Rapid Skill Acquisition
So this first segment is about a topic that I call rapid skill acquisition, so going from knowing absolutely nothing about something that you want to be able to do, something you want to learn and going promoting absolutely nothing to being really, really good in a very short period of time, so I've spent about the last year and a half doing some very concentrated research on how to do that, how what does the early part of the learning process look like? And are there ways that we can speed up the learning process to get the results that we're looking for it with his little time and as little energy as possible? Because we're all busy, we have a lot to do, and if there's a way of onley investing a few hours and learning something new, that provides a really fantastic result, that's tremendously good use of time, and there are thousands of things in the context of business and in the context of your personal life, that can provide a lot of value, so you can you can learn how to run your...
business better. You can learn, ahh hobby that enriches you for the rest of your life. There are millions of things in life that you can learn and so getting good at learning, getting good at sitting down and practicing something in a way that helps you get a particular result, it's a very good use of time so we're going to start with that and it's particularly good in the context of business because then this is a concept that I talked about in part one of the personal mba course on creative live the idea of economically valuable skills. So as a business teacher, I am very often asked how do you make more money? How do you get promoted? How do you build a successful business? How do you produce this result, which is financial abundance? However it is that you personally prefer to define that, and the answer to that question is this you build economically valuable skills, so the five parts of the bit of every business that we that we just talked about if you can build skills related to doing one of those five things better, those are the types of skills that will get you paid more. Those are the types of skills that will make your business more successful. Those are the types of skills that will actually help you build this business this justin idea right now. So if you want to make your business more successful, you can't avoid scallop position you're going to need to learn how to do new things now one of the things that are very early in my research on skill acquisition, if you ask yourself the question how long does it take to learn something new if you do the research you'll hear this ten thousand hours takes ten thousand hours you learn something new all right? This is an idea that actually came to prominence a couple years ago I think two thousand late two thousand eight malcolm gladwell wrote a book called out liars the stories of success and really emphasized this research which is actually have has been conducted by a psychologist at florida state university his name is k anders eriksson who researches scale opposition and dr eriksen focuses his research on people who at the tippy top of their fields right professional golfers that just won the big tournament uh musicians who are at the top of their fields people who are at the pinnacle of whatever it is that they do and dr erickson was asking the question how long does it take to get there how long does it take to reach the top and this was his answer it takes about ten thousand hours of focus to deliberate practice to reach that level. So if you for example want to learn golf and you want to be able to step on a golf course and compete with tiger woods and have a shot at winning this is what it's probably going to take you in terms of order of magnitude right a very simple idea and the research as far as it goes is completely valid this it probably will take you around that long to compete with tiger woods here's the problem out liars as a book became really popular ah whole bunch of people read it and they really latched on to this idea of the ten thousand hour rule but the problem is they started applying it to things that it doesn't really apply to. So the ten thousand hour rule became it takes ten thousand hours to reach the pinnacle of ultra competitive high, tightly ranked performance fields, right? Very specific, very narrow to it takes ten thousand hours to become an expert at something and people see you kind of start playing this society wide game of telephone right? It takes ten thousand hours to become good at something. It takes ten thousand hours tow, learn something that's totally not true, right? Because the things that most of us when we decide to learn something new most of us are not trying to compete with tiger woods, right? We just want to be able to produce a particular result, right? Maybe you want to learn how to fire up photo shop and actually make some corrections toe a photo that look good it's not going to take you anywhere near ten thousand hours to be able to do that right? So there was a disconnect I found between the ways that people were thinking about skill acquisition as a process it's long, it takes hard, it takes a long time, you'll have to invest a lot of time before you get a result. There's a disconnect between that perception and the reality, which is if you understand what it is that you want to be able to do and you invest just a little time in a smart way, you can you can produce that result that you care about in a very short period of time. And so even for the most for very complex skills, what I found in my research, it doesn't take ten thousand hours takes about twenty, even for super complex stuff like language playing an instrument, all of the learning to draw all of the classic things that people to say, I want to learn how to do acts