How to Learn a New Skill Quickly: A 4-Step Process

How to Learn a New Skill Quickly: A 4-Step Process

Hey what’s going on guys? So today we are tackling how you can learn new
skills incredibly quickly. Over the course of this video, I’m gonna share a four step process that you can use to take any skill, whether it’s related to
school or your future career, or whether it’s just a fun
one like guitar or cooking, and break that skill down so that you can learn
as much as you need to about the most important parts and then start practicing them effectively so you can gain basic
proficiency really really fast. Now this process we’re gonna talk about applies to any skill, because at its core, skill development, whether
it’s really physical like basketball or whether it’s really
mental like mathematics, it’s all learning. As you intake information about the skill, and as you practice it, you’re forging new neural
pathways in your brain, you’re connecting them
with other neural pathways, and you’re strengthening them over time. As you do this, you move though what’s
called the three stage model or skill acquisition, which starts with the cognitive stage where you’re just
learning about the skill, and you’re just forming
those neural pathways. Then moves into the associative stage where you’re doing a lot more practice, and now you’re able to
sort of self reflect and pick out mistakes and change things based on those mistakes. And eventually you move
into the autonomous stage. At that point you have mastered the skill, and it’s basically able
to be done automatically. And this autonomous phase takes a really long time to get to. Mastery takes a lot of hours of practice. But that doesn’t mean
you’re doomed to spend dozens of hours in the beginning phases, because if you know how
to structure the learning and the practice processes the right way, you can make a surprising
amount of progress in a very very short period of time. In fact, in his book The First 20 Hours, author Josh Kaufman
argues that you can learn basic proficiency in almost
any skill that exists in under 20 hours of dedicated practice. And his process for doing this breaks down to a series of four distinct steps. And in a second we’re
gonna go over those steps, but first I wanna issue
you a bit of a challenge. If you’re sitting there
watching this video, and you have a skill you’ve
been wanting to learn, use this framework to create
a plan for doing that. Once the video’s over, take out a piece of
paper and create a plan going through each of the steps, and then start putting it into action. So the first step in Kaufman’s process is to deconstruct the skill. Basically you break it down
into its component parts, and then you prioritize those parts based on your particular
goals within that skill area. Now to give you an example let’s talk about playing the guitar. A lot of people want to play the guitar, but there are lots of different
ways to play the guitar. There’s tons of different musical genres, you might want to just
play a few different songs, or maybe you want to be like Slash or like DragonForce guitarists and be rippin’ solos all day long, right? These are very different skills. So, by breaking it down
into individual sub-skills, chords, scales, picking technique, reading tabs, understanding
musical intervals, you end up with a list of building blocks that you can then prioritize
and take action on. The second step in Kaufman’s process is the education step. Basically at this point you
want to take each sub-skill that you’ve prioritized
and learn enough about it that you can practice well and identify your
mistakes and self-correct. Now notice I said enough
about each sub-skill, not as much as you can
about each sub-skill. Because I know personally
I’m the kind of guy who will walk into Barnes & Noble and look at every single book on the shelf related to what I’m interested in, and think, I should buy
every single one here and read them all before getting started. And that’s just not how good
skill development works, especially if you want to do it quickly. You need to learn just
enough about each sub-skill so that you can start practicing, getting your hands dirty,
and making mistakes, because then you’re gonna
know what you should correct. Alright, step number three in the process is to eliminate any
potential barriers to success or barriers to your
progress and your practice. And in my mind, the most likely thing
that’s gonna get in the way of your practice is a lack of
motivation in the long-term. So, find a way to motivate
yourself on a constant basis. Maybe it’s having an
accountability partner, maybe it’s joining a
forum where you can talk about your interest, or maybe it’s just making a record of every single day you practice so you can see a chain developing that you don’t want to break. Alright, so skill has been deconstructed, learning has been done, and barriers have been sliced
in half with a samurai sword. We are now on the fourth and
final step of the process which is simply to practice deliberately. In The First 20 Hours, Josh Kaufman’s rule is that you
should practice deliberately until you’ve achieved your
goals for each sub-skill that you prioritized, or until you’ve hit 20
hours of dedicated practice. And what he recommends is that you actually practice
by using a timer or a clock, and track the amount of hours you put in. Because when you’re practicing
something difficult, it can be really really
easy to overestimate how much time you spend practicing. Now that we’ve gotten through
the four step process, I want to give you a few additional tips you can use to make your
skill development journey even more successful. And the first one is to identify the work of somebody who is a master or somebody who is where you want to be. Analyze that work as best as you can, and then try to imitate it. Now a lot of people are gonna say, this is copying, this
is ripping people off, but actually as long as
you’re not passing off this work as your own, this is how a lot of
people learn their skills. And in fact in Japanese martial arts, there’s a concept called shuhari that is exactly this. And in music, it’s the same. The famous jazz trumpet player Clark Terry believed that imitation was in fact an essential part of
becoming a great musician. And he told his students
that music learning happens in a three stage process, which he called imitate,
assimilate, and innovate. Here’s what he said about
the role of imitation. “By imitating the players you love, “you’ll begin to understand the music “on a deeper level and begin
to see a personal sound “develop in your own
approach to improvisation. “Questions that can’t be answered “by music theory or etude books, “like how to play longer
lines or how to articulate “and swing, will reveal
themselves as you start “to imitate the masters.” Part of the reason this
tactic works so well is it gives you a method
to go way way beyond your comfort zone and your
current level of skill. Because if you can take
something that a master made, and you can analyze it from every angle, you can probably recreate
certain aspects of it even if you don’t know
exactly what you’re doing or why you’re doing it. Then later on as you’re kinda
backfilling your knowledge by learning the theory
and all the fundamentals, you’re gonna be able to say, oh that’s why I did that,
or that’s how I did that. I didn’t understand it at
