FREE QUIZ!What's your Calm Business Bottleneck?
What’s keeping your business from steady, sustainable growth? Take the quiz to find out—and get tips on how to grow a thriving digital products business without burning out.
Don’t show this again, thanks!
146 – Learn A New Skill Using The 20-Hour Rule by Josh Kaufman

Wandering Aimfully Through Our Podcast: What is it all for?

146 – Learn A New Skill Using The 20-Hour Rule by Josh Kaufman

It’s not just about doing something for 20 hours, it’s about deliberate, intentional practice.
Jason ZookJason Zook Jason ZookJason Zook

Written by

Jason Zook

Listen to our full episode on The 20-Hour Rule (by Josh Kaufman) below (with full transcript) or find our podcast by searching What is it all for? in your favorite podcast player.

Five Key Takeaways for The 20-Hour Rule (by Josh Kaufman)

1. According to Josh Kaufman, it takes 20 hours to learn and get good at a skill

Josh Kaufman’s work discovered that the time it takes to go from being completely inept at something to being good at it is 20 hours. For example, you can go from not knowing how to play guitar to (maybe) playing a song in 20 hours. Some caveats to this would be, you have to practice intentionally, go in with a plan, look up related resources, know what it’s like to be good at the skill you want to learn and log the hours.

2. Invest in resources to learn a new skill

Back when I (Jason) was playing basketball in high school, I just practiced by myself. I picked up a basketball and just shot hoops in my driveway. I really did not get much better. Fast forward to trying out for the basketball team, someone started telling me the right shooting form and after a few hours I got so much better, so much faster, because someone was giving me the RIGHT tools and tips to do it.

In the online business space, it’s the same thing. You can sit at your computer and try and figure out how to use Squarespace (for example) on your own without doing any research and realize it’s very difficult. But when you watch a couple of instructional YouTube videos or join a Squarespace group where everyone’s sharing their advanced tips, then you’re leveling up much faster.

3. Set an intention for the time you dedicate towards your 20 hours

In this container of 20 hours, identify a skill that you want to acquire and put together a schedule of intentional practice and repetition for yourself that allows you to control what you can control, which is your time and focus.

Josh Kaufman points out it will take roughly 45 minutes a day for a month to complete the 20 hours.

In those 45 minutes, set an intention of what you want to focus on, not necessarily what your end goal would be. Try to chip away at your dedicated time not feeling like it’s this huge 10,000 hours for five years but intentionally practicing for a few minutes to an hour every day for a month, which feels so much more doable.

A crucial part of the 20-hour investment is also being able to self-critique and know when you need to up-level the skill.

Looking back at our year of full-time travel, Caroline shares about her flight anxiety, where she thinks of every flight as an intentional practice. She uses her toolkit of things to lower her anxiety, such as getting into a meditative state and having a playlist to listen to.

At the beginning of this year, Caroline had one song on her playlist that was the gateway song that got her into the meditative state to be able to keep her breathing steady. Through intentional practice, she tried taking off without that one song. And then she mastered that until she was not even listening to the song at all. Through repetition, she was able to change her ability to stay grounded and calm in something that was a very anxiety-inducing situation for her.

Focus on the input rather than the outcome. In other words, focus on what you can control, which is what you put into learning a new skill.

4. Becoming a “good enough-er” can get you far too

In the society that we exist in, especially in the online business space, we often hear about this idea of mastery, i.e. you have to be a Notion master or you have to be an expert at Squarespace or you have to be a guru at online marketing. How about just being a “good enough-er”?

Get good enough at writing email newsletters that people want to open every week. Get good enough at creating Instagram content that people enjoy getting on their feed if it shows up. Just get good enough at all these skills that you feel confident in them.

5. Learning a new skill is more attainable than you think

So many people have something that they want to do but they’re holding themselves back because they’re living in the 10,000-hours expert world instead of the 20-hour good-enough-er world.

