't argue against the 10,000 hours to being an expert, but he argues that most of us aren't looking to be experts.  If you want to start skiing, learn to play an instrument or learn German, most people would be happy getting to the point where they enjoyed skiing, could play for a friend without embarrassing himself or have a conversation in German while traveling in Germany.  Josh says 20 hours of specific, concentrated practice will get you there.

Josh has a method that involves deconstructing the skill, learning about each subskill, removing barriers and then practicing for 20 hours.  There are a few chapters about skill acquisition in general - his method and other general overview things.  The rest of the book is a breakdown of him putting his method to work at several different skills including yoga, computer programming, go, and windsurfing among others. 

This is where the book lost its hold on me.  I thought I'd be more interested than I was, but each of these skill chapters was like a how to for each of those skills.  Josh says upfront that the reader may be more interested in some of these skills than others, but I found myself glazing on pretty much all of these chapters, even though I do yoga, have learned programming, love playing games and am a beginner windsurfer myself.  It was sort of like reading a paper written for school on each of these topics with a bit of how Josh learned them.  It mostly didn't work for me and I did a bunch of skimming.

One exception was I was surprisingly fairly fascinated by the learning to touch type chapter.  Josh decides to give a keyboard layout other than the QWERTY one a go and it made me want to, also.  I was pretty into how he decided on which one, Das Keyboard and the programs he used.  Go figure. 

So, in the end, I thought this book was okay.  The first few chapters were interesting.  Most of the skill ones were skim-able and one or more may call to you.  I do feel a little inspired to really work a skill rather than do it haphazardly.  That is enough to say this book is probably worth a look.  I'd definitely get it from the library, though, rather than buying it.

No comments:

Post a Comment