The First 20 Hours

How To Learn Anything… Fast!

A practitioner’s guide to rapid skill acquisition. Accelerate your learning by deconstructing complex skills, practicing the most important elements first, and removing barriers to deliberate practice. What do you want to learn?

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“As a father of three, practicing neurosurgeon, and global journalist, I don’t have a lot of free time on my hands. The First 20 Hours is a practical guide to learning beyond our mid-20s, when our brains are fully developed. Josh’s book will inspire you to pick up forgotten hobbies and chase elusive dreams.”

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN Chief Medical Correspondent

Forget the "10,000 hour rule"... what if it’s possible to learn any new skill in 20 hours or less?

Take a moment to consider how many things you want to learn to do. What's on your list? What's holding you back from getting started? Are you worried about the time and effort it takes to acquire new skills - time you don't have and effort you can't spare?

Research suggests it takes 10,000 hours to develop a new skill to mastery. In this nonstop world, who has that kind of time?

To make matters worse, the early hours of practicing something new are always the most frustrating. That's why it's difficult to learn how to speak a new language, play an instrument, hit a golf ball, or shoot great photos. It's so much easier to watch TV or surf the web…

In The First 20 Hours, Josh Kaufman offers a systematic approach to rapid skill acquisition: how to learn any new skill as quickly as possible. His method shows you how to deconstruct complex skills, maximize productive practice, and remove common learning barriers. By completing just 20 hours of focused, deliberate practice you'll go from knowing absolutely nothing to performing noticeably well.

This method isn't theoretical: it's field-tested. Kaufman invites readers to join him as he field tests his approach by learning to program a Web application, play the ukulele, practice yoga, re-learn to touch type, get the hang of windsurfing, and study the world's oldest and most complex board game.

What do you want to learn?

Listen to the Introduction...

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Directed, shot, edited, graded, and produced by Josh Kaufman, author of The First 20 Hours... in 20 hours. Music composed by Nick Phoenix & Thomas Bergersen, used under license via Extreme Music.

Table of Contents...

A Note to the Reader


The First 20 Hours is a book about rapid skill acquisition: how to pick up new skills as fast as humanly possible. You can go from knowing absolutely nothing to performing noticeably well in a very short period of time: approximately 20 hours, often less.

Chapter 1

A Portrait of the Author as a Learning Junkie

So much to do... and so little time. The story of modern life. Does it really take 10,000 hours to become good at something? What "rapid skill acquisition" really is, and how it works.

Chapter 2

10 Principles of Rapid Skill Acquisition

Lovable project. One skill at a time. Target performance level. Deconstruction. Critical tools. Barriers to practice. Make time. Fast feedback loops. Short bursts. Quantity and speed.

Chapter 3

10 Principles of Effective Learning

Research, but not too much. Jump in. Mental models and hooks. Imagine the opposite. Talk to practitioners. Eliminate distractions. Spaced repetition. Scaffolds and checklists. Predictions and tests. Honor your biology.

Chapter 4


Don't make it harder than it needs to be. Work with an instructor. Rid yourself of misconceptions. Simplify.

Practice Yoga →

Chapter 5


Complex things are simple when you break them down. Learn primary concepts. Don't get stuck in research mode. Jump in fast. Work on real problems. Build, test, fix, repeat.

Learn to Code →

Chapter 6

Touch Typing

Old habits don't necessarily die hard. Push through early frustration. Practice before sleep. Motor skill consolidation.

Touch Type →

Chapter 7


Explore, then decide. Tempered by a hundred battles. Attack and defense. Pattern recognition. Five stone questions. You don't have to master everything you ever learn.

Play Go →

Chapter 8


Isolate, practice, repeat. Set an audacious goal. The critical few. Chords and strumming patterns. Make it automatic. Showtime!

Play the Ukulele →

Chapter 9


Environment matters. Rigging up. Have fun, don't die. Windward and leeward. At the mercy of mother nature. Practice parts in isolation. For everything, there is a season.

Learn to Sailboard →


What do you want to learn?

If you want to pick up a new skill, you must practice. There's no other way. Make the time, and do the work. The only time you can choose to practice is today.

Reviewers say...

“With the amount of information and change in the world today, the person who can adapt and learn the most quickly will be the most successful. Kaufman breaks down the science of learning in useful, entertaining, and fascinating ways. If you care about keeping your job, your business, or your edge, this book is for you.”

PAMELA SLIM, author of Escape From Cubicle Nation and Body of Work

“After reading this book, you'll be ready to take on any number of skills and make progress on that big project you've been putting off for years.”

CHRIS GUILLEBEAU, author of The $100 Startup

“In this inspiring little book, Josh argues that you can get good enough at anything to enjoy yourself in just twenty hours. In other words, all that's starting between you and playing the ukulele is your TV time for the next two weeks. If Josh, a busy father and entrepreneur, can make the time, then the rest of us can too.”

LAURA VANDERKAM, author of 168 Hours and What The Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast

“No more excuses! Kaufman proves that we all have the capacity to become experts.”

SCOTT BELSKY, founder of and author of Making Ideas Happen

The First 20 Hours

How To Learn Anything… Fast!

A practitioner’s guide to rapid skill acquisition. Accelerate your learning by deconstructing complex skills, practicing the most important elements first, and removing barriers to deliberate practice. What do you want to learn?

Buy the book:

About Josh Kaufman

Josh Kaufman is an acclaimed business, learning, and skill acquisition expert. He is the author of two international bestsellers: The Personal MBA and The First 20 Hours. Josh's research and writing have helped millions of people worldwide learn the fundamentals of modern business.

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