How to Learn a New Skill

In his book “Outliers,” Malcolm Gladwell writes that it takes 10,000 hours to master a task. But what if you want to learn a new skill and don’t have 10,000 hours?  Here are some steps you can take:

Set realistic goals. If you want to learn to play the piano as an adult, odds are you won’t end up performing at Carnegie Hall. But if you want to play in a weekend band or entertain family members and friends at social gatherings, those goals could be more attainable.learn new skill

Seek advice from an expert. If you want to learn to bake cupcakes, you can take a class, read a book, or check out a website. Or maybe you have a friend or family member who is willing to spend some time in the kitchen with you. But you don’t want to start by devising your own recipe if you don’t know even know which ingredients go into a cupcake, much less what ratios.

Learn the basics. If you have the time, money and inclination to get extensive training from an expert, that’s great. But if you just want to learn enough chess to avoid getting checkmated in the first ten minutes, you can focus on some general principles rather than studying the intricacies of grandmasters’ games. You can also talk to a life coach.

Learn with others. If you do take a class, you will have the advantage of learning to bake alongside others. You can learn from each other’s mistakes and encourage each other.  Even if you are not in a class, you can still get together with a friend to try out your cupcake recipe. Or you can go online and ask for advice if your recipe does not result in a successful batch of cupcakes.

Don’t be afraid to look foolish.  If you’re learning to ski as an adult, you may find yourself sprawled in the snow while a seven-year-old glides by.  Or that seven-year-old may checkmate you on the chessboard.  You will only learn by doing, and it will be that much more satisfying when you make it down the slope on your own.

Practice. You may not have 10,000 hours, but if you don’t make at least some commitment to practice, you are unlikely to learn much about how to do your new skill.

Enjoy the process. If you are learning to play the piano, bake cupcakes, play chess or any other new skill, developing your skill will be a lot more rewarding if you actually enjoy doing it. If you are learning a skill as a way to develop a new hobby, there are numerous options out there if you discover that your first choice is not for you.  One person’s passion can be another person’s drudgery.

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