Monday, 30 November 2015

Accelerated Skill Acquisition?

I just finished "The First 20 Hours" by Josh Kaufman. The book is an easy read built on a simple premise: anyone can acquire a skill fast if they follow what Josh calls the basic four step approach:

  1. deconstruct the skill to be acquired into subset skills
  2. quickly learn enough about each subset skill so that you can practice intelligently and self-correct
  3. remove all barriers (physical, mental, emotional) that stand in the way of practice
  4. practice the most important subskills for 20 focused hours.
In addition to approach, Josh outlines two sets of principles, which I've listed below, but to be clear, this is not a book report. It's a declaration and an invitation! From now until Christmas break, I will become more skilled in using Twitter as a learning tool, and I encourage anyone who is interested to join me and/or set up your own challenge.

Twenty hours is a small investment. I'm sure there's some skill you've been wanting to acquire. What are you waiting for? Maybe over eggnog we can write a review of Josh's book together!

10 Principles of Rapid Skill Acquisition

  1. Choose a lovable project.
  2. Focus your energy on one skill at a time.
  3. Define your target performance level.
  4. Deconstruct the skill into subskills.
  5. Obtain critical tools.
  6. Eliminate barriers to practice.
  7. Make dedicated time for practice.
  8. Create fast feedback loops.
  9. Practice by the clock in short bursts.
  10. Emphasize quantity and speed.

Ten Principles of Effective Learning (copied from Pablo's miscellany)

  1. Research the skill and related topics. Spend twenty minutes finding good sources on how to acquire your chosen skill.  These resources won’t teach you the skill; they will teach you how to practice.
  2. Jump in over your head. Initially, you’ll be confused.  Recognizing confusion is valuable, since it can help you figure out what you’ll need to research or do next to resolve that confusion.
  3. Identify mental models and mental hooks.
  4. Mental models are the most basic units of learning: a way of conceptualizing an object or relation that exists in the world. Mental hooks are analogies and metaphors that can be used to remember new concepts. Imagine the opposite of what you want. By considering the worst possible outcome, you can identify important elements that aren’t immediately obvious.
  5. Talk to practitioners to set expectations.
  6. Talking to people who have acquired the skill before you will help dispel myths and misconceptions before you invest your time and energy.
  7. Eliminate distractions in your environment. Distractions come in two forms: electronic (TV, the Internet) and biological (people. pets). Deal with them appropriately. Use spaced repetition and reinforcement for memorization. Use this technique when fast recall is crucial, like learning vocabulary words. Otherwise spend this time in practice or experimentation.
  8. Create scaffolds and checklists. Checklists help you remember things that must be done every time you practice. .Scaffolds are structures that ensure you approach the skill the same way every time (e.g., the pre-free throw routine of a basketball player).
  9. Make and test predictions. Getting into the habit of making and testing predictions will help you acquire skills more rapidly..
  10. Honour your biology. Your body needs food, water, exercise, rest, and sleep. Make sure you are getting enough of these inputs.


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