What we want is to give you the permission and confidence that it doesn’t take that much, it is possible, you can take a step forward in acquiring that skill or doing that thing or working towards that goal, and it’s more attainable than you think it is.

Show Notes for Episode 146: The 20-Hour Rule (by Josh Kaufman)

We want to be 100% transparent with you: The 20-hour rule is NOT something we came up with. We watched Josh Kaufman’s TEDx talk and realized this concept was very applicable to how we’ve learned or adapted to new things, especially one thing this year: Caroline’s flight anxiety.

🎥 Watch Josh Kaufman’s TEDx talk:

While the super-popular 10,000-hour rule has merit, we think the 20-hour rule makes a lot more sense and is a lot more realistic for the majority of us who just want to learn a new skill or educate ourselves in some way. But, it’s not just about doing something for 20 hours, it’s about deliberate, intentional practice. You may not become an “expert” in 20 hours (or 45 minutes per day for 30 days), but who actually needs to become an expert at anything these days? Becoming “good enough” at most things can get you REALLY far! Trust us, we know!

Hope you enjoy this convo and if you have ONE skill you’re trying to learn right now and going to put the 20-hour rule to the test, email us and let us know about it.

✈️ Our pramvel takes you through our second trip to one of our favorite places this year, Ballybunion, Ireland. We had a ton of fun staying in the modern beach house again in this tiny Irish town. Hope you enjoy our chat about it!

Full Transcript of Episode 146: The 20-Hour Rule (by Josh Kaufman)

⬇️ You can also download the .TXT file of the transcript

Caroline: Welcome to What Is It All for? A podcast designed to help you grow your online business and pursue a spacious, satisfying life at the same time. We’re your host, Jason and Caroline Zook, and we run Wandering Aimfully, an unboring business coaching program. Every week, we bring you advice and conversations to return you to your most intentional self and to help you examine every aspect of your life and business by asking, What is it all for? Thanks for listening. And now let’s get into the show.

Jason: And I’m here too.

Jason: Starting a podcast, you know? Just had some shin injuries right before this. Just some micro injuries.

Caroline: Some shinjuries.

Jason: Yeah, you learned about micro injuries.

Caroline: I stumbled across a tweet or something that was like, I’m not on Twitter, but eventually the good ones make their way to my sphere. And it says something along the lines of, like, the idea of getting older and how you just start to accumulate micro injuries. Like, oh, sorry, I just swallowed my water too hard.

Jason: I brushed my teeth wrong and injured my gums.

Caroline: Yeah, and this is like the day after I just adjusted myself on the couch and tweaked my back. I was just like, what?

Jason: Yeah.

Caroline: Oh, I’m sorry, I just adjusted my position on the couch.

Jason: For those of you who are in your late 30s, 40s, 50s, and beyond, the thing that just always boggles my mind is I distinctly remember the sounds like my mom and my grandparents would make, like, getting up off of couches. I’m like.

Caroline: Like, the grunts.

Jason: Why do you always make noise when you get up? And now I catch myself, I’m by myself and I’m like, ughh. It’s not that arduous. Like, maybe it is. I don’t know. Hello and welcome back to our podcast. Thank you so much. Can I just say something real quick? Thank you so much to everybody who dealt with all those ads that we had to do. We got to pay the bills. This podcast doesn’t happen for free. Listen, we have recording equipment, we have a producer, we have a writer, we have an editor, we have a publisher, we have a podcast content strategist. All of those people have to get paid. By the way, they’re us. And so that’s why we promoted our own thing last week for a couple of episodes.

Caroline: And thank you for that.

Jason: For all of you who might be new WAIMers listening, hello!

Caroline: Welcome, to all of you new WAIMers who joined us. It is just the best time of year when we get a new just energy in the group and new people to learn about their businesses and how we can help them. It’s my favorite thing.

Jason: Am I allowed to say fresh WAIM blood?

Caroline: I don’t think so. I wouldn’t.