first, but now I get it. And I kind of have like
a rung to pull myself up because I did that work
in the first place. The Stanford mathematics
professor Ravi Vakil called it backfilling. And here’s how he described
it in terms of mathematics. “mathematics is so rich and infinite “that it is impossible to
learn it systematically, “and if you wait to master one topic “before moving on to the next, “you’ll never get anywhere. “Instead, you’ll have
tendrils of knowledge “extending far from your comfort zone. “Then you can later backfill
from these tendrils, “and extend your comfort zone.” Of course, another way
to learn from the masters is to simply be taught by them. Which is why another way
you can really accelerate your skill development process is by finding a teacher
or a coach or a course that you can take. Now I know from personal experience, having a coach or somebody
who can tell you your mistakes is probably the most
valuable thing in the world. But you don’t have to let
geography be a limiting factor in your access to teachers because there are 100s
of 1000s of tutorials and online courses that
you can use for basically any skill that you’re trying to learn. And one place where you
can find those courses that I wanna let you know about is Skillshare, who’s actually
the sponsor of this video. Now Skillshare is an
online learning community that has over 12,000 courses
in a ton of different subjects. And I’ve actually been
taking a few of those in After Effects animation, but they also have courses in photography, graphic design, logo design, and things like cooking,
guitar, presentation skills. In fact, they have a
presentation skills class from Simon Sinek who
gave probably my favorite TED talk of all time. But one of the reasons
I really like Skillshare is that it gives you the
ability to get feedback from both your teacher
and from other people who are taking the same course. There’s two ways it does this. Number one, below the videos
in any course you’re taking there’s a comments section. And if you ask a question,
you can get an answer from the course instructor. But also, most of the
courses on Skillshare have a participation component. Basically there is a project
section of the course where you can upload your
own work for feedback. Now a membership to Skillshare is normally around $8 a month, which is right around the
same price as Netflix, and potentially a lot more useful. But, if you wanna get three months of completely unlimited use on Skillshare, you can get it for 99
cents by using the link in the description below, and I’ll have a few
more details about that at the end of the video. Before we end this video though, I’ve got three additional tips for you. And all three of them relate to making your practice sessions more effective and more useful. The first one is find a way to record some of the practice you do. Now you don’t have to record all of it, but recording some of
it is gonna allow you to analyze your performance, see the mistakes you’re making, and make improvements. And this is something my skating coach actually told me to do. She said bring your iPhone to the rink, set it up on a tripod, and film yourself practicing the moves you have to practice for the competition. Because if you can’t
see what you’re doing, you don’t really know
how to make improvements. My friend Martin also does
this with Spanish practice. One thing he does is
have an impromptu speech in Spanish with his webcam, so that way he can go back
and analyze his accent, his rate of speech, if he
made any grammatical errors, et cetera. Secondly, if you want to
accelerate your development process and actually get good, you need to make time for hyperfocused and honestly lengthy practice sessions. Now I was gonna say when
I was writing this script that you could just do 20 minutes a day or 10 minutes a day of practice, as long as it was consistent. But when I got to thinking, I couldn’t think of a
single skill that I have that I’m proud of, that
I think I’m truly good at where I just put in 10 minutes a day or 20 minutes a day of practice. I mean, After Effects, public
speaking, skateboarding, figure skating, all the things
I think I’m pretty good at, I spend hours and hours of practice on. And each individual session
was honestly quite lengthy. And lastly, as you practice
you want to vary up the stakes. When you’re learning a new sub-skill, you want to start with low stakes where you’re in a very
low stress situation, there’s not much of a
threat of consequence. And then move to higher stakes situations where there is some pressure. And video game design is
a perfect example of this, because if you analyze
almost any video game, as it teaches the player a new skill, it usually gives them a space where there’s some isolated practice. Where you can basically practice the skill with not much else going
on, very little threats, the opponents aren’t hitting back. And then, once you’ve
gotten it down there, you move it into an actual situation where the opponents do hit back or when things are happening faster and when there’s very low margin for error or there’s some consequences. If you look at real word skills, this principle applies just as well. I mean look at learning a new language. When you know absolutely nothing, you need some low stress
periods to drill flashcards, or learn vocabulary, but then to really up your skills and solidify what you’ve learned, you might do something like
scheduling a conversation with somebody on Skype or even
going to a foreign country and talking with people face-to-face. Now I know we went over
a ton of different tips in this video, and because of that there
might be a temptation for you to wait for a perfect moment to start building your skill when you can plan everything out, when you can integrate every single tip, but if you take nothing
else away from this video, just take this away. The best time to start
learning a skill is now, even if you have an imperfect
implementation plan, even if you start really slowly. If you can start making some mistakes, start learning some initial foundational pieces of that skill, that’s gonna help you
build into the future. So whatever it is,
whatever you want to learn, something career focused,
something totally fun, make a plan for implementing it, use that four step process, and then just get started. Once again, I want to give a
big thank you to Skillshare for sponsoring this video. This is actually my first sponsored video, so let me know what you thought about it in the comments down below. But I’m a big fan of
Skillshare personally, so it was a no-brainer for me. And if you want to try it, once again you can try that
link in the description below for three months of unlimited
use for just 99 cents. Or if you’re on the site, you can use the promo code
beard when you sign up, because hey it’s me. Beyond that, if you enjoyed this video, I’d love to hear what you thought about it in the comments down below. Definitely ask me
questions if you have them, and I’ll try to get ’em
answered in future videos or in the comments themselves. And also if you enjoyed this video, give it a like to support this channel. You can subscribe right there if you want to get new
videos very single week on being more productive and improving your learning capabilities. Or you can click right down there if you want to watch another video. See you in the next one.