right? If you don't know how to do it, and you put twenty hours of focused, deliberate practice in a smart way, you will be way better at the end of that process than you were at the beginning, right? So we're going to talk about how to approach the skill acquisition process in a smart way that allows you to practice in a way that actually produces that result, so the core process is really, really simple has five steps the first is decide what you want. Right this is the you know, the biggest failure that most people have in this process comes at the very beginning because they say something like, you know, it's used language for example I want to learn italian well great, but learn italian is a really, really big thing, right? Can you make that more concrete? Can you make that more specific? What does learning italian mean? What do you want to be able to do with it when you're done right? If you decide what you want to be able to do it's going to be way, way easier to actually sit down in practice in a way that allows to accomplish that right? So if you're going on a trip to italy and you want to be able to book hotels and order food in italian with a service person that's what you can practice that right it's way easier to figure out what you need to learn if you make it narrower if you make it more specific so decide what you want as clearly as you possibly can right step two is called deconstruction breaking the skill down into smaller and smaller part. So most of the things we think of as skills are actually not just single skills there are there bundles of smaller sub skills that you use in combination right so brought up photo shop earlier learn how to use photo shop was like that probably five billion things that you can do with that tool, right? So one of the things that that is is best to do is break down what can photoshopped do? What are the types of things that you can do with that? And then what are the ones that are going to give me the result that I'm looking for, right? If you break it down into smaller parts, you can practice the most important parts, first, practice the most important parts, and you improve the most per unit of time that you're actually spent practicing, right jumpin oh, I'm just that as you're saying, all this stuff I'm thinking about, like, the things that I want to learn, I'm like, yeah, I'm doing it in my head. Yeah, well, so what is that? So I actually was doing a photo shoot last night with someone and kind of mess up on some directional lighting. I was trying tio, like, flatter in a particular way, and didn't. And so I realized that, like, I needed to work on that particular aspect of living and not just getting lighting, right? Well, what I worked on in the past, which is just kind of, you know, how do I how do I make sure that the exposure is correct, right? You know, but that is different from how do I use that lighting to flatter someone's face exactly yeah, and you know let's let's continue with the photography thing, right? So let's say you've never picked up a digital slr before and you want to learn how to shoot great photos is one of those things that a lot of people say they want to do right? So you can say you break down what does it mean to operate a camera in a way that actually produces a nice looking result and you start to deconstruct right? First, some fundamentals like having one grab a camera, right? Learn how to turned on. Learn how to change lenses, learn how to use the basics of of aperture and shutter speed and all of those really simple things that define how camera works that's a deconstruction, right? So, aperture, what is this thing? How do I use it? What does it do to the picture when I change it? That's an example of deconstruction, right? So you take this big, complex killing just break it down into smaller pieces. Now when you break it down, you want to do a little bit of research as you're doing this and what the research allows you to do is as you're doing this deconstruction, doing a bit of research helps you determine what are the sub skills that you're going to use most of the time what are the things that are going to be most important? You practice the most important things first the new improved the most so you're researching for things that are absolutely fundamental things that you're going to use most often and here's the trick I usually do this by getting three to five books, courses, dvds, whatever resource is you confined you khun search google you could search amazon you can ask practitioners there you can find a lot of resources pick three to five tell you need don't go through them all before you get started what you're looking for is you skim them all you preview them all you're looking for the things that come up over and over and over and over again I guarantee you if you get five beginning intro to digital photography books, you will hear the word aperture over and over again you will hear the word exposure over and over again those are things that you need to know, right? So just an hour to his worth of research if you go broad right, look at a bunch of different resource is you'll be able to find those sub skills that actually get you the result quickly and you just practice those first okay now there's a catch here, which is for some people like me research is fun way fun and it's really easy to get stuck in the research, right? So you know, I one of the folks online mentioned learning programming that was actually one of the things that I personally did to field test this, I don't like teaching things that I have not done, and I don't know work. So before I teach all the stuff, I've used it to actually learn new things and programming was one of the things that I decided to learn, and my first inclination is like, I'm going to get ten books on programming and