Jason: As I was saying it.

Caroline: In your mind, you were like, ooh, fresh blood? And you’re like.

Jason: No, no, I didn’t want to say fresh blood because that’s very graphic. It’s fresh WAIM blood, which do you know what that is?

Caroline: WAIM blood.

Jason: It’s orange flavored, lightly orange zested, cream cheese icing for the cinnamon rolls. What’s up? What’s up, cinnamon rollers?

Caroline: That’s WAIM blood is lightly orange zested cream.

Jason: Cream cheese frosting. Yeah.

Caroline: Your brain, it goes to places.

Jason: And I’m not even the one who listens to, like, murder podcasts before bed, so it should be you.

Caroline: Okay.

Jason: Oh, you’ve shared this many times before.

Caroline: There’s something deeply psychologically wrong with me. Like, listen.

Jason: The fact that you listen but you’re not alone by any means, because we had folks that reached out.

Caroline: But that’s what makes it more shocking.

Jason: Yeah. We had folks that reached out when we shared this before in the podcast.

Caroline: Somebody needs to do that research project of, like, why? What is it about the type of person?

Jason: Yeah.

Caroline: And I have very specific podcasts. There’s only, like, one or two that I’ll listen to. I don’t like the ones that make it overly.

Jason: Like, gory?

Caroline: I never got into the comedy. I don’t know, I just.

Jason: Like comedy murder podcasts? Is that what you’re saying?

Caroline: There’s like comedy murder podcast.

Jason: Really?

Caroline: Yeah.

Jason: Oh, wow. Yeah. I don’t live in that world.

Caroline: That’s not judgment. You can have a dark sense of humor. I get it. There is something to the fact of, like, they’re real people, these things, so I try to just listen to the ones that honor the victims’ situations.

Jason: What are your three buckets of podcast topics that you listen to?

Caroline: Okay. Personal growth.

Jason: Yeah. Murder?

Caroline: Crime and/ or, I’m really into this one podcast right now. It’s called American Scandal.

Jason: Okay.

Caroline: And it’s sort of like these.

Jason: Oh, I don’t, I don’t really.

Caroline: No, no, excuse you. You asked a question.

Jason: Oh, I asked what the buckets were. I didn’t want to know, like, the soliloquy about the podcast.

Caroline: Do you know who you’re married to? Did you know who you’re married to?

Jason: I thought you’re going to ask if I knew what a soliloquy was, which I don’t.

Caroline: Do you know the difference between a soliloquy and a monologue?

Jason: I know the difference between a synonym and an an-onym. Antonym? Ant? An antman. I know the difference between cinnamon and an ant man.

Caroline: And they’re different.

Jason: And they are different.

Caroline: I’ll tell you how.

Jason: So you have crime, you have personal growth, and then what’s the last one?

Caroline: Okay, you’re going to let me finish my thought here.

Jason: Oh, my gosh.

Caroline: And I am sorry, but this is called a conversation, and you should try it sometimes.

Jason: It’s not. No, it’s not, because I asked a question and I’m getting an answer I don’t want. I wanted just the buckets. That’s all I wanted.

Caroline: Then don’t ask the question.

Jason: But I wanted just the buckets. Go on.

Caroline: This is what happens when you shin-jure me before the podcast, okay?

Jason: You dropped one iPhone 14/ 13 on someone’s shins and a recording device.

Caroline: Yeah, a very heavy.

Jason: That wasn’t my fault, though.

Caroline: That’s probably the weight of four to five iPhones.

Jason: That’s seven Cinnabons is what that was.

Caroline: And my shins still hurt.

Jason: But it’s sharp.

Caroline: American Scandal is about.

Jason: Oh my gosh.

Caroline: These couple of things that I kind of knew in the ether, like Watergate, the Watergate scandal.

Jason: Yeah.

Caroline: I didn’t know very much about it. I just sort of what you pick up.

Jason: They’re like American scandals.