100 thoughts to “How to Learn a New Skill Quickly: A 4-Step Process”

  1. this is an awesome addition to the 20 hr mastery for learning a new habit, which you touched on. I am going to heed your advice and implement your 4 step process

  2. Hello, Thomas! Thanks for all words you said ! I very happy for it ! You made my life better than yesterday. I am learning to speak English, please correct my English if there are some mistakes ! Thanks a lot !

  3. A really good video i always wnat to learn how to draw, how could i implement this awose advice to that??

  4. Thank you so much for this video, and specially for talking about learning jazz improvisation.
    I think that jazz is a beautiful and useful analogy for almost every skill.

  5. This guy is a genius. I have watched and looked up so many ways to do certain stuff and then I find him and can't stop watching. It is amazing.

  6. Hi Thomas,

    I have a question I very confused about.
    For example: I took a course online, and the lecturer taught us to build a simple app like passing data between view controller, so at first was confused and didn't get it too much. After that I repeated doing it over and over again without the video. So I spent a lot of time in this single practice. So my question is, is this the right way to learn to code ? Or what will you recommend to a new IOS programmer like me?

  7. I have recently started learning guitar and eecently got into dragonforce a lot so that was really awesome

  8. Deconstruct the skill
    Learn about each sub-skills
    Eliminate barriers to success
    Practice deliberately, track time

    Be taught by someone
    Record your practice
    Long and focused practice
    Vary the stakes when practicing
    Start now

  9. Does it have courses about singing/piano/djing? I really want to imitate Nick Murphy (chet faker) I'm not in a rush and I've been developing my deep work skills so it will be great to try that. Please if some user can respond🙏🏼👍🏼

  10. Thank you for sharing useful tips on learning and what works for you. Your providing so much value to your viewers you really should be given more recognition.