by these three courses and I'm going to go through, you know, eight tutorials, and then I'm going to sit down. I'm going to actually write a program that is research as a subtle form of procrastination, because if if that was a prerequisite to actually sitting down and trying to do what I wanted to do, which was right, a program that solved a problem never would have got there. So you want to do just enough research to identify the most important sub skills, but not so much that the research becomes a form of procrastination makes sense. Now number four is eliminate barriers to practice these air, all of the things that get in the way of us sitting down and actually doing the thing, practicing the thing that we want to be able to do and these barriers can sometimes be emotional, like I'm scared I'm going to be terrible, and sometimes these barriers are physical, so the classic example here is one of the most common things that people want to learn how to do. I want to learn how to play guitar. All right, everybody wants to learn how to play guitar guitar is awesome. I learned how to play the ukulele, which is great, I kind of like it. Um, here's the thing if your guitar is in its case in a closet on the other side of your house, you're never going to play the guitar rights too hard. It takes too much thought takes too much energy, even if you know how hard is it to walk across your house and get it out of the case and actually pick it up and play it harder than you think, because if it's not there, you're going to have to exert a lot of will power in order to get to the point where you actually playing, right? So some of the things that you can do the idea is make it easy to do the thing you want to do, so get it out of the closet out of the case, put it on a stand right by your couch where you sit all the time. So deciding to practice is a matter of reaching over, picking it up and starting to play like anything that you can do to eliminate barriers to you actually sitting down and doing the work we'll help you make sense now here's the key before you start actually practicing you're gonna make a promise to yourself and that is you are going to spend at least twenty hours practicing this thing you want to be able to do before you get started and this is a technique and behavior of psychology called a pre commitment you are pre committing to to spending a certain amount of time before you start now the pre commitment does two things it's really effective and it's sneaking in a lot of ways. So the first is if you find yourself really hesitating to say, I don't know if I have that much time I don't know you have got a whole bunch of other things going on what you're really noticing is this may not be important enough to you right now you may have other priorities other things that are more important to focus on and that's okay there's no shame in that it's better to understand what is truly important to you right now and work with it, then try to kind of force yourself to do something that's not a priority and then feel bad when that's the thing that falls outside right? So the pre commitment serves as an important test before you begin is this actually enough of a priority to spend time on if it is the pre commitment to serve the second purpose which is the first hours it's usually one to three hours of trying to do something new terrible terrible that there you you try to do something and it doesn't work and you feel bad you feel stupid and you're trying to get work and then it becomes frustrating and that's a common experience for everybody at the beginning I guarantee you the first time tiger woods picked up a golf club he sucked bad, right? He just kept going right? So the first the biggest thing is we need to have a strategy before we begin. This is an obstacle that we can anticipate first couple hours going to be rough, okay, so by pre committing to putting in at least twenty before you begin it's very it's much easier to remind yourself this is temporary right the first couple hours going to be frustrating, it's fine. If I actually am terrible and there's nothing that can be done about this I will be terrible about it forever. I'm going to be terrible for twenty hours and if I'm still terrible then I have permission to stop but not before so what you find a good that's a good point tough tootle was kind of joking, but it's a legitimate question, they said, I wish this system worked for everything, no matter how much I try to learn how to build my website, it just doesn't seem compatible with my brain, you know, what's. So the question is, do you think there are those things? No, I actually don't. So so what you find is when when you look at the research on psychology, there is no such thing except well, I should say, in the case of serious physical brain limitations or or developmental difficulties, there's no such thing that you can't choose to invest time in and be way better at the end of that process than you were at the beginning. So here's the thing and this this is actually a really common thing for, like, web web design programming types of things, particularly for creative folks. Um, you have probably not spent as much time learning the thing that you're trying to do as it feels that you have spent, because when you're terrible time slows to this crawl and, you know, it feels like I've spent hours on it, and you look at the clocks like six minutes there's there's, actually, ah, whole ream of research on how humans perceive time and it's very fluid s o in those first early hours they feel terrible they feel long it feels like you spent a hundred hours when when you look at the clock it's been more like ten minutes and so the third kind of sneaky purpose of the twenty hour pre commitment is you are actually tracking the actual amount of time you