Caroline: Yeah, they’re like a scandal in America. Anyway, so I listen to that before bed sometimes. And then my third bucket would have to be… what would it be?

Jason: So just two buckets?

Caroline: I think those are the two buckets. I don’t have a lot of time to listen to podcasts, honestly.

Jason: I understand. My three buckets are online business stuff, kind of like SaaS-focused, so Software as a Service, for those of you don’t know. Software Social is one. Build Your SaaS is another one. Then I have movies. So I have a couple of movie podcasts that I really like. So I Hate It, But I Love It. And then How Did This Get Made? That’s a bunch of favorites. And then my last one’s cooking. So I have Sporkful and I have Dave Chang Show, and then there’s a couple others that pop up every once in a while. This is just my podcast buckets, I’m sure.

Caroline: Just currently. It’s always shifting.

Jason: Mine have not shifted for years.

Caroline: Yeah, I’ve heard you before though. Sometimes you’ll listen to more current events stuff. Sometimes you listen to more, like, shifting.

Jason: Cool. Thanks for sharing your podcast buckets. And then that extra podcast story that no one cared about or needed to hear. Let’s pramvel it. You want to pramvel it?

Caroline: Let’s do it.

Jason: For those of you who don’t know, we do a little segment at the beginning of these episodes that actually normally happens about six minutes ago, but we went on a cinnamon soliloquy and we talk about our travels because we are traveling full time this year. We’ve been doing it since January. We have been to how many countries?

Caroline: Nine?

Jason: Twelve? We have stayed at how many Airbnbs?

Caroline: Over 30.

Jason: We have visited how many different places that have cows?

Caroline: A couple.

Jason: I mean, probably like ten. There’s been so many cows.

Caroline: Yeah, we have seen a lot of cows. This just hit me the other day, and I’ll share it with the listeners, but I had a realization in the shower that since we left on this journey, the second week of January of this year, 2022.

Jason: Yes.

Caroline: We’ve not been in the same four walls for more than three weeks.

Jason: Yeah. More than two weeks, really.

Caroline: Yes. We’ve been in places for more than two weeks, but never more than three weeks. Which is so wild to think about, because I just keep thinking to myself, like, what happens in that third week?

Jason: The world opens up.

Caroline: The comfort really opens up in that third week.

Jason: Yeah.

Caroline: And it’s just been a different way to live, which is what we wanted. We just wanted to make ourselves uncomfortable. We wanted to have memories we would never forget. We wanted to enjoy the fruits of our labor. Like, we, this is maybe a whole other podcast episode that we haven’t talked about, but just this idea of enjoyment. And I was thinking lately how sometimes it can feel incredibly indulgent and incredibly almost like guilt-inducing sometimes to be like this year we basically took a step back, kind of, from our business, and we said, let’s just go into maintenance mode. Let’s still, obviously be there for our WAIMers and give it our all.

Jason: We got to get that fresh WAIM blood flowing.

Caroline: Yeah, of course. And be present with our people. But let’s not try to work towards any major growth.

Jason: It’s not a growth year.

Caroline: It’s not a growth year. It’s not a new project year. It’s really a sort of step back and be present in your own life and enjoy the fruits of what we’ve put in for the past many years. And I don’t feel like as a society, we’re very good at enjoyment.

Jason: No, because the only societal enjoyment, especially in the US culture, because that’s what we grew up in, is retirement. That’s what you look forward to.

Caroline: Right. It’s like work, and then maybe one day you’ll be able to enjoy it.

Jason: Exactly.

Caroline: And so, yeah, that was part of what this year was, was this experimenting with this idea of it’s not a sabbatical year, but like sort of a half sabbatical, if you will. A sabbat.

Jason: Half sabbat.

Caroline: Half sabbat.

