Book Cover - Book Review: The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything ... Fast!

Based on the author’s experience, “it takes around twenty hours of practice to break through the frustration barrier: to go from knowing absolutely nothing about what you’re trying to do to performing noticeably well.” The First 20 Hours explains how to efficiently overcome this barrier. You will not master any skills in 20 hours but you’ll have a better chance of success if you start with twenty hours of rapid skill acquisition.

Indeed, learning a skill is a long journey with two milestones: when you end the frustration barrier (= start enjoying the practice) and when you master the skill (= escape the rules). This book focuses exclusively on the first part while many books focus on the second part, like the excellent Peak by Anders Ericsson.

The author introduces himself and the various techniques in the first chapters. The remaining chapters (the bulk of the book) illustrate the author’s experience trying to master six completely different skills: yoga, programming, touch typing, Go, ukulele, and windsurfing. As a developer, if I must comment on the chapter on programming, the result is far from being remarkable but the process shows it’s possible to get started quickly even on skills that can seem daunting at first. That’s the biggest contribution of this book. If more people were aware of these techniques to overcome the frustration barrier faster, they will understand learning is more rewarding than consuming media.

About the author

Julien Sobczak works as a software developer for Scaleway, a French cloud provider. He is a passionate reader who likes to see the world differently to measure the extent of his ignorance. His main areas of interest are productivity (doing less and better), human potential, and everything that contributes in being a better person (including a better dad and a better developer).

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