have spent learning something and twenty hours is chosen for a very specific purpose if you actually put twenty hours of clock time into practicing something you will see absolutely dramatic results dramatic results twenty hours is a ton of time when it comes down to it, but twenty hours when you're imagining yourself investing time and learning something doesn't feel that much beginning writes about forty five minutes a day for about a month give or take so the key to the pre commitment there's behavioral psychology built into this rule it's short enough that you actually make the commitment but not so long long enough just to see the results but not so long that you avoid making the commitment in the first place don't make sense if you invest the twenty hours you will be astounded absolutely astounded at how good you become even if you have no experience, no knowledge no nothing you can achieve a lot in twenty hours now this is common sense comes in there's nothing crazy here there's nothing complicated here it's all obvious nobody does that right? So the key to all of these things is not necessarily the intellectual blowing away of some new form of anything right it's using this as a system it's using this as a process it's actually going through the checklist and making sure you're actually doing these things when you sit down and decide to learn something so most of us learn by default by random exploration and a lot of dabbling so without this systems like oh, I'm interested in this look around well that's kind of cool oh that's hard I'm not going to do that I'm going to go look at something else and we kind of repeat that process all over anybody else and I have this experience right? One share story um well I think photography actually I did a project but I took thirty four thousand thirty days so a lot of it like I wanted to get better but if I would see something that it was too hard just like I'll just take a photo moral food and that's a right the focusing on one thing yeah yeah because I do the same thing also I'll think about doing something and I kind of get into it a little bit and I say ok, no, I'm gonna move on to this right now this is more important but I kind of just leave it hanging so I just kind of dabble in a lot of different things but never really commit so that one thing and then just kind of knock it out and then move on to something else totally yeah and and there's there's a certain amount of psychological defensive mechanisms that start to happen when you when you push long enough to the point where it gets hard because we human we don't like to feel stupid we don't like to feel like like frustrated or like we don't know what's going on right? So a lot of times it's easier to just stop and go do something else when really if you just push a few hours into it so what what I found there's there's a pattern here but the first depending on the complexity of the scale one to four hours terrible frustrating not getting results don't know what to do okay hours five six seven eight are the points where you've pushed through the early frustration and you notice your capabilities starting to change right? So I've been fiddling with exposure and aperture for four hours and all of my pictures either turnout super dark or almost completely light I don't know what to do this is terrible and about our four five it clicks and all of a sudden you get that shallow depth of field things like you that's what I was looking for and that's the part where this whole process becomes a way more fun because you've invested enough time that you're starting to see yourself being able to do things you've never been able to do before, right? So the key is to push through to that point. Yes, sir, you have a question relation? I'm trying to live according well if you're not trained german, but I need your according in the question of for you is when is it too much as a business owner have it in the situation in the filmmaker she want to do everything? Yes. Then I learned how to shoot learn how to cut on out to the photo shop and all of that. And then he came to a website which is saying from that you have. And then I got your point that I was sick and tired of having to call somebody that doesn't work this out. The same I was that I do is tell you clock in the morning, I need to put something on the web site. And then I began dealing with data mounds. And then when his shoe much now I solved the problem by getting my told me what you know, that's, that's a great point. Like what is what is the point where you decide to invest in just musicians, sources delegating, um, it is best if you combine both approaches, actually because here's here's the trick a lot of folks want to build a website or or do something that involves code but don't have the first idea of what coding is or what's involved or what to expect from the process right? So let's take a person who has never ever done any of this ever before how is that person going to talkto a programmer and actually understand if they're any good or not if you don't know anything about the skill involved it's really easy to get stuck working with somebody who is not capable of doing what you want to do or doesn't work in it in an efficient or ineffective way right on the other hand as a business owner probably busy right you have a lot to do you don't have time to spend three months just working on this code stuff so in most situations there's a happy medium right going through a very simple you know investing twenty hours and learning what this isn't how it works on what to do and what not to do gives you two very important benefits the simple stuff you'll be able to do by yourself you won't need to hire anybody it would be way cheaper away faster in every single respect you will also learn a lot more about