10,000 hours vs 20 hours

According to Malcolm Gladwell if you want to be the world’s best in any field of endeavor it’s 10,000 hours. That’s how much time you have to put in to master any pursuit — chess, a blues harp, writing novels or computer code.

10,000 hours won’t guarantee world domination, but everyone who gets there has done at least 10,000 hours.

But what if you don’t want to be the world’s best? What if you just want to pick up a new skill like playing the ukulele for fun? Josh Kaufman says you just need 20 hours.

It’s called rapid skill acquisition. A way of breaking down the skill you’re trying to acquire into the smallest possible parts, identifying which of those parts are most important, then deliberately practicing those elements first.

Pick one, and only one, new skill you wish to acquire. Put all your spare focus and energy into acquiring that skill, and place the other skills on temporary hold.

Skill is the result of deliberate, consistent practice, and in early-stage practice, quantity and speed trump absolute quality. The faster and more often you practice, the more rapidly you’ll acquire the skill.

So to learn a new skill:

  1. Deconstruct it into the smallest possible subskills.
  2. Learn enough about each subskill to be able to practice effectively and self-correct.
  3. Remove any physical, mental, or emotional barriers that get in the way of practice.
  4. Practice the most important subskills for at least 20 hours.

By the way, if you want to get good at anything where real-life performance matters, you have to actually practice that skill in context. Study, by itself, is never enough.

So what has this got to do with movements?

You tell me.