Jason: Anyway, so the pramvel section, now that we’re nine minutes into this episode, we haven’t even talked about anything, is where we go over one of our travel adventures with you, and we’ve kind of gone in chronological order. So if you go back through every episode that we recorded this year, you’ll hear us talk about where we were, like, a couple of weeks before. So a couple of weeks ago, we were back in a familiar destination. We went to Ballybunion. Ballybunion is such a special little place on this earth.

Caroline: It’s a beach town on the west coast of Ireland. And it is.

Jason: So small.

Caroline: So small.

Jason: One street. When you think of a small European town that has one street, this is it. It’s exactly that. And it’s amazing. It’s so cute. It’s so adorable.

Caroline: And what’s really special about it is that it has these beaches. I don’t know how many exactly.

Jason: There’s a couple. There’s Nuns Beach. There’s Mens Beach. There’s Women’s Beach.

Caroline: I don’t know. More than two.

Jason: Yeah.

Caroline: At least two. Two beaches that jut up against these rugged cliffs that are just huge, like, raising out of the.

Jason: Ocean.

Caroline: Ocean.

Jason: Yeah.

Caroline: Words are hard.

Jason: Water, salty water.

Caroline: And so you have this combination of these cliffs where the cliffs meet the beach, and it just feels really special. And the people are so small town, like, kind, and everyone knows everyone. And our Airbnb host is, like, now our friend.

Jason: Well, and honestly, the best thing about Ballybunion is the Airbnb. So there are four homes, four, that are on the beach.

Caroline: One of the beaches.

Jason: But all the other beaches, there’s not a home on them.

Caroline: Right.

Jason: So if you picture, like, there’s all these different little beach alcoves that you can, like, park and walk down to or whatever, none of them have homes except for one that has four and we were able to stay in an Airbnb on it, and it’s just unbelievable. So when we stayed there earlier this year, we just fell in love. It may be our top Airbnb of the year. You’ll have to find out in a future podcast episode. And we actually go through and, like, think about all that. But it just it’s like you have these big windows, they look out on that salty water you were talking about. You see the cliffs that are emerging from that salty water. You see all the people playing on the beach with their doggos and their kids and just all kinds of things going on. And so that really, to me, made it such a magical place. But it was the first time this year we went back to a place we had been to. And the familiarity, the comfort, the lack of having to bring up Google Maps once we were in our place. We knew where the grocery store was, we knew where the fitness center was, we knew where The Hatch was.

Caroline: It was like the first.

Jason: The Hatch is a little coffee shop.

Caroline: The first reemergence of the feeling of home.

Jason: Yeah.

Caroline: And there’s something about purposefully embarking on a year where you’re untethered to your home to now come back in and rediscover that feeling of home.

Jason: And the hilarious part is like, it’s not our home.

Caroline: Of course, it’s not our home. But to get a glimpse of that feeling and to get excited about the next chapter of our lives and building a new home and having a new appreciation for what home means, and that’s, I just can’t even describe the feeling that I had being there. Even, I was telling Jason, like, walking through the house, there was like a familiar smell, like, whatever the cleaning products or the laundry detergent or whatever those little smells are. It’s so easy in our lives to take those little things for granted. And I just had this heightened sense of joy just for those things.

Jason: Just from, like, those little things. Yeah. And like you said, Siobhan, the host of the Airbnb, met us for coffee. The plan was once, but then when we finished the first little coffee meeting, she was like, do you guys want to meet back up tomorrow again? We just were like, yes, absolutely. You’re so wonderful. So we had two great days of just chatting with her. We had some true Irish weather. It rained for half of the trip that we were there, but we did not care at all.

Caroline: That was another thing. Meeting up with Siobhan the second day and having that great long conversation, that was another thing that I noticed was it made me so hopeful for making friends, because I think a big, for those of you who are listening and unaware, Jason and I are moving. We are moving to?

Jason: Portugal.

Caroline: Portugal. We’ve mentioned that in a previous episode. And one of my I wouldn’t say fears, but sort of like, uncertainties at this point is making new friends.

Jason: Yeah. And the way that we’re.