what it is to be a good programmer and the types of questions to ask if you have complex things that need to be delegated so I am a really big advocate of it if there is something that is absolutely essential to the operation of your business that you have no concept of how it works or or what to do spend at least twenty hours learning that thing and you re you receive lots of benefits for doing that make sense, so the value of this entire process is not necessarily knowing it right? The value of it is doing it. So one of the things I'm going to challenge you right now is what is it that you want to be able to do? So what's been in the back of your mind either, you know, as a from a business perspective, um, or in your personal life, maybe it's a hobby that you've wanted to learn how to do for a long time, we just haven't sat down to do it yet what's that thing for you? And can you make this process systematic? Can you actually go through these checklists, which we're going to talk about in a minute to decide what principles are going to help you achieve that result that you're looking for and actually set aside the time, rearrange your schedule, invest the time, learning something new, okay, just take a moment to decide what that is for you, okay, so for me, because I've kind of learned its sales, yeah so specifically it's given a list of hundred prospects that I've contacted how to close at least one and get to like x amount of money right? Okay, so how might you break that down? Yes so I was actually reading the sales concepts from your book and I started reading spin selling and we'll still suck schools I've identified as asking good questions yes that's really important absolutely. And you know one of the things particularly in more corporate types of sales is it's less of a transactional say like I'm going to try to convince you to do something right now and more of a making sure the prospect understands the opportunity that you are presenting to them in a why it's valuable to them right? The best way you do that is by asking the prospect questions right? What is it you need? What are you trying to do? What is efficient or not efficient? How how would you like to save time or money? All of those things are really important so you can go back to the prospect nous and say I heard what you told me. We've created this thing exactly for you that solves this problem and by the way it only costs about ten percent of the value is going to to save you right that's how you celebrate customer and so the deconstruction you did it two ways right you read my book which, by the way, is just a deconstruction of business it was designed to be that right deconstructing business into smaller parts of finding an important part there was another resource that led to a further deconstruction of what that things looks like and then you have one thing that you can go out and practice in a way they get to get better, right? That's, right? That's actually, the part I'm struggling with is like what's the one thing I can do every day to get better at that, yeah, school uh, maximized the amount of time that you spent actually talking to customers, so the more so you know what, you're what you're going to do, right? Ask questions, go through this process of understanding needs all that stuff the point is getting to you know, that in theory, right, right, it's time to actually go out and maximize the amount of time that you spend practicing that with a really customer in the context where you're going to do it that's when the actual skill acquisition works, spend as much time exactly. So we have some questions online about kind of the optimum like breakdown of those twenty hours uh like as I'm thinking about it personally, I'm like, ok, can I do an hour a day for twenty days gonna do two hours for ten I don't feel like half an hour a day for forty is enough commitment procession like what's the optimum breakdown you'd be surprised I found usually half an hour to forty five minutes a day for about a month is optimal okay um and there a couple tricks in there for so if it's a more cognitive skill so something that you're you're learning about so photography something like that where there's not a physical or mental fatigue element to it you could do a longer session but sometimes when you're learning how to do physical types of skills so for example one of things I learned how to do was windsurf which was way fun and way hard and I was not in good enough shape to do it right my maximum practice session productive practice session for that was twenty to twenty five minutes on the water because after that out exhausted right? So programming um somewhere around the forty five minute to an hour mark is where you start feeling really tired and additional time is not productive so you really need to in the early part of practicing gauge when you start to get tired and then try to organize your practice around that tristin yeah that's really cool yeah makes sense to me cool going to learn I have a just a note on your book arguable has the fit my ten year old listen show why we've run and she found the truman entertaining when you're falling off she was left as we were and I could see in that I asked I should say keeps falling off this thing I fell a lot and you know, that was probably of all of this coat, so I learned how to program in ruby I learned how to play the ukulele I learned how to type on a weird keyboard and do yoga and windsurfing and a whole bunch of really wildly different things wind surfing was the hardest and when serve, you know, going back to the twenty hour pre commitment that was the thing of my first twenty minutes on the water tear apparently I was swallowing water falling all the time I suck it this I don't know what to do um I actually the wind was blowing really hard