  11. Would really appreciate if you can share the entire list of tips at the end of the video. Thanks keep up the good work.

  12. thank U so much Thomas for all these really helpful information, and there is a question that i want to ask you about,
    how you manage your emotions between what you do for your routine work and what you do as a youtuber?

  13. I agree with everything in the video but it's 2:00 AM… I dont think now is the right time to start learning a skill Thomas.

  14. It is also important to remember to take breaks, no matter what you are learning. If you have 5 hours to spend learning something, spend at least 30 minutes, in 15 minutes breaks in the middle. Research strongly suggests that we assimilate what we have learned during breaks.

    Once you have become strong in a topic, a break may just be just doing a low intensity version for a little while. But when you are starting out, you should do something quite different: take a walk if you are sedentary while studying, get a snack, converse in English with a friend, etc.

    When you return to the topic at hand you will be refreshed (to some degree) and your brain will have had some time to categorize the new information. These are actually the same thing: if you are not feeling at all refreshed, you probably need a longer break.

  15. What's your opinion on learning skill on-by-one vs multiple skills together in terms of efficiency ?
    I mean, learning one skill by dedicating more time to it to a point where we get good enough that no more time investment is needed & then move to the next one.
    Learning little pieces of let's say 2 skills everyday consistently so that everything remains fresh in memory.

  16. In the classical model, we use the framework called the trivium. All learning starts with the grammar stage (facts, overview, terms, key ideas, survey, timelines, etc.) then moves into the dialectic (practice, imitate, begin to create your own, make mistakes, refine, discuss, etc.), and ultimately the rhetoric (teach, originate, express). It's how we're designed to learn. I watch kids in our classical program move back and forth through these stages. Nothing new under the sun. But you did a great job breaking it down.

  17. I have made a video about this topic, too! I hope you like it in addition to this amazing content here. 🙂

  18. Hello Thomas, I really like your videos, you tell in this video that you train your working memory, can you tell me some of the exercise that you do for this?


  19. #question
    How to learn a skill or behavior you rarely use? Like asking questions, presenting, focusing when distracted, thinking positive when you are down, helping when help is due, …. so classic learning does not work, since you need the context / situation to actually practice. So when the triggers appear you must remember that you want to learn and recall what you have already learned.
    Any ideas or experiences how to accomplish that?

  20. Excellent video! There are also lots of great books out there to learn how to master a skill. Some personal favorites are: Mastery by Robert Greene and The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle. I recently did a summary/ review on The Talent Code if anyone wants to check that out (-:

  21. Thanks. Could be useful for the hardest subject of all (harder than Math, Algebra, physics, philosophy): programming (coz' it's a combination of all that and more). God bless, Proverbs 31

  22. Whoooooa Thomas! I watch your video out of curiosity and my class on Skillshare shows up @6.58 thank you so much for taking it and ….I hope you enjoyed it somehow and learned something about AE 🙂 Wish you best of luck with anything you learn!

  23. Thomas. I found your channel couple weeks ago during my preparation to take the TOEFL exam. I’m now your fan. Congratulations for the content and for the inspiring person you’re. Thank you so much for share your knowledge. Greetings from São Paulo – Brazil.

  24. If I wanna learn computer hacking, can I just grab a course on Udemy and watch every video of the course? But I start to lose interest with the course as time passes by…..what should I do?

  25. Thanks for the tips.. but can we practice all of the skills that we want in one day? I mean, can our brain handle that kind of practice or is it a waste of time?? For example, I want to learn trumpret, piano and programming.(just for example).

  26. Thanks Man
    I've just started a new job and learning a new skill is a must there and the problem is that theres only 1 person doing what I have to manage and also they are transferring the skill to someoneelse while they are actually doing the job is its online and needed almost urgently everyday AND I'm trying to learn a the same time without disturbing much the work flow.😏

    Your explanation has helped me to understand the steps and to realize what I have to do👊🏾

  27. Thomas would you please consider doing a video on how to be a better speaker? You mentioned you went through hours of intense sessions in the process of becoming such a good public speaker, you must have had some techniques you stuck to?


  28. Thanks
    I am looking to go to self taugh programmer route and it is very hard decision to take.
    Thanks for this motivational video

  29. I have been trying to learn the skill of sewing and been taking fabric to practice but people tell me that fabric is for people who are really good with sewing is that true?

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