The amount of time to acquire and master a skill is approximated to be 10,000 hours. But these approximations were taken by studying top athletes, artists, musicians, etc. at the top of the game. They were one of the best in the world.

So it is a misconception that you need that amount of time to get good at something. Good is a relative word. It is idiosyncratic, it simply means that it depends on the individual. So good for a professional whose life revolves around a skill (you get what I mean) and for a person for whom it is just another tool in the shed or a hobby is completely different. Many of us don’t need to have mastery over a skill as a professional does. Hence the term good enough!

Having said that, the main reason that it takes so much time for a professional to get the mastery is because as you get better, even smaller improvements need a lot of time to be attained. This is explained visually in the infamous learning curve graph. So it takes a lot less time than the 10,000 hours to get good. According to the speaker its only 20 hours.

So the first 20 hours if managed effectively will make you get good at that skill. There are 4 simple steps to manage these hours properly.

1. Deconstruct the skill

Figure out what you want to be able to do once you get good. Then break the skill down into manageable chunks. Classify parts which are important to get the skill and practice them first. When you practice the important ones first and spend more time on them you improve faster.

2. Learn enough to self correct

Practice and to know are two different things. There may be things you need to know before you start to practice a skill. You need to have some knowledge to self correct when you go wrong. Here what goes wrong is that people focus on the wrong thing. For example, when you want to learn programming, reading a whole book on programming and then starting to practice programming is not the right way. It leads to procrastination and may even get you overwhelmed. So read just enough that you know what you’re doing and practice then repeat the process.

3. Remove practice barriers

This is obvious. Remove distractions while you practice. Focus on what is in front of you. It just takes a little bit of willpower to get rid of them. Short periods of focused practice or learning, even 15-20 min will improve you much faster than an hour of distracted mess.

4. Practice for at least 20 hours

When learning something new there is always the feeling of frustration. We feel stupid not being able to do what we intend to. So commit yourself to practice for at least 20 hours so you overcome that period of frustration, stick to the practice and reap the rewards eventually.

These are the four simple ways to guide your first 20 hours into learning a new skill.

The major barrier to learning something new is not an intellectual problem but an emotional one.

We are scared to feel stupid, we do not like to feel that. So we unconsciously decide its better off not learning it at all. So put 20 hours into learning anything. That feeling of stupidity will eventually go off. And after those 20 hours when you feel something different, some sense of achievement of drastic improvement, it surprisingly motivates you to get even better than good.