that day and so I wasn't really moving the board, but the wind was moving me and so I ended up very far away from where I launched from and I couldn't get back to shore. It was that bad like I had to deconstruct the whole rig and literally swim it back to shore just dead dead tired it was terrible, but the process of okay, I've decided I'm going to do this this is a setback, something went wrong, I need to figure out what went wrong and fix it because I'm in this for twenty hours whether I like it or not that was the thing that kept me going long enough to actually get the result make sense okay pretty going flaring rush yeah, I would look a little harder the program will be sweet rails is good actually used for those of your familiar pro ruby is a programming language and rails is ah public popular web application framework makes it a little bit easier to use I actually used ah framework called sinatra which is awesome I loved it. Um programming is fascinating because it's kind of like building with legos in your mind on ly if you uh if you don't connect the legos in the right way the whole thing explodes which just kind of adds an element of drama to the whole thing. It's a really, really fun skill but you know there are so many things particularly in a business context and in a systems context which will talk about tomorrow programming is like business superpowers in a lot of ways you can make so many things so much easier just spending a little bit of time learning how to program I'm seeing a lot of people in the chat rooms discussed how to choose what it is that you want to learn and I know from a creative standpoint I think a lot of us creative we're slightly undiagnosed eighty d you know I want tio so like how do you prioritize what you're going to focus on first? Yeah, I'll actually this is this is something uh a technique that has multiple applications which we'll talk about a couple times will introduce it now actually make a list of all the things that you want to learn and you know it can be business stuff, personal stuff, whatever um our minds do not like the idea of giving things up it's an idea called loss aversion that why should talk about in a little bit but it's uncomfortable tio look at all the things you want to do and say I'm going to do this one and then I'm not going to do all of these other ones and then you know, that feels like a loss and so that's really deeply uncomfortable so our minds naturally resist prioritizing unless we kind of in a very sneaky way force it to here's how to do it make a list of all the things that you would like to learn how to do and then take that list and say ok, if I could on ly commit to learning half of these things right now which ones would stay on my active list and which ones would go on to a list called david allen calls it your someday maybe list, right? I'm somebody maybe going to learn this but not right now so you're not losing it you may do it later but not right now right? Cut the listen half then when you're done cut listen have again and then cut the list in half again and cut the listen half again and you'll have one thing that is your brain is telling you this is the most valuable interesting important thing to do right now you focus on that one first I think that I use when I can't decide between two things which is I flip a coin whatever it indicates I decide ok do I want to do best two out of three if I wanna do best two out of three that I wanted the other one exactly. So I just think that that's a great tie breaker if you have to and you just can't decide wait which one to dio that's? How you decide after twenty hours what's the skill level you're will be well considered too high or too low so when you said what I call a target performance level which is how good you want to be what you want to be able to do um that's basically a target and of the twenty hours there's nothing magical about the twenty hours that's just the pre commitment that's designed to get you the best result what you often find is most of us really seriously overestimate how long it's going to take to learn something so what you often find is you reach your target performance level after an hour, two hours, three hours if you had the target great and you want it and you reach the result and there's nothing more that you want to get from that skill. Fantastic. Go do something else. Um, if there are things that you want to continue to improve, you just start the process over again, right? I have this level of skill now, and I would like to get here here's my new target performance level gonna put another twenty hours and break down the process is to do the exact same thing. They got me that result. So this is a process that can be layered that make sense. I have a question about so let's just say, I want to learn like five different things, right? But let's say one is learning a language german one is learning this programming or one is learning a really good sale cycle, so I have a particular business. But now these are like three totally unrelated things. So do you have advice about should be, too? Is things that we're trying to learn at one time that every related is that better for us? Or is it better to pick different doesn't really matter? You can, so if you're layering things, um, it's often valuable to you know, you get a certain level of skill that opens your eyes to different possibilities, and then just kind of improving from there. Or you can switch from one to the other. The real key is, for most of us were so busy that it's not really possible, to have multiple of these very intense types of skill. Acquisition process is going on at once, so you need to limit your focus, toe one and then if if you want tio, learn something related, you can choose that or prioritize something completely different.