Published: 23rd November 2019
Canteen Fundas: Here's how you can learn anything new in 20 hours flat!
Pro Tip: To get reasonably good at anything, all you need is 20 hours. Deconstruct the skill, learn enough to self-correct, remove practice barriers
Bhaiyya,’ said Rinku strumming Rakesh’s guitar tunelessly in the canteen. ‘I’d like to play the guitar. Can I learn it in one year?’
‘Even I’d like to learn drawing,’ said Rahul.
‘You don’t need a year,’ said Rakesh. ‘According to a TED talk by Josh Kaufman titled The First 20 Hours — How To Learn Anything, anyone can become reasonably good at anything in 20 hours. Do watch it.’
‘You’re kidding,’ said Rinku. ‘We know nothing about the guitar or drawing. Zero.’
‘Josh says our biggest barrier to learning anything new is our fear that we’ll look stupid — it has nothing to do with talent,’ said Rakesh. ‘So we don’t even attempt to learn. But if you learn it in a proper manner, you’ll be reasonably good in 20 hours.’
‘How do we learn it in 20 hours, bhaiyya?’ asked Rahul.
‘Josh suggests four steps,’ said Rakesh. ‘First, deconstruct your skill. Break up the skill into smaller skills and figure out the important aspects that you need to learn. For example, Josh says that by playing four key chords out of hundreds of chords, one can play any pop song reasonably well on the ukelele. Second, learn enough to self-correct. Understand when you’re making a mistake and know how to correct it. Opting for a coach, watching videos or reading books helps. Third, remove all distractions to practice. 20 hours translates to 45 minutes of practice a day for one month so commit to your practice diligently. And fourth, put in your 20 hours.’
‘But, bhaiyya,’ asked Rinku. ‘Won’t learning enough to self-correct require a lot of knowledge?’
‘Not really,’ said Rakesh. ‘These 20 hours are aimed at making you above average, not an expert. We’ll discuss expert-level next week. But for this level, you don’t need complete knowledge of music or drawing. A good coach can teach you the basics, the important parts, point out mistakes and tell you how to correct them. With a little practice you can see a marked improvement in your skill. Enough to surprise you.’
‘Wow, is it that simple bhaiyya?’ asked Rahul.
‘Rahul, when you learnt to cycle or swim, how long did it take to become reasonably good? If you see the learning curve, you can see that in the beginning you are understandably slow, then comes steep acceleration where you learn fast in a short time and become pretty good. Then it plateaus. That’s how it works.’
‘I got it bhaiyya,’ said Rinku. ‘Get ready for my guitar performance next month.’
‘Calls for an advance celebration with chai and samosas,’ piped in Rahul.
Pro Tip: To get reasonably good at anything, all you need is 20 hours. Deconstruct the skill, learn enough to self-correct, remove practice barriers.