The First 20 Hours

The First 20 Hours (2013) by Josh Kaufman is a pretty thin book on learning new skills and learning in general. The book is pretty much an essay extended into a book. Kaufman’s book is about how to obtain the basics of a skill in 20 hours. Kaufman wrote a successful book called The Personal MBA. Kaufman is the self-help guru for the Hacker News set.

Kaufman has 10 rules for Rapid Skill Acquisition and ten major principles of effective learning. They include such gems as ‘Research the skill and related topics’ and ‘eliminate distractions in your environment’. Personally I’ve always liked to work on nuclear engineering while under gunfire, but these tips may work for the author. However, some of the tips do have some merit. The idea of giving pretty much anything you decide to take up 20 hours of concentrated effort is worthwhile. Also fast feedback loops, decomposing things are worthwhile. Kaufman also makes the point that you ‘make time’ for something rather than having time.

For most of the rest book Kaufman writes up varies activities he has used the approach he describes for. They are doing yoga, altering his web site and writing a web application, learning go, learning the Ukulele and learning to wind surf. It’s pretty clever to write a self-help book and use your diaries of what you are doing as well.

The book isn’t worthless but it’s really not up to much. I’ve also learned something valuable, before buying a book check around for some negative reviews if it’s written by an author with a web following. 

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