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  • Hi everyone.

  • Two year ago, my life changed forever.

  • My wife Kelsey and I

  • welcomed our daughter Lela into the world.

  • Now, becoming a parent is an amazing experience.

  • Your whole world changes over night.

  • And all of your priorities change immediately.

  • So fast that it makes it really difficult to process sometimes.

  • Now, you also have to learn a tremendous amount about being a parent

  • like, for example, how to dress your child.

  • (Laughter)

  • This was new to me.

  • This is an actual outfit, I thought this was a good idea.

  • And even Lela knows that it's not a good idea. (Laughter)

  • So there is so much to learn and so much craziness all at once.

  • And to add to the craziness, Kelsey and I both work from home,

  • we're entrepreneurs, we run our own businesses.

  • So, Kelsey develops courses online for yoga teachers.

  • I'm an author.

  • And so, I'm working from home, Kelsey's working from home.

  • We have an infant and we're trying to make sure

  • that everything gets done that needs done.

  • And life is really, really busy.

  • And a couple of weeks into this amazing experience,

  • when the sleep deprivation really kicked in,

  • like around week eight,

  • I had this thought, and it was the same thought

  • that parents across the ages, internationally,

  • everybody has had this thought, which is:

  • I am never going to have free time ever again.

  • (Laughter)

  • Somebody said it's true.

  • It's not exactly true,

  • but it feels really, really true in that moment.

  • And this was really disconcerning to me,

  • because one of the things that I enjoy

  • more than anything else is learning new things.

  • Getting curious about something and diving in

  • and fiddling around and learning through trial and error.

  • And eventually becoming pretty good at something.

  • And without this free time,

  • I didn't know how I was ever going to do that ever again.

  • And so, I'm a big geek,

  • I want to keep learning things, I want to keep growing.

  • And so what I've decided to do was,

  • go to the library, and go to the bookstore,

  • and look at what research says about

  • how we learn and how we learn quickly.

  • And I read a bunch of books, I read a bunch of websites.

  • And tried to answer this question,

  • how long does it take to acquire a new skill?

  • You know what I found?

  • 10,000 hours!

  • Anybody ever heard this?

  • It takes 10,000 hours. If you want to learn something new,

  • if you want to be good at it,

  • it's going to take 10,000 hours to get there.

  • And I read this in book after book, in website after website.

  • And my mental experience of reading all of this stuff was like:

  • No!!

  • I don't have time! I don't have 10,000 hours.

  • I am never going to be able to learn anything new.

  • Ever again. (Laughter)

  • But that's not true.

  • So, 10,000 hours, just to give you a rough order of magnitude,

  • 10,000 hours is a full-time job for five years.

  • That's a long time.

  • And we've all had the experience of learning something new,

  • and it didn't take us anywhere close to that amount of time, right?

  • So, what's up? There's something kinda funky going on here.

  • What the research says and what we expect, and have experiences,

  • they don't match up.

  • And what I found, here's the wrinkle:

  • The 10,000 hour rule came out of studies of expert-level performance.

  • There's a professor at Florida State University,

  • his name is K. Anders Ericsson.

  • He is the originator of the 10,00 hour rule.

  • And where that came from is, he studied professional athletes,

  • world class musicians, chess grand masters.

  • All of this ultra competitive folks in ultra-high performing fields.

  • And he tried to figure out how long does it take

  • to get to the top of those kinds of fields.

  • And what he found is, the more deliberate practice,

  • the more time that those individuals spend

  • practicing the elements of whatever it is that they do,

  • the more time you spend, the better you get.

  • And the folks at the tippy top of their fields

  • put in around 10,000 hours of practice.

  • Now, we were talking about the game of telephone a little bit earlier.

  • Here's what happened:

  • an author by the name of Malcolm Gladwell

  • wrote a book in 2007 called "Outliers: The Story of Success",

  • and the central piece of that book was the 10,000 hour rule.

  • Practice a lot, practice well, and you will do extremely well,

  • you will reach the top of your field.

  • So, the message,

  • what Dr. Ericsson was actually saying is,

  • it takes 10,000 hours to get at the top of an ultra competitive field

  • in a very narrow subject, that's what that means.

  • But here's what happened: ever since Outliers came out,

  • immediately came out, reached the top of best seller lists,

  • stayed there for three solid months.

  • All of a sudden the 10,000 hour rule was everywhere.

  • And a society-wide game of telephone started to be played.

  • So this message, it takes 10,000 hours to reach the top of an ultra competitive field,

  • became, it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something,

  • which became,

  • it takes 10,000 hours to become good at something,

  • which became,

  • it takes 10,000 hours to learn something.

  • But that last statement, it takes 10,000 hours to learn something,

  • is not true. It's not true.

  • So, what the research actually says --

  • I spent a lot of time here at the CSU library

  • in the cognitive psychology stacks 'cause I'm a geek.

  • And when you actually look at the studies of skill acquisition,

  • you see over and over a graph like this.

  • Now, researchers, whether they're studying a motor skill,

  • something you do physically or a mental skill,

  • they like to study things that they can time.

  • 'Cause you can quantify that, right?

  • So, they'll give research participants a little task,

  • something that requires physical arrangement,

  • or something that requires learning a little mental trick,

  • and they'll time how long a participant takes to complete the skill.

  • And here's what this graph says, when you start --

  • so when researchers gave participants a task, it took them a really long time,

  • 'cause it was new and they were horrible.

