How to Be Good at Everything (The Rapid Skill Learning Process) – College Info Geek Podcast

Check out The College Info Geek Episode Page & Show Notes

Key Takeaways

  • The definition of mastery is fluid, and some people pick up skills faster than others, so don’t take the 10,000-hour rule as gospel
  • 5 tips for skill-building:
    • Deconstruct the skill into the smallest possible subskills 
    • Practice > theory
      • Watching or reading about a craft is helpful, but practice is the main ingredient when it comes to skill acquisition
    • Space out your practice sessions
    • Practice in short bursts
      • Learning a new skill can be difficult at first, so you’re more likely to practice if you commit to just 10 minutes at a time
    • Remove the barriers standing between you and practice

Intro

Books Mentioned

Let’s Talk Books

  • Thomas and Martin both love to read
  • It’s estimated that it takes 10,000 hours to become a master at a specific craft
    • This idea originates from the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
    • That said, the definition of mastery is fluid, and some people pick up skills faster than others, so don’t take the 10,000-hour rule as gospel
      • And, to add: “Sometimes you don’t really need to be a master at what you’re doing to get the purpose you want out of it” – Martin Boehme
  • To learn more about how to rapidly acquire skills, Martin recommends reading The First 20 Hours by Josh Kaufman and The 4-Hour Chef by Tim Ferriss
    • You really only have to read the first chapter of The 4-Hour Chef to learn about skill acquisition; the rest of the book is about cooking

The Rapid Skill Learning Process

  • Tips for rapidly learning a skill from The First 20 Hours:
    • Deconstruct the skill into the smallest possible subskills 
    • Learn enough about each subskill to practice it intelligently; be able to self-correct
    • Remove the barriers standing between you and practice
    • Practice the most important subskills for at least 20 hours
  • Tips for rapidly learning a skill from The 4-Hour Chef:
    • Deconstruct the skill into subskills
    • Determine which 20% of subskills are most important
    • Sequence the subskills (determine in what order you need the learn the subskills)
    • Set up stakes to make sure you keep practicing

Additional Tips for Learning New Skills

  • Choose a loveable project – if you care you’ll go faster and farther
  • Focus your energy on one skill at a time
  • Make sure to define your target performance level
  • Create fast feedback loops
    • Humans are able to adapt quickly, especially when there’s feedback
  • In the beginning, practice in short bursts
    • Learning a new skill can be difficult at first, so you’re more likely to practice if you commit to just 10 minutes at a time
  • Emphasize high quantity over high quality
    • The more you do something, the better you’ll get at it
  • Practice > theory
    • Watching or reading about a craft is helpful, but practice is the main ingredient when it comes to skill acquisition
    • “In theory, theory and practice are the same, but in the practice, they’re not” – Martin Boehme
    • An example: Thomas spent hours studying figure skating on YouTube, but when he got on the ice, that knowledge didn’t translate well into actually being able to figure skate

An example: Mastering the Piano

  • If you wanted to master playing the piano, here’s what you would need to do:
    • Make time for deliberate practice
    • Removes barriers to practice
      • Find a place where you’ll have easy access to a piano or, better yet, buy an electronic keyboard
    • Make learning the piano a priority (this means sacrificing leisure time or other activities)
    • Define your target performance level (like learning a specific song that they’ve always wanted to be able to play)
    • Deconstruct the skill of playing the piano into subskills. For example:
      • Learning how to play a C-scale with your left hand, and then with your right hand
      • Afterward, learning how to play the C-scale with your left hand while playing a note with your right hand
      • Then, learning how to play scales simultaneously with both hands
      • Lastly, learning how each pedal works
    • Find songs to learn that are out of your zone of comfort, but not so difficult that it makes you want to quit
      • “People don’t like to be terrible at stuff for extended periods of time” –  Martin Boehme
    • Create a positive feedback loop – once you learn how to play an easy song, take that as a win and use it as motivation to move onto a harder song
    • Create stakes, such as booking several piano lessons at once so you’re more likely to follow through on your commitment
      • Use apps such as Beeminder or Habitica 
      • Another good idea is to have an accountability partner
    • Space out your practice sessions
      • Example: You’re more likely to remember a learned skill, and be happier in the learning process, if you practice for 30 minutes a day for one week (instead of 3-4 hours straight just one day a week)

Not Every Skill In Life Requires Mastery

  • You don’t have to be a master at every skill to derive joy from it
    • Martin has been learning woodworking and wants to get good enough to be able to create simple items, but has no intention of becoming a master at it
  • But, know this: “There’s a very big difference in the amount of progress you make with deliberate practice versus playing around” Thomas Frank
    • If you don’t care about the rate of improvement, play to your heart’s content

Anxiety is a Part of The Process

  • Don’t be surprised if you encounter anxiety while learning a new skill; it’s part of the process
    • Remember that the anxiety you’re feeling is more mental discomfort than physical discomfort
    • “Everyone who’s ever done the thing you want to do has probably dealt with some form of anxiety when they were at your level”Thomas Frank