Becoming Good at Something

What if you could learn anything in 20 hours, what would you learn?

This was a question posed in an article recently shared by Time Magazine that my friend sent to me via Flipboard. I stopped all things to read the article – I was at work when I noticed the email, and the title “4 Ways to Learn Anything in 20 Hours” was an exciting distraction for a learner-type, and a great cue for a break.

Twenty hours is not much time at all. Since, on occasion, I consider going for the things I love to do, but that I’m not really good at, it’s the kind of topic I wonder about. My questions are will I really become an Italian conversationalist? and Could I actually become a painter or photographer? and Will I be a writer?

Are there 20 hours in my week, or rather my month, that I could fill with those things I love (or those things I wish I loved, so much that I’d give 20 hours or more to them)? I’m sure of it. I can take a one hour lunch break, and in 4 weeks, according to the Time article, I could “get good at something” such as… speaking Italian. Twenty hours, again, is not much time. I could spend 2.5 hours each on Saturday and Sunday every day for a month working on a painting or shooting photos. Or 5 hours one day a week for 4 weeks on a writing project.

If I practiced in this way for a month, wouldn’t it become habit? Mathematically, it would take 416 total days for mastering a skill; that’s 92 months; that’s a little under 8 years! Not too bad. Especially for those who have a teensy bit of natural talent, for a boost.

And then, in some areas, I wouldn’t be starting from scratch. I studied and spoke Italian in Italy for 3 months during college and formerly had several years of Spanish courses to build up my Latin language comprehension; I took a painting class in college and spent hours and hours on even just one canvas out of several projects that semester; I take photos from time to time even now, ten years after a high school photography class introduced me to the wonder of composition, chiaroscuro, and depth of field.

Plus, there are things I’d love to learn that I’ve never touched: violin, martial arts, French language. There are activities that are wonderful but which I don’t feel an urge to work on at this time: ballet/dance, piano, equestrian pursuits. What does it come down to? Narrowing one thing down, committing to it, setting the goal, and practicing (in 20 hours or more)!

 

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