  • With a little bit of practice, they get better and better and better.

  • And that early part of practice is really, really efficient.

  • People get good at things with just a little bit of practice.

  • Now, what's interesting to note is that,

  • for skills that we want to learn for ourselves,

  • we don't care so much about time, right?

  • We just care about how good we are, whatever good happens to mean.

  • So if we relabel performance time to how good you are,

  • the graph flips, and you get his famous and widely known,

  • this is the learning curve.

  • And the story of the learning curve is when you start,

  • you're grossly incompetent and you know it, right?

  • (Laughter)

  • With a little bit of practice, you get really good, really quick.

  • So that early level of improvement is really fast.

  • And then at a certain point you reach a plateau,

  • and the subsequent games become much harder to get,

  • they take more time to get.

  • Now, my question is, I want that, right?

  • How long does it take from starting something

  • and being grossly incompetent and knowing it

  • to being reasonably good?

  • In hopefully, as short a period of time as possible.

  • So, how long does that take?

  • Here's what my research says: 20 hours.

  • That's it. You can go from knowing nothing

  • about any skill that you can think of.

  • Want to learn a language? Want to learn how to draw?

  • Want to learn how to juggle flaming chainsaws?

  • (Laughter)

  • If you put 20 hours of focused deliberate practice into that thing,

  • you will be astounded.

  • Astounded at how good you are.

  • 20 hours is doable,

  • that's about 45 minutes a day for about a month.

  • Even skipping a couple days, here and there.

  • 20 hours isn't that hard to accumulate.

  • Now, there's a method to doing this.

  • Because it's not like you can just start fiddling around for about 20 hours

  • and expect these massive improvements.

  • There's a way to practice intelligently.

  • There's a way to practice efficiently,

  • that will make sure that you invest those 20 hours

  • in the most effective way that you possibly can.

  • And here's the method, it applies to anything:

  • The first is to deconstruct the skill.

  • Decide exactly what you want to be able to do when you're done,

  • and then look into the skill and break it down into smaller pieces.

  • Most of the things that we think of as skills

  • are actually big bundles of skills that require all sorts of different things.

  • The more you can break apart the skill,

  • the more you're able to decide,

  • what are the parts of this skill that would actually help me

  • get to what I want?

  • And then you can practice those first.

  • And if you practice the most important things first,

  • you'll be able to improve your performance

  • in the least amount of time possible.

  • The second is, learn enough to self correct.

  • So, get three to five resources about what it is you're trying to learn.

  • Could be book, could be DVDs, could be courses, could be anything.

  • But don't use those as a way to procrastinate on practice.

  • I know I do this, right?

  • Get like 20 books about the topic, like,

  • "I'm going to start learning how to program a computer

  • when I complete these 20 books".

  • No. That's procrastination.

  • What you want to do is learn just enough

  • that you can actually practice

  • and self correct or self edit as you practice.

  • So the learning becomes a way of getting better

  • at noticing when you're making a mistake

  • and then doing something a little different.

  • The third is to remove barriers to practice.

  • Distractions, television, internet.

  • All of these things that get in the way

  • of you actually sitting down and doing the work.

  • And the more you're able to use just a little bit of willpower

  • to remove the distractions that are keeping you from practicing,

  • the more likely you are to actually sit down and practice, right?

  • And the fourth is to practice for at least 20 hours.

  • Now, most skills have what I call a frustration barrier.

  • You know, the grossly-incompetent- and-knowing-it part?

  • That's really, really frustrating. We don't like to feel stupid.

  • And feeling stupid is a barrier to us actually sitting down and doing the work.

  • So, by pre-committing to practicing whatever it is that you want to do

  • for at least 20 hours,

  • you will be able to overcome that initial frustration barrier

  • and stick with the practice long enough to actually reap the rewards.

  • That's it! It's not rocket science.

  • Four very simple steps that you can use to learn anything.

  • Now, this is easy to talk about in theory,

  • but it's more fun to talk about in practice.

  • So one of the things that I've wanted to learn how to do for a long time

  • is play the ukulele.

  • Has anybody seen Jake Shimabukuro's TEDTalk

  • where he plays the ukulele and makes it sound like --

  • he's like a ukulele god.

  • It's amazing.

  • I saw it, I was like, "That is so cool!"

  • It's such a neat instrument. I would really like to learn how to play.

  • And so I decided that to test this theory

  • I wanted to put 20 hours into practicing ukulele

  • and see where it got.

  • And so the first thing about playing the ukulele is,

  • in order to practice, you have to have one, right?

  • So, I got an ukulele and -- My lovely assistant?

  • (Laughter)

  • Thank you sir. I think I need the chord here.

  • It's not just an ukulele, it's an electric ukulele. (Laughter)

  • Yeah.

  • So, the first couple hours are just like the first couple hours of anything.

  • You have to get the tools that you are using to practice.

  • You have to make sure they're available.

  • My ukulele didn't come with strings attached.

  • I had to figure out how to put those on.

  • Like, that's kind of important, right?

  • And learning how to tune, learning how to make sure

  • that all of the things that need to be done

  • in order to start practicing get done, right?

  • Now, one of the things when I was ready to actually start practicing

  • was I looked in online databases and songbooks for how to play songs.

  • And they say, okay, ukuleles, you can play more than one string at a time,