Just moozing

Before you can check your notes, you must make them…

Learn anything in 20 hours

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I found an interesting TED talk about learning. Josh Kaufman had the same basic problem as most people – too much he wanted and too little time. Well, he has some good news, and that is the fact that you learn a lot in 20 hours. I decided to test the idea.

Being a teacher, I have been through the theory that it takes 10,000 hours to master something. i.e. 10 years and 3 hours per day. That is just too much for normal people to set aside. If it is true about the twenty hours, that means I can spend half an hour per day for two month and have acquired a new skill.

He presents four steps

  1. Deconstruct the skill (and do the most important parts first)
  2. Learn enough to self-correct
  3. Remove practice barriers
  4. Practice for at least 20 hours

So I decided to test it with guitar hero. It quickly gave me the illusion of actually playing good music, so I had fun. I have been playing for a bit more than 20 hours now, so a quick summary of progress (hours are approximated)

Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock New Guitar Controller

  • Hour 0: Beginner level is difficult – my timing is bad, and I have no sense of rhythm.
  • Hour 5: Easy is ok
  • Hour 8: Valley of despair – I do mistakes I didn’t do last week, because I try to play music (as opposed to play the game)
  • Hour 12: Easy is at 90-99% with some exceptions. Let’s do Medium, and there is something about HOPOs.
  • Hour 15: Medium is at 85%-95% for the lower intensity songs. Since we now use 4 frets, my pinkie starts to hurt.
  • Hour 17: Let’s try Hard (that includes the orange fret).
  • Hour 17.1: I need to practice changing hand positions in Medium before going to hard 🙂

And that is where I am now.


My conclusion so far is that

  1. The game mechanics and progress is made to accommodate the “skill decomposition”
  2. In order to self-correct, one must know what is correct. With a game like this it is obvious – once the game logic has been cracked. I now know that to progress further, I need to work on the alt-strumming and hand movements.
  3. It was not hard with the barriers. It worked well with half an hour of game time every day to clear my head.
  4. I found the time to do it. 20 hours in 1½ month, and I have not been more stressed than usual.

For Guitar Hero, the 20 hour rule applies. I will come up with something new to learn next, and see how it applies.



  • The specific link related to the 10,000 hours talks about Malcolm Gladwell book Outliers. Read it.
  • Valley of despair is a concept from change management.
  • Don’t read too much into the specific hours specified. It is the progress that is important.

Written by moozing

February 18, 2015 at 12:00

Posted in Teaching

Tagged with , ,

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