Book Review - The First 20 Hours

The First 20 Hours - How to learn anything fast, as the above graphic suggests, is a book by Josh Kaufman, the bestselling Author of The Personal MBA. The point, obviously of this book is around the theory of rapid skill acquisition. In the introductory area of the book, Josh Kaufman outlines his desire to learn things fast, given the birth of his new daughter Lela, and also was written around a time of his life where He had far too many ideas, and too little time to carry them all out to fruition. Josh Kaufman notes in his first chapter that the seminal book on the topic of expertise, was authored by Malcolm Gladwell, who stated that in order to become an expert in any field, from Golf to Chess, you will need approximately 10,000 hours. While this seemed daunting to Kaufman, he noted that his intention was not to become the next Gary Kasparov or Tiger Woods, he did want to acquire skills to a level of competency- the give the example of Golf, he didn't want to win the PGA tour, but he did want to be able, for example, to play golf competently enough to not embarrass himself.

Without being overly specific, Kaufman delineates the major principles behind rapid skill acquisition, being Deconstructing skills into sub-skills, Learning sub-skills, removing learning barriers and practicing in a set way for at least 20 hours. In chapter one, he also speaks of the importance of practicing in a real world context, the importance of having instantaneous feedback, the difference between training and skill aquisition, and the difference between education and skill acquisition, briefly touching on the concept of neuroplasticity, which is garnering much more interest and popularity recently.

Josh Kaufman also gives practical, real life examples of learning these skills- expanding on his experience in applying these skills to six fairly eclectic things he has learned in recent years, being Yoga, Programming, Touch Typing, The ancient chinese board game "Go", the Ukelele, and windsurfing. At the end of the book, the reader may probably wonders if this is just the tip of the iceberg for Mr Kaufman! Specifically I found the chapter on playing the Ukelele interesting, as I play Guitar personally. Mr Kaufman, in this chapter outlines how to play, with diagrams of the Ukelele for the rank beginner, the process he takes for choosing which skills to practice, the equipment he uses, the musical skills he chooses to learn, and having a target of performing to a small audience at the end of the twenty hours.

In a sense, some of this book is common sense- a few of his Amazon reviews have even said so, and even Kaufman himself says "It's not rocket science". However, as a How-To book it holds a good deal of weight for beginners at all ages at anything, and especially for readers that take more attention to the theories this book is based on. One key thing mentioned in the book that struck a chord with me, is the idea that people who believe themselves not naturally good at something can actually learn, because the brain is not hard-wired into something, but rather, flexible and able to make allowances, given the attitude of the learner. Whilst I don't believe this is an earth shattering or life-changing book as some people tout that it will, it is certainly an interesting and sufficiently researched book that will make learning a new skill as painless as it can be, and certainly gives hope that there is a way to learn quickly. Good, factual, relevant and easy to understand reading.

4 out of 5 Stars.

P.s. I am currently in the process of setting up a blog called to test this theory. It is not currently up and running yet, but I will be blogging to test the theories outlined in this book!