Leadership Mints Series Sampler On Learning Quickly

How do you get good at something? Forget all that stuff about needing 10,000 hours of focused practice to be an expert at something.

You can become “noticeably good” in 20 hours when you practice consistently to self-correct, according to Josh Kaufman, author of the First Twenty Hours: How to Learn Anything Fast.

Consider these 4-steps to accelerate your learning: Simplify, Clarify, Ratify and then Reapply.


For example if you want to learn how to play a guitar or ukulele in 20 hours, you simplify. That’s what Kaufman did. Realize that if you could play just four chords —  (G, D, E minor and C) then you could play at least 70 of the most popular songs over the last five decades. Simplify.

In fact, Kaufman simplified so well he could play a medly of some 36 popular songs–including Journey’s – Don’t Stop Believing to Elton John’s – Can You Feel The Love Tonight to  Green Day’s When I Come Around to the Beatles’s Let it Be — after 20 hours
( or 60 learning sessions– each 20 minutes — over 30 days.

Kaufman confidently declares: “The major barrier to learning something new is not intellectual. The major barrier is emotional.” We’re scared.”


To climb over that emotional barrier to learning something new, clarify the possibility. Get inspired. Find a model and do what they did. That’s what Kaufman did. His inspiration came from the comedy band Axis of Awesome. They simplified the 4-chord learning strategy to eventually play 73 popular songs. Then came the most challenging aspect of learning quickly: to ratify –” to confirm by expressing consent, approval, or formal sanction,” according to the dictionary.


You ratify first by “Pre-committing ” to practicing every day 2-4 times a day in 20-minute-sessions for a total of 20 hours. If you practice twice a day (40 minutes), you’d complete your 20-hour commitment in 30 days.

You ratify by focusing your attention: (no TV. No internet and no interruptions).
Kaufman encourages you to set an alarm so that you fulfill your commitment to a full 20-minute session. The duration (20 minutes) is as critical as the frequency (2-4 times per day) so that you “learn enough to self correct,” Kaufman says. And that commitment requires an on-going mindset to reapply.


Self-correcting consistently and persistently is key

When the most effective learners reapply –over and over again –they verify in their own mind that they are playing “noticeably good” and that in fact they are only playing four chords to to play that one song.

You convince yourself that the practice has a critical purpose and the result is a given if you continue to invest one hour per day -(in three 20-minutes segments) over 20 days or two 20-minute sessions a day over 30 days. Then Don’t Stop Believing as you continue to simplify, clarify, ratify and reapply.


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