Do you really need 10,000 hours to learn a skill?

by Barrie Hopson on June 10, 2013 · 0 comments

in New ways of working,portfolio careers

I have always had huge problems with the notion that you have to spend forever learning a skill. As a portfolio worker when do you get the time? Perfectionists might want to do this. We don’t and don’t have the time. So, imagine my delight to read Josh Kaufman’s new book in which he argues that this myth emanates from the study of a few skill areas like chess and learning to play an instrument. Mind you in the 60’s I learned in a few days how to play a few guitar chords which got me into a group. Not a very good group I admit but it got me high profile with girls – a major incentive in your teens!

He argues, “while the research behind the rule is valid in its original, limited context (that is, reaching the pinnacle of ultracompetitive performance fields like chess, sports, and music), the idea is commonly misapplied to the types of skill acquisition most of us do every day.

Here’s the reality: most of us aren’t training to be chess grandmasters or professional golfers. Our goal is typically to achieve a specific desired result: to create something new, to enhance our career, or to relax and have fun.

We’re playing a very different game, so we can play by different rules.

In my experience, you can reach surprising levels of ability in even complex skills, like computer programming, with around 20 hours of focused practice, often less. If you’re willing to let go of the idea that picking up new skills is a long, arduous process, it’s much easier to learn new things quickly.

In general, people tend to wildly overestimate how good they need to become at a skill to derive value from it. You don’t need to be the best in the world at absolutely everything you do: quite the contrary. If you’re clear about what you want to achieve, you’ll discover that you can become good enough to obtain your desired result after only a few hours of practice.”

Read this book. It could save you much heartache and ensure that you embrace the philosophy of ‘good enough’. In one of my other major projects, how to live happier, we argue that a crucial life skill for living happier is to learn ‘sufficiency’. In other words instead of obsessing over “mastery,” embracing sufficiency – being “good enough” – can help up get the results we care about in far less time.

This will be crucial to being a successful portfolio worker.

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