master a new skill

Want to master a new skill? It might be playing a musical instrument, learning a foreign language, or ice skating. Just how long will it take to get good at it? The often quoted answer is “10,000 hours.” The most quoted source is Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell.

In this TEDx Talk, Josh Kaufman points out that the “10,000 Hour Rule” originally referred to the amount of time required to become expert in a highly-specialized skill. Little-by-little, that idea has morphed into, “It takes 10,000 to get good at something.”

Kaufman shows this graph in his talk. The diagram is what we call “the learning curve.” When we first start, we have no skill in that area. With a little practice, we make improvement quickly. At some point, that improvement begins to level off. More time is required to realize additional improvement.


Kaufman was interested in how much time is required to get to the point where the curve and the orange line intersect. In other words, he wanted to know how much time is required to get “reasonably good”…not “expert”…just “reasonable good” at a new skill.

Kaufman sets the magic number at 20 hours, or about 45 minutes every day for a month. The video provides suggestions on how to make that 20 hours more efficient.

What do you want to learn how to do? You may be only 20 hours away.