Category Archives: Learning

“The First 20 Hours; How to Learn Anything … Fast”

I got my first guitar when I was 30 years old.

The first song I wanted to learn on guitar was Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” but fate had planned it a different way. The first song I actually learned to play on guitar was “Amanda” by Don Williams. Ironically, in that song there is a line where DW brags sings “I got my first guitar when I was 14; Now I’m crowding thirty and still wearing jeans“.

You don’t even need to do the math to realize that I came to the party very late. I was not as lucky or as privileged as Don or as those kids who start learning guitar when they are still on breast milk.  I was racing against time to learn even the most basic things about playing something that sounds like a real song.

It would make a great story if I said that then I came across this book and within the first 20 hours was able to learn to play guitar. It would sound great and motivating, but It would be a lie. Because that is not what happened.

The first 20  HoursWhen I walked out the music store with my new acoustic, I wasted another 1 to 2 years waiting for a guitarist colleague of mine to teach me how play the instrument. I didn’t even know that you had to tune the instrument to play it. It took a brother-in-law visiting us to learn that my guitar was not tuned.

Not tuned? What does that mean? 😦


Learning music-wise Its been a long (and sometimes a lonely) road from the year 2010, music-learning-wise. Its not been anything straight forward, but given how bad my start was, I am quite pleased with the place I am at. After hacking learning my way to playing guitar, I have gone on to learn how to play Bass and Keys; and now have a firm grasp of the theory behind popular music.

But if there is one thing that I have learned more than anything else during this period, its the fact that Talent is overrated and that you can learn anything if you get the right information knowledge and have sufficient time to practice and learn.

But how much time is “sufficient time?”This is the question that Josh Kaufman attempts not only to answer but demonstrate in “The First 20 Hours – How to Learn Anything Fast”.

The book had been on my wish-to-read list for a while and I had for that time thought I would never find it at my local (brick and mortar) bookstore. And for a long time I didn’t; until 3 weeks ago when I walked into Planet Bookshop at Lusaka’s Arcades Shopping Mall and accidentally found the book. In a weeks time, I was done reading it.

It is not the best book you will ever read on skill acquisition; a part of me was disappointed because, in terms of writing style, I found it to deliver far less that it promises. But I love the principle it is built on and it was good to see in there a lot of the things I did over a long period of the time I was learning to play guitar. In that regard, I didn’t consider it a bad read. It is a good addition to my library and will always cherish the principle back of it.

With the right knowledge and the right practice, you can cut the initial learning time exponentially on anything that you want to learn. The biggest challenge you will come across initially is knowing what you need to know.But that is why they invented the Internet.