The First 20 Hours


20 hours

I highlighted the work of Josh Kaufman a few years ago now (in Want to learn to ride better? You’re only 20 hours away!) but I recently pointed someone in the direction of his work and so thought I’d share it again.

I fairly frequently mention the 10,000 hours / 10 year theory of expert skill acquisition.  Josh, however, has put a lot of time into establishing and promoting that, to be acceptably good at a skill, you only need to put in the first 20 hours.

In order to achieve this he considers you need to follow four steps:

Deconstruct the skill

Josh’s first stage is to break the skill down and find the most important things to practice first. In his TEDx talk he highlights learning to play a musical instrument and demonstrates (thanks to the work of The Axis of Awesome) that by learning just a few chords you can play thousands of songs. Another example would be, if you want to learn a new language, learning the most common 2,000 words will give you 80% text coverage. You’ll find an MTB example in Sam Pilgrim‘s video below on how to jump a bike.

2 Self-correct

This is probably the most difficult area to master. In order to self-correct you need to learn enough about what you’re trying to achieve so that you know when you make a mistake you can correct yourself. The issue here is that you don’t necessarily know what you don’t know and, when it comes to mountain bike skills, there’s a lot of stuff out there by people who claim to know what they’re doing but don’t.

The best thing you can do here is look for mentors i.e. people who are riding how you want to in 10 years time. That way you reduce your chances learning techniques that are either inaccurate or plain wrong.

3 Remove barriers to learning

Josh’s third step is to identify and remove anything that distracts you from focusing on the skill you want to learn.

4 Practice at least 20 hours

and Josh’s fourth step?

Yep you guessed it, get your head down and graft.

So what are you waiting for?

If you’re going to take the time to practice, practice like the elite.


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