How to Learn Anything Faster

1. Josh Kaufman in his book The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything Fast! 

The summary of Kaufman’s concepts in the book can be found in this Youtube video.

My notes:

1. Decide what you want.

What is the end goal? Define a target performance level. Be clear on what you want.

2. Deconstruct the skill.

Every skill has sub-skills that combine to form the skill. Practice the important sub-skills first, which allows you to focus on the elements of practice that gives you the performance you are looking for.

3. Research.

Identify the most important sub-skills. Also helps you self-correct as you learn. Buy 3 to 5 books, skim through them, and identify the ideas that come over and over again.

4. Remove the barriers to practice.

Make it easy to sit down to practice. Remove the distractions. The key is deliberate practice. 

What is deliberate practice? In the book So Good They Can’t Ignore you, Cal Newport defines deliberate practice,

“Deliberate practice – a serious study, defining it formally as an activity designed, typically by a teacher, for the sole purpose of effectively improving specific aspects of an individual’s performance.”

Deliberate practice should make you uncomfortable. This stretches you to overcome any plateau in skill acquisition.

5. Pre-commit to at least 20 hours of focused, deliberate practice before you start.

Why? To determine if you are committed to learning the skill. Kaufman emphasizes that “by pre-committing to at least 20 hours, you are guaranteeing yourself that you will make it through to those early, frustrating hours where nothing is working.”


2. Tim Ferriss in his book The 4-Hour Chef

My notes:

  • “The top 1% often succeed despite how they train not because of it.”
  • Material beats method. What you study is more important than how you study.

DiSS method


What are the minimal learnable units? Take something very large and complex, and break it down into smaller pieces.

4 ways to deconstruct:

Reduce – reduce a skill to its basic components so it is easier to understand.

Interview – interview people that are a master at their craft and ask how they did it. It is also important to ask mistakes to avoid.

Reverse – look at the skill and reverse the skill to find the best way to begin the skills.

Shortcuts – For example, when learning a language, learn auxiliary verbs (to have, to want, to need) and basic verbs (to sleep, to drink, etc.) to begin communicating as quickly as possible. As you practice, the shortcuts will be less necessary.

Also identify why you might fail before you start. The goal is to avoid those failures in the first 5 sessions. When you avoid the failure points for the first 5 sessions, it will become a habit.


Which 20% of the units should I focus that will give me 80% of the results.

For example, you could learn to play most (80%) of the pop songs using 4 chords (20%).  To learn a new language, you only need 1200 to 2000 (20%) words to be functional (80%) in that language.


What if you did everything in the opposite order? What if you would change the best practices that most people do to learn a skill?

For example, chess prodigy Joshua Waitzkin became who he is because of doing something different. His chess coach taught the game completely backward. Instead of teaching him the opening moves, they focused on board control (pawn and a king vs. a pawn).


What is at stake? What are the consequences if you don’t follow the program?

For example, you can use the website Stickk where you could post your goals and a list of consequences or rewards when you don’t follow that goal. You could also give a friend a cheque for X amount of money, and tell the friend that they could keep it if you don’t follow the goal. You could also write a cheque to an organization that you dislike, and mail that cheque if you don’t follow your goal. Find a way to motivate yourself to stick to your program.