They say an old dog cannot learn a new trick. I think that is categorically false.

If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.

5 years or 20 hours?


Would you be willing to spend 20 hours to acquire a new skill? That’s only about 40 minutes a day for a month. Compared with the 10,000 hours to master a skill this seems like a reasonable trade off.

Are you going to be a master carpenter, fluent in a language or capable of engineering a skyscraper with 20 hours of intensive study?

  • Of course not!
  • That’s not the point.
  • The point is … If you want to learn a skill. To really LEARN a skill you can get the basics down in 20 hours.

If all you want to do is understand a process or problem set this might be all you need.

If this is an exploratory profession or line of thinking you have only committed about 1 month to the effort.

If you find this to be something you are passionate about you will get to the 10,000 hour point. (probably in a lot less than 5 years too)

20 Hours for a new Skill

This seems like a pretty easy and workable timeframe, right?

It definitely beats the 10,000 hours espoused by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers: The Story of Success which was based on research by several other researchers in a few different fields.

What does it take to make it happen?

There is a simple Four Step Process that Josh Kaufman created. He is the author of The First 20 Hours.

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

The First 20 minutes of your Forty Minutes is to watch this video … Learn Anything in 20 Hours with This Four Step Method

There you have it.

Will you commit 20 hours?

That’s only about 40 minutes a day for a month. Can you turn off all your distractions and really focus? I think it is quite possible and I know it works.

Long before I had ever heard of this model for learning I needed to learn a programming language. We had just had our first baby and I didn’t have a lot of free time. So, from midnight until 1 am for about 3 weeks I committed my time to learn it. Guess what? It worked.

What will you learn?

  • What have you been thinking about, but not committed to yet?
  • Will you make a commitment now and put it in play?
  • For me I want to learn conversational Spanish. I’ll commit right here and now to put in 40 minutes for a month.

What do you want to do?

Drop me a note in comments if you are so inclined and well keep each other motivated.


Jeff  is a veteran in the Enterprise Content Management industry. Over the past 20 years he has worked with customers and partners to design, develop and deploy solutions around the world. Jeff is currently the Director of Strategic Alliances at Winshuttle. He has worked for Microsoft, FileNet (IBM), K2, Captaris, Open Text, Kofax and Kodak. He speaks and blogs about ECM and the Intersection between Social, Mobile and Cloud Computing.