"The First 20 Hours" Book Writeup

July 05, 2013

What’s the point?
You aren’t going to become an expert at most things in only 20 hours, but that’s okay. There is a minimum level of competency that you can achieve that turns a hobby into something enjoyable.

This book includes a list of tips for rapid skill acquisition and a collection of diary-style chapters about how the author used the tips to learn things like web development, playing go, and yoga.

How was it?
It was a fun read. The framework is laid out in the first few chapters; steps include choosing a project you enjoy, acquiring necessary tools, and defining a clear target level of performance.

The book goes a bit astray when it switches to examples. The concept of using the author’s own experience picking up new skills is interesting — but I was left wanting more insight. When Kaufman mentioned researching the best materials for each skill, I wanted to know more about his process for finding the books: what did he search for, how did he find helpful experts, etc.

The examples focused too much on just recounting what the author did; this was frustrating since the majority of the book was devoted to these recaps.

Overall, I think the first two sections about tips for rapid skill acquisition and improving your learning ability are worthwhile. I would recommend reading those and then maybe one of the examples that most interests you (and skipping the rest).

Who should read it?
If you are looking to become competent in a new skill, I think the book is worth a ready; just don’t hope for a magic solution to that will help you master anything without putting in long hours.

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