First 20 Hours: Enough to Add a New Skill?

If it takes 10,000 hours, as Malcolm Gladwell told us in his book Outliers, to become really good at your job, can you become reasonably good in just 20 hours? You’re probably skeptical? Me too.I certainly was. Yet Joel Kaufman claims his method that will take you in just 20 hours from total novice to a reasonable level of competence in any area of skill.

So how long does it really take? 10,000 hours or 20 hours?

Can the 10,000 hours and 20 hours both be true? The answer is “yes”, but Kaufman and Gladwell aren’t talking about the same level of proficiency. Gladwell means becoming as good at what you do as Tiger Woods is at golf. That is to say, amazingly good. When you’re that good, you have what Cal Newport calls career capital. Real estate salespeople who are that good make a lot of money and know they can walk out the door and across the street to another broker. Any time they want and as often as they want. Professors who are that proficient can teach at the university they choose. Excellence like that means thousands of hours of focused , intentional, deliberate practice.

Plodding away at your job for five years gets you to 10,000 hours but that doesn’t automatically make you outstanding or even above average. And 10,000 hours is the reason why so few attain that level of truly remarkable proficiency. And the older you are, the less appealling a commitment of that sort. But Joel Kaufman says he has learned that a novice golfer can become good enough to play a round with some friends and not look like a rank beginner, with 20 hours of intentional practice following a short interval of research to identify the specific skills you need. Kaufman actually claims to have learned to play the ukulele in 20 hours.

What “20 hour Competence” would Boost Your Resume?

What skills that are missing from your resume and portfolio? Microsoft Office skills are a often a “must have” that some junior clerk (or computer) will use in culling 500 applications down to 20 possible interviewees. A 20 hour project might be just enough to add a new level of proficiency. It could take you from Intermediate Word Skills to Advanced Word Skills. Or it could take you a big step along the path to another area of skill that you have been neglecting because it seemed too intimidating to tackle.

Hear Josh Kaufman Explain His Method.

Josh Kaufman is the author of a new book called “The First 20 Hours.” I encourage you to learn more about his approach by listening to a 30 minutes interview for Danny Iny’s excellent Fireside Marketing site. if you are interested further, order his new book. I don’t get anything if you do exactly that, but I’d appreciate a note when you are done.

Update: After reading the Kindle version of the book, I’ve posted the following presentation on Slideshare. Take a look!

One thought on “First 20 Hours: Enough to Add a New Skill?

  1. Pingback: The 10,000-hour Red Herring | The Practice of Practice

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *