20 Hours of Practice


from – https://www.flickr.com/photos/sachac/9410571063

Josh Kaufman did a TED Talk and wrote a book on how to learn anything fast in the first 20 hours, exploring learning and habit-building in a novel way, debunking the inaccurate idea of having to take 10,000 hours to learn anything (a concept that was presented in Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers).

He posits that anyone can achieve rapid skill acquisition in the first 20 hours if they keep to the following these four steps (quoted from LifeHacker):

  1. Deconstruct the skill: Break down the parts and find the most important things to practice first.
  2. Self-correct: Use reference materials to learn enough that you know when you make a mistake so you can correct yourself.
  3. Remove barriers to learning: Identify and remove anything that distracts you from focusing on the skill you want to learn.
  4. Practice at least 20 hours.

(see LifeHacker article for full review)

Kaufman’s 20 hour method is very relevant for me in several specific areas:

  • Piano – want to step up my skills and learn advanced jazz techniques, improve speed, learn new songs, chords, harmonies, etc.
  • Spanish – after all my wife is Puerto Rican and after 13 years I still haven’t put my mind to this
  • Golf – I am a very poor amateur and must improve my swing.

Applying Kaufman’s method, I’ll look at just the first focus area in this blog: Piano playing.

  1. Deconstruct the skill: Need to go back to Mark Levine’s Jazz Piano book focusing on skills, as well as David Hildinger’s harmony book (unpublished) going through all keys
  2. Self-correct: watch youTube videos, record myself playing, video myself playing, go back to the Art of Practicing and Effortless Mastery to perfect the technique of practicing in a relaxed, tense-free manner
  3. Remove barriers to learning: Make sure the room I practice in is junk free, Investigate how to play on a real piano.
  4. Practice at least 20 hours – set aside specific time during the week (2-3 hours over the course of 10-12 weeks) where I practice.

Lastly, Josh Kaufman says in his TED Talk that “the major barrier to skill acquisition isn’t intellectual, it’s emotional”. I find myself in the emotional boat of getting discouraged that I haven’t “made it” or been successful in the musical world, that somehow I’ve “failed” or it’s “too late” to practice and go back to the basics. But recognizing that this is just an emotional state that is a huge barrier to what I really want actually really helps – the awareness of that is itself the first step in overcoming that barrier.

I’ll report back on how I’ve been doing, the game is on!


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