The Ultimate New Year's Resolution: Make 2014 Your Year of Fast Learning!

Are you ready to grow your talent in 2014? Here are 4 specific steps and lots of tips and resources to make 2014 your year of breakthrough learning. And discover what ukuleles have to do with it....

fuzzy monster by JD Hancock.jpg

Wanting to write a post about for the New Year, I was aware of how many posts are out there about resolutions, goal setting, and visioning. I didn’t feel like I had anything unique to pile on at this time.

My focus is all about learning: it’s my profession to help people learn, and it’s one of my favorite things to do myself (Love of Learning is one of my top 3 signature strengths). Therefore, I should write a post about learning… hmmm….

And like magic, the solution arrived via a Facebook post from friend Michael Randall! It was a link to this TEDx CSU video in which Josh Kaufman shares his tips for how to learn anything in 20 hours (based on his book, The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything . . . Fast!). Oh yeah! I remember listening to Chris Brogan’s interview podcast with Kaufman a few months ago, and this TED video was a great, short way to distill the key points Kaufman teaches. Pure awesome. You must watch it.

Kaufman debunks the growing myth that it takes 10,000 to learn a skill. He likens it to a game of ‘telephone’ where the original research has gotten so misappropriated. 10,000 is what it takes to get to the ultra-competitive expert level at something. In fact, Kaufman says the research tells us it ‘only’ takes 20 hours of focused, consistent practice to learn how to do something (from scratch to ‘pretty good’)!

Kaufman Learning Curve.jpg

 I love how he flips the ‘practice curve’ to show that it is the asymptotic and infamous ‘learning curve’.

How to Learn Fast in 2014 and Beyond

Ready to make 2014 your year of fast learning? Here's the step-by-step process Kaufman suggests along with my thoughts about them and links to a bunch of additional resources.

  1. Deconstruct the skill: you have to break the skill down to its smallest chunks, so you can focus on learning those. Recently, blogger/author Tim Ferriss has shown how he does this to learn anything fast in his own TED talk, in his various books, and in his new TV show, The Tim Ferriss Experiment. And the good news is, often there are just a small number of chunks that make up the bulk of the utility of any skill to learn – it’s the 80/20 rule.
  2. Self-correct as you practice: you’ve heard the adage ‘Practice makes perfect’? Well, it should actually be ‘Perfected practice makes perfect’, because practicing doing something wrong is not going to get you where you want to go. Make sure to have double-loop learning so that you constantly figure out what needs to be corrected before you keep repeating the practice.
  3. Remove barriers to practice: what often gets in our way is that we get excited about the new skill, start practicing it, and get discouraged or detoured once any obstacles or barriers arise. Barriers should not be a surprise nor should they stop you in your tracks. Accept that barriers are an INHERENT part of the learning process, to be anticipated and removed as they arise. In addition, what really distinguishes successful people from the rest is their ability to say No to almost everything to avoid distraction, according to blogger Eric Barker. Another great ‘How to’ resource to help you build new habits is the book, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.
  4. Practice at least 20 hours: Hey – we said you don’t need 10,000, but you’ve got to put in at LEAST a focused, consistent 20 hours if you really want to learn something. Kaufman breaks that down to being the equivalent of about 45 minutes per day for 30 days. That is SO DOABLE! It reminds me of a chapter by Scott H. Young in the fantastic book, Maximize Your Potential: Grow Your Expertise, Take Bold Risks & Build an Incredible Career (The 99U Book Series) entitled Reprogramming Your Daily Habits. He suggests focusing on adding one new skill a month instead of making the common error of tackling too many new skills at once. In 12 months, you can successfully add 12 new skills or habits. This intentional practice habit is what gets us out of the uncomfortable ‘Conscious Competence’ phase of the Learning Cycle and, eventually, to the golden land of ‘Unconscious Competence’ where we can do it on autopilot.

WHAT NEW SKILL ARE YOU PLANNING ON LEARNING IN 2014? Comment below and join the conversation!

Let’s make 2014 our BEST YEAR YET!

P.S. This video ends with Kaufman playing the ukulele. The ukulele is an unusual instrument, but for some reason, I’ve had it come up three separate times this month: First, my friend Trish Uhl mentioned it in an invitation to shenanigans at ASTD’s International conference in May here in DC (where I will be a speaker). Then, my friends Orin and Shiri talked about how Shiri just gave Orin a ukulele as a gift. And now, I watch this video and the awesome ‘everything-but-the-kitchen-sink’ ukulele song at the end of it. So I’ll tell you a secret: I am recovering from HATING that instrument solely based on its name. When I was a kid, the other kids used to make fun of my first name by likening its sound to the word ukulele. I hate that. So I hated that word. But I think I’m over it now. A little bit. Maybe.

Fuzzy monster photo by Flickr Creative Commons user JD Hancock

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