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Customer Review

63 of 69 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but didn't quite meet expectations., 3 Jun. 2013
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This review is from: The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything ... Fast (Paperback)
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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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 6 Jun 2013 04:44:37 BDT
K. Purcell says:
I have not yet purchased this book, i will do so now. Your review makes the book sound familiar to other books which have a simple formula which is quickly explained, to quickly to fill a book, so the rest of the book is to some extent padded. Examples of these books have been (co-incidentally) written by those supplying the blurbs. But i still enjoy reading these books. Thanks you for your review, i can now imagine how the book will read, it sounds like a fair and balanced review. I will be purchasing this book as, like you, i have an interest in the subject.

In reply to an earlier post on 6 Jun 2013 12:42:29 BDT
Thanks for the thorough review. I'll probably get the book, and now I'll have a more "correct" expectation of it. Seeing as you describe yourself as a learning addict, I'm sure you're well aware of Tim Ferriss, but in any case thought I should mention him. I like his approach to learning skills in The 4-Hour Chef: The Simple Path to Cooking Like a Pro, Learning Anything, and Living the Good Life (Official UK Edition) , and how he uses his method to learn the art of cooking. Please check out his books if you haven't already read them. They're all favorites of mine.

Thanks for the review.


Posted on 18 Jun 2013 17:54:03 BDT
Briggsy says:
Sadly purchased this despite you indicating that the majority of the book was a waste of time. I feel that Mr Kaufman simply states the blatantly obvious and goes little further than common sense.
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