Career Advice - A Community Blog

Erik Larson writes about the job market, resume improvement, and career advice

How to Learn Any New Skill Fast

Written by Erik Larson, Community Blogger | Aug 29, 2017 6:29 PM

Many people often put off acquiring a new skill because of the effort and time it takes to learn it, especially if they are also dealing with work or a family, or sometimes they are just simply afraid of failure. However, according to business advisor Josh Kaufman, scientists at John Hopkins University, and other experts, there are a number of ways to overcome your fears and learn a new skill, and fast, which can help put you on the right track towards bettering your life. 

Overcome Your Fears


Some people put off learning a new skill because they dread they may not perform well, which can lead to embarrassment. However, according to Kaufman, the way to overcome this fear is to simply let go of the idea that learning a new skill means that you have to be superb at it, which can discourage you and make it more challenging to get started. 

According to the business adviser, stereotypes can also play a role in people's fears as it can make them feel as if they are unable to learn a new skill. However, it is also possible for these individuals to overcome these apprehensions simply by following these rules, he adds. 

Embrace the Exploration Mode

Josh teaches that the first 20 hours of learning a skill is considered the exploration mode. It is during this time that you decide, after figuring out how the skill works, if you would like to pursue it further or not. In other words, this is the time when you have either decided that what you have learned has provided value, at which point you may choose to continue to practice the skill in order to reap more benefits, or you have decided that the skill was not for you and that to continue to practice it is not going to improve the results, at which time you may simply walk away. Embracing the exploration mode also helps take the fear out of learning a new skill knowing that if you at least try it and find that it's not for you, then you can simply walk away. 

Learn Along the Way

Experts say that in order to progress from exploration to proficiency, you need to think carefully on what you are learning; otherwise, it will not stick. Therefore, they suggest sharing your goals and consulting with individuals who can offer educational and emotional support, who will hold you responsible and help keep you truthful about your progress. 

Online courses provide a great way to learn a new skill, and in the comfort of your own home, which can help eliminate the time constraints and embarrassment often associated with traditional classrooms.

Define Exactly What it is That You Want to Be Able to Do

Deciding exactly what it is that you want to be able to do helps define your target performance level, which gives you a sort of blueprint for your actions. When defining your target performance level, Kaufman advises that you should be as detailed as possible because most people tend to fall off due to a lack of knowing exactly what it is they wanted to achieve. Therefore, remember, the more detailed your goals, the better, and then focus your efforts towards getting to that point. 

Dedicate Enough Time to Practice

Kaufman states that it takes approximately 20 hours to learn a new skill. However, he adds, the first few hours of learning something new can be challenging and frustrating, so be sure to endure it long enough to overcome the hurdle and see improvement, which typically occurs around the five to six hour mark for more challenging skills. 

Practice in Short Bursts

Energy and frustration play a huge part in learning a new skill. For instance, you may find that after a certain period of practicing, you notice that you are tired or frustrated, at which time practicing any further can become counterproductive. Therefore, you should practice in short bursts in order to remain productive. 

Vary Your Training

Researchers at John Hopkins University found that slightly varying your training can keep your brain more alert throughout the learning process, which actually helps you learn twice as fast as opposed to simply repeating the same task many times consecutively.

back to top

Give Now

Support for WITF is provided by:

Become a WITF sponsor today »


Support for WITF is provided by:

Become a WITF sponsor today »