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3.4 out of 5 stars46
3.4 out of 5 stars
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on 10 December 2013
Like others, I was intrigued by the title - let's face it, who wouldn't want to be able to learn anything fast and be good at anything in 20 hours? It certainly beats spending 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become an expert.

However, whilst I really liked Josh's earlier book "The Personal MBA" and would fully recommend that you do purchase/read this as it is really very good, this was a disappointment. The most value in the book was, as others have said, pretty much common sense although I did find it useful to have this articulated in an easy-to-read list form. Unfortunately, this was the limited to the first couple of chapters and probably should have been confined to a blog post or website article. The vast majority of the book was devoted to a series of case studies demonstrating how Josh put the theory into practice and whilst this was useful in parts (I found the section on consolidating a newly-acquired skill via sleep and thus scheduling practice at the end of the day to be helpful), most of the book was uninformative and bordering on the dull.

I really wanted to like this book given that the concept of becoming proficient in anything in 20 hours has to be appealing, and because I thought The Personal MBA was first class, but it was just impossible given the content. Put in this way, if I'd read this prior to discovering The Personal MBA, I wouldn't have bothered to read another book by this author. And given the quality of The Personal MBA (regardless of whether you agree with his basic premise in the book that you don't need to spend £000's on a business school MBA), this is a real shame, and a warning to others of how easily you can damage a good brand through poor content.

I'd recommend that you check out The Personal MBA instead!

The Personal MBA: A World-Class Business Education in a Single Volume
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on 10 July 2013
Similar to other reviewers I am a big fan of Josh ,his website and first book 'The personal MBA' are first class. This is a much tougher topic and on balance I think he's done a great job. As has been pointed out by others, the actual method is not new and takes little explanation - I think they are missing the point though. Knowing and doing are miles apart. Recognising this Josh has concentrated the core message up front for skimmers (a tactic recommended in PMBA, which comes with a hefty recommended reading list), focusing the rest of the book on testimonials which inspire both action and dedication. In short, the book is structured to suit the kind of people who will actually put this technique into action, rather than as a page turner for self help junkies who never actually apply their knowledge. It's a rapid skill acquisition text book and a very good one at that. Don't just buy it to read - buy it to do.
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on 1 July 2013
The other reviews are right when they say the first two chapters have the meat and the rest is a list of pointless examples.

Even then, "the meat" is hardly rocket science. This has been well reviewed by others, but I am at a loss to know why. The useful advice (essentially "break up the task, cut out distractions, and make the effort") is all quite true. Do it and you will learn. But we all know that already. If you think that is a great insight you need far more help than this book gives.

Who am I to say these will help nobody ? If the first two chapters and examples work for you then good. But before you buy, do make sure you check out the first two chapters and an example so you know what you are buying.

I was livid that I had bought a Kindle book online which I would never have bought in paper format in a bookshop. But fortunately Kindle's "quick return" policy means I was allowed to return it. I did.
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on 25 June 2013
I have been teaching adults for 20+ years, let alone 20 hours, so had to give this book a go.

I found it just before it was due to be published, so pre-ordered and got a link to three A4 .pdfs of checklists which I really loved, and which remain on my wall. On the first page of the book, I laughed out loud with recognition of the picture Kaufman paints of himself as a serial learner, and drank in the first two chapters, eager for more. However, I learnt nothing that I hadn't seen summarised on those three sheets of A4.

The first two chapters, brilliant, although much of what is said is based on known learning theory which is not quoted, so either Kaufman spontaneously reinvented the main tenets of accelerated learning and experiential learning, or it has been dumbed down for a "popular" audience.

I found the case studies of Kaufman's own learning boring and skimmed over them, a shame as they take up most of the book. However, I know I have a massive activist learning style, so am sure reflecters and theorists will get a lot more out of this than I did.

The checklists will be used as reference time and time again, and the call to create a list of stuff I wanted to learn and take it seriously has resulted in my first ever personal learning plan outside of the workplace (piano, thai cooking, interior design, creating a mobile app, etc.). So I guess I'm glad I bought it, and will happily pass it on for someone else to get the same kick into action.

As a call to action, and a scaffolding for learning, worth every penny.
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on 3 June 2013
Being a fan of Josh Kaufman's last book "The Personal MBA" I was excited to hear he was working on another, especially in another area that I am very interested in - skill acquisition.

Josh Kaufman has a remarkable ability to break down a complex subject into easily digestible and very useful pieces. This time he was going to apply that ability to acquiring new skills. Being something of a learning addict myself, I could not wait to get my hands on his new book.

Having now read it, within 20 hours I might add, I thought I'd share what I thought about his new book.

Honestly, it's good. It's well written, concise, sometimes I even laughed out loud. It was truly an insightful read about how he broke down skill acquisition and how he applied it to various skills he acquired while working on this book. I can see how his new - I suppose you can call it a "skill acquisition method" - can help me to overcome emotional barriers and devoting 20 hours of deliberate practice to whatever skill I want to learn. I already have compiled a list of 12 items I want to explore over the next year.

So why four stars? Well, the thing is, the actual theory and model was explained in the space of 2 chapters. The first chapter spelled out the context, and the rest of the book were essentially case studies - or rather a documentary of his experiments and what he managed to achieve in 20 hours by applying his model in acquiring various skills.

Don't get me wrong, the case studies were insightful, and provided clues about what to expect when you try to apply the theory. My favourite chapters were learning to touch-type the Colemack keyboard layout - which explained brain plasticity, and the chapter about learning to windsurf which I found especially amusing.

But at the same time, I felt like a sense of - why am I reading this?

I found myself skim reading the rest of the book, digging out any useful insights that popped up. But otherwise I was somewhat uninterested about reading his personal exploits - most of which seemed to provide superficial details about how he applied his method. I'd rather he had chosen to break down each step of his new model and devoted more time in explaining each step in more depth, or even provide case studies focusing around each principal itself, rather than half a dozen case studies that glossed over the entire methodology without going into each step in much depth.

It would also appear that after 20 hours, you'll also only really have a superficial level of competency in whatever skill you choose to learn. After all, depending on the skill 20 hours is not a lot of time. Those first 20 hours are critical, and the book provides excellent ideas on how to maximize those first 20 hours. But don't expect too much - especially if the skill you are trying to learn is complex or difficult.

Having now read the title again properly "The First 20 Hours: How to learn anything ...Fast" I now realize that that's exactly what the premise of the book was about - the first 20 hours - I suppose its my own fault for making the assumption this book was about becoming amazingly competent within 20 hours. It's not at all, it's a more of a book about getting started and getting as much out of the first 20 hours as you can.

If you're a learning addict like myself, this book will be invaluable. It will change your approach to acquiring new skills forever. The first 3 chapters will truly be enlightening .. just don't expect the rest of the book to be as engaging.

Overall its a fascinating book, and I am glad I read it. And it's hard to fault his work. I just wish there was more content that followed in the style of the first 3 chapters, and I know that that's asking for a bit much. But still.

A big thank you to Josh Kaufman for writing this book. I'm not ungrateful, this book is a welcome addition to the few books that exist on the subject of accelerated skill acquisition and I appreciate his efforts on this somewhat tricky subject.
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on 24 April 2014
The basic idea is good and would have made an interesting blog entry, but I guess you can't make much money from one of those, so the rest of the book is padded out with stuff like the history of yoga and how much he loves his wife and little daughter... Pick it up in a bookshop and skim the first two chapters. Then buy another book - bookshop owners have to eat too.
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on 19 October 2013
The summary of this book is basically that if you study a particular skill for 20 hours or 40 minutes a day you will acquire that skill. He goes into unnecessary detail about web design & playing the ukulele. There is just pages & pages of this filler. What is in this book could really have been reduced to an online article. It is really an over padded essay & not worth the price. Practice daily & break down the skill into smaller more digestible parts. Why do you need to write a book to say something so simple. Save your money & spend it on something else
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on 30 July 2013
I was quite hopeful about this book as I have quite a few things which I'd quite like to ramp-up my learning on.

The concept is good and to start with I thought the book was explaining things very well. Until it got passed the initial explanation when it seemed to go into far too much detail about what the author is learning about and nothing about applying the method.

For example there is a huge section on the history of yoga which is unrelated to the book and another on computer programming, although I'm very interested in programming (it's what I do) I really wasnt expecting a hugely detailed explanation on web development, Ruby, Git etc. if I wanted to read about that I would have bought a book on that.

About 20% of the book is worth reading the rest is waffle.
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on 22 January 2015
During my university days I used to read a lot of self development books. But after moving into the demanding world of programming, I did not find time to read any books on this topic. I opted for this as the title was appealing. At least the title appeared too good to be true.

Author motivates us with the first few chapters itself. The write up on quality pots in chapter 2, was an excellent motivation to become a learning addict. The mistakes I have been making till date was, I didn't keep my toolset ready and I did not allocate time for acquiring my skill.

I read only the first 3 chapters in detail. From fourth till ninth, the author is discussing his own experience and how he is acquiring the skill. So I went through the first kick off sessions and then the closing sessions skipping the detailed instructions.

I was doing some breathing and fitness routine every now and then. After chapter 4 I regularized this a bit as morning time was allocated for the same.

Went through the Programming chapter in detail page by page as I'am also involved in the profession. Applied the steps to enhance my skills in new technologies in my own (programming) area. This chapter also helped me to keep the fire burning in my existing projects and breathe life into some of my old skills. There are a lot of details on ruby programming. In future, If I ever need to learn ruby, I think I have found the correct place :-)

The touch typing chapter was useful in giving us a list of websites where we can test our typing skills. This chapter also explains how our brains work when we sleep and why before bed is the best time to learn a new skill.

I browsed through the chapters on acquiring Go and Ukulele paying attention ONLY to the beginning and end to understand how the 20 hours concepts are used. Picked up a few good proverbs from Go. Since I wish to learn the Nunchaku (Maybe after I retire), I will comeback at a later date to read the chapter on Ukulele and follow the methodology.

I may use the concepts in the chapter on windsurfing to guide my daughter on her physical activity classes at a later date.

Again went through the final afterwards chapter in detail.

I'am not sure why so many reviewers have given a bad rating on the pretext of author moving away from topic. Actually author clearly states that, these are his goals and we could substitute this with our own goals. Author has only explained how he is preparing to encounter a to be acquired skill. Reviewing the method at the end of every chapter is an important read.

In brief, this has boosted my confidence of acquiring ANY new skill / Reactivating old skills
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on 22 August 2013
Learn while you sleep is covered in chapter 6........

As someone who enjoys the learning process and has been involved in the learning and development of others for a long time I gave this book a go, just in case Josh had discovered some startling new technique to enhance learning, sadly not.

That said the first three chapters are great revision and re-motivation for experienced learners/tutors and amongst the following chapters there is probably something for most people. As Josh says pick the ones that fit in with your idea of a "lovable project". For people who have never considered their learning process/style, or how they can enhance it, I consider this to be a good start. I have recommended it to a friend who is both a keen learner and starting out on the long and winding road that is the responsibility for other people's development.

I read all the chapters and discovered that I would rather perform a self-trepanation and rub my cerebrum with a cheese grater than spend time programming or play Go. On the other hand I have now taken an interest in Yoga (not quite the same as learning - yet) and have actually started to play the ukulele - my "performance level" being to stand up at a jam night and perform one song, in this case, Ever fallen In Love by The Buzzcocks. This probably reflects my Pragmatist / Reflector learning style and proves (to me) that the book is motivational if you approach it with the right mindset.
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