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The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything . . . Fast!

The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything . . . Fast!

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by Josh Kaufman

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“Learn anything . . . fast!”


Whatever you want to do with your life, you must master new skills. But where can you find the time? You are already busy—much too busy to spend the ten thousand hours authors like Malcolm Gladwell claim you’ll need to master a new skill. Moreover, the early hours of practicing something new are


“Learn anything . . . fast!”


Whatever you want to do with your life, you must master new skills. But where can you find the time? You are already busy—much too busy to spend the ten thousand hours authors like Malcolm Gladwell claim you’ll need to master a new skill. Moreover, the early hours of practicing something new are always the most frustrating: If you can’t make it through the first twenty hours, you’ll never get to ten thousand.


Josh Kaufman offers a systematic approach for acquiring new skills quickly with a small amount of practice each day. He shows how to deconstruct complex skills, maximize productive practice, and remove common learning barriers, creating a realistic framework for drastically cutting the time it takes to acquire any skill.


Kaufman invites readers to join him as he field tests his approach by learning to program a Web application, play the ukulele, practice yoga, get the hang of windsurfing, create illustrations, and study the world’s oldest and most complex board game.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The latest from business adviser Kaufman (The Personal MBA) gets off to a promising start, asserting that the mastery of new skills is crucial in today’s rapidly changing business world, and also for the sake of personal growth. He challenges educational research and influential books such as Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, and suggests that most Americans are too busy to devote tens of thousands of hours to mastering new skills. Instead Kaufman proposes 10 basic principles to help students of any skill learn efficiently. These principles draw on rapid skill acquisition (for example, he tells readers to “choose a lovable project” and “define your target performance level”) and provide an organizational framework to help the learner focus and prevent distraction. Unfortunately, the book becomes less focused in the remaining chapters, as Kaufman illustrates his principles through different skills he attempted to learn, including yoga, Web programming, and playing the ukulele. The level of detail Kaufman includes is likely to lose the reader along the way. For example, in recounting his foray into programming, he breaks code down into its most basic components and even installation commands, which is only helpful for readers who want to learn this particular skill. While the overall premise is insightful, the accounts of Kaufman’s own field-testing are too drawn out and distract from the book’s thesis. Agent: Lisa Dimona, Writers House. (June)
From the Publisher
“A blockbuster in the making, The First 20 Hours breaks down the learning process into simple and effective steps with real-life examples that inspire. After reading this book, you’ll be ready to take on any number of skills and make progress on that big project you’ve been putting off for years.”
—CHRIS GUILLEBEAU, author of The $100 Startup
“If you’re like me, you’ll get so inspired that you’ll stop reading to apply this approach to your own procrastinated project. After reading the first five chapters, I tried Josh’s technique to learn a new programming language, and I’m blown away with how fast I became fluent.”
—DEREK SIVERS, founder, CD Baby, sivers.org
“Great opportunities are worthless without skills. No more excuses! Kaufman proves that we all have the capacity to become experts.”
—SCOTT BELSKY, founder, Behance, and author of Making Ideas Happen
“With the amount of information and change in the world today, the person who can adapt and learn the most quickly will be the most successful. Kaufman breaks down the science of learning in useful, entertaining, and fascinating ways. If you care about keeping your job, your business, or your edge, this book is for you.”
—PAMELA SLIM, author of Escape from Cubicle Nation
“In this inspiring little book, Josh argues that you can get good enough at anything to enjoy yourself in just 20 hours. In other words, all that’s standing between you and playing the ukulele is your TV time for the next two weeks. If Josh, a busy father and entrepreneur, can make the time, then the rest of us can too.”
—LAURA VANDERKAM, author of 168 Hours and What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast
“Lots of books promise to change your life. This one actually will.”
—SETH GODIN, author of The Icarus Deception
Library Journal
Learning new skills is a key component in keeping the mind sharp and engaged. Kaufman's techniques for rapid skill acquisition will appeal to people feeling the pressure of time crunch.

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.44(w) x 9.14(h) x 1.02(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
“Lots of books promise to change your life. This one actually will.”
Seth Godin, author of The Icarus Deception

Meet the Author

Josh Kaufman is an independent business adviser and researcher who specializes in helping people make more money, get more done, and have more fun. Before creating PersonalMBA.com and writing The Personal MBA, he worked as a marketing manager for Procter & Gamble. He lives in Colorado. Visit personalmba.com Follow @joshkaufman

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The First 20 Hours : How to Learn Anything ... Fast 2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
carlwg More than 1 year ago
I love to learn things. I spend lots of time reading books, etc. about various things I want to learn. Some time ago I realized I did not have enough time to learn everything I wanted to learn. So the title of this book sounded like a God-send--to learn how to learn anything in 20 hours! My bad. Of course I knew there was no way you could learn most things in 20 hours. But I thought the author had perhaps found some gimmick, or insight or something to justify the book's title. There wasn't. In the first few chapters he listed several times the most obvious banal things one should do to learn something. And then after that there were six chapters telling us six things that he had learned purportedly spending 20 hours each. Admittedly some of those chapters were interesting because they dealt with areas that I was interested in learning something about--Ruby programming, for example. But to learn that, one wouldn't read this book--one would buy the materials necessary to learn Ruby programming. So that was the whole book. Anyway I was quite disappointed. At least one thing this book did teach me--that appearances can be deceptive.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago