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The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything... Fast! Hardcover – 13 Jun 2013

3.4 out of 5 stars 46 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 274 pages
  • Publisher: Portfolio (13 Jun. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591845556
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591845553
  • Product Dimensions: 16 x 2.5 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,164,723 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


A blockbuster in the making. After reading this book, you'll be ready to take on any number of skills and make progress on that big project you've been putting off for years (Chris Guillebeau, author of The $100 Startup)

Great opportunities are worthless without skills. No more excuses! Kaufman proves that we all have the capacity to become experts (Scott Belsky, founder, Behance, and author of Making Ideas Happen)

If you're like me, you'll get so inspired that you'll stop reading to apply this approach to your own procrastinated project. After reading the first five chapters I tried his technique to learn a new programming language, and I'm blown away with how fast I became fluent (Derek Sivers, founder, CD Baby,

In this inspiring little book, Josh Kaufman argues that you can get good enough at anything to enjoy yourself in just 20 hours. All that's standing between you and playing the ukulele is your TV time for the next two weeks (Laura Vanderkam, author of 168 Hours and What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast)

With the amount of information and change in the world today, the person who can adapt and learn the most quickly will be the most successful. Kaufman breaks down the science of learning in useful, entertaining, and fascinating ways. If you care about keeping your job, your business, or your edge, this book is for you (Pamela Slim, author of Escape from Cubicle Nation) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Josh Kaufman helps people make more money, get more done, and have more fun. His first book, The Personal MBA, is an international bestseller. He lives in Colorado. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition
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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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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Format: Paperback
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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