From Good to Great to Master in a Matter of Weeks!

It’s human nature to want to learn and grow.

With so much information out there we set high hopes, but rarely follow through. There are those of us who buy lots of books, then sit them on the shelf to collect dust. There are those of us who write down our goals and stick them in a drawer to be lost forever.

It’s said that to become good at anything, we must work at it for 10,000 hours! This is false and not true whatsoever. The 10,000 rule came to light in Malcom Gladwell’s book Outliers: The Story of Success. Then the game of telephone started to happen. The game goes like this: one person talks to another person, and information is passed through a line of people until the last person relays the message completely different than what was originally said. Everything gets ass-backwards wrong.

From one person to the next, the 10,000 hour rule started to be completely different than how Malcolm stated it in his book.

Malcolm states that the 10,000 hour rule applies to experts. Not people that want to get good at something. He looked at masters of their occupations, from world-class musicians to pro athletes, and those that are on a completely different level of mastery.

After time, like I mentioned a moment ago, the 10,000 hour rule somehow boiled down to: in order to be good at anything you need to work at “that thing” for 10,000 hours.

Becoming Good to Great to Master

When we look at someone that’s a master at their game, whether it be sports, music, business, or relationships, we get overwhelmed and oftentimes give up before we even start. Mastery at anything does take time, but becoming good at something takes only a few weeks, if not hours.

To become good at anything, you need to break it down into smaller chunks that you can become good at. For example, if you wanted to become a guitar player, you don’t start off trying to play advanced solos and rhythms. As cool as it might be to start there, it’s just not going to work out that easily. What you want to do is break down the chords and learn to tune the guitar and hold the pick (the basics).

You can go down to your local music shop and pick up many guitar books and I am sure they’re stuffed with pages and pages of knowledge. However, if you’ve never played before, you might get overwhelmed. Most do. The better approach is to learn a few chords like the chords A, C, and G, which are in a lot of songs.

Talent can make your mastery happen faster, but hard work beats talent every time. If you have zero musicianship skills, I can bet that when you take the approach of breaking it down into smaller, bite-sized chunks, you will soon see just how easy it is to play the guitar.

Looking at a different subject like business, you can apply the same techniques to get good at doing business. For example, don’t try to have a million dollar business in one day. It’s possible to create a million dollar business overnight, but very unlikely. You might think that building a website, getting clients, hiring people, and building a downline sounds like a daunting task. Well… that’s because it is a lot of work. You need to take the bite-sized approach. Focus on landing your first customer. Having just one customer can tell you a lot about business.

Never underestimate customer feedback. Feedback within business is the ultimate currency.

Within 20-40 hours you can go from knowing absolutely nothing to being pretty damn good (if not great).

Josh Kaufman puts it like this in his TED Talk:

1. Deconstruct the skill.
2. Self-correct.
3. Remove barriers to learning.
4. Practice at least 20 hours.

Let me elaborate on each one of these four steps to becoming exceptionally great at anything.

1. Deconstruct the skill — this is where you break down and find the most important parts to start practicing. In the example of playing the guitar, you learn the basics, not the advanced solo stuff.

2. Self-correct — this is where you get some reference materials so that you can self-correct yourself when you mess up. Being able to understand when you make a mistake when learning a new skill will allow you to learn the skill so much faster.

3. Remove barriers to learning — this is a hard step for most, but it’s going to make or break you. You need to turn off your TV, phone, Facebook, and be in a distraction free zone when you’re practicing the skill. If, for example, you’re trying to learn a new language while the TV is on in front of you, it’s going to be almost impossible to learn it within 20-40 hours.

4. Practice at least 20 hours — ideally you want to span the hours towards the skill across multiple weeks. You could spend the next two days working at a skill for 10 hours a day. But, it’s much more effective to work at the skill for 40 minutes a day for the next month. It’s just like trying to get into shape in two days flat. It’s not going to have much effect when you compare it to constantly over time. Learning works in the exact same way.

20-40 hours amounts to just 40-80 minutes a day for a month, so what are you waiting for? I know that in Josh Kaufman’s TED Talk he says it’s 20 hours, but I think 40 hours is even better to becoming great at what you want to learn.

Break it down, look at what’s most important to the skill at hand, and get to work. It’s that easy. I’ve applied this to coding websites, sales, reading, photography, design, woodworking, speaking, communicating, and hundreds of other things. Flat out… it works!

I’ve become so good at applying the 20/40 hour rule to learning skills that I can almost master anything within a few weeks. No lie, it works! Try it and tell me what kind of results you had.

Scott “mastery is my drug” Hurtado