Caroline: And having a community.

Jason: The way that we’re different as people is like, I could probably live in, like, a hut by myself for the rest of my life and it would be fine. You need people interaction.

Caroline: Yeah. I’m very comfortable being alone. Like, very comfortable. I have lots of wonderful people in my life, virtually, that I can keep up with.

Jason: Exactly.

Caroline: But I do know that life tends to be easier and richer and fuller when you do have even if it’s a close community of support, of people you can lean on and chat with and have fun with. So it is important to me to have, like, even a little circle in Portugal. And so having that coffee with Siobhan and becoming sort of fast friends with her and our limited interactions and just like, what’s happening throughout the year and everything like that. And just being able to touch on such deep things so quickly really made me hopeful for just finding, you can make friends all over the world.

Jason: You really can. And you can find people everywhere.

Caroline: And it’s a beautiful thing. So we didn’t do anything in Ballybunion except for we worked on getting ready for the Fall enrollment.

Jason: Yeah, which you heard us talk about.

Caroline: And getting caught up on work and kind of decompressing after because the previous week was with Jason’s family, which was really fun, but obviously.

Jason: Very draining.

Caroline: My little introverted heart. I needed just some me time, so that’s what that time was used for. And then to mentally prepare because we were going to a different country, which we’ll talk about next week.

Jason: Yeah. And that was actually our last new country, which is the one after Ballybunion, which we will share with you. But that’s kind of wild to think about.

Caroline: We’re nearing the end of this chapter.

Jason: We have been to our last new country. Now we are traveling for the rest of the year. So our travel schedule is a little bit just kind of weird for the next couple of weeks. But then we do get to move into our new home in about a month from now as of recording and publishing this episode, which is really cool. And we’re going to do a whole series on YouTube of like, that whole process. And we’ll do some podcast eps about it too. So a lot more to come on our lives as they change into living in Portugal.

Caroline: A whole new chapter is beginning.

Jason: Very excited. All right, let’s get into the episode’s topic here.

Caroline: Okay.

Jason: So you came across this kind of idea.

Caroline: Yeah, let me intro this a little bit. So we just finished up our 14th flight of this year.

Jason: Wow.

Caroline: If you can believe that.

Jason: It feels like a lot more than 14, if I’m being honest.

Caroline: It feels more.

Jason: Ryan Air counts for three.

Caroline: Exactly.

Jason: So every Ryan Air flight, multiply it times three. So we’ve done 26.

Caroline: It feels like more. But for those of you who don’t know, I am a person who at the top of this year would have described myself as having tremendous flight anxiety. I’ve had it for many, many years. I mean, to the point where almost panic attack type status. Flying was very, very difficult for me. And I have tried various things across the years, and it’s not something that has necessarily completely held me back. Obviously, I wouldn’t have done this year if I really thought that it was like a phobia. But it’s very difficult. And every time I get on a plane, it’s difficult. But finishing up our 14th flight, I’ve had probably four or five flights now in a row where I just feel really good. They don’t feel as difficult as they used to be at all. Like, I’m talking taking the anxiety level from a nine down to like, a four.

Jason: Wow.

Caroline: And I was pondering, what is it that has allowed me to do that? And it’s a lot of different things, but one of the things that came to the surface was this idea of repetition and how powerful practice is. And it seems weird to think of flying on a plane as something that you practice. But with each flight, I have practiced my own toolkit of how to make that experience less anxiety-inducing. And so then I got thinking about this idea of repetition and how it is so powerful and it can be applied to a lot of different things in business. And as I was simultaneously thinking about all this, I came across this TEDx Talk. And this is the 20-hour rule, which I was not familiar with and so.

Jason: You may not either, as of listening to this, I wasn’t when you brought it up to me.

Caroline: Jason wasn’t either.

Jason: With the fact, sorry, real quick.

Caroline: Sure.

Jason: Josh Kaufman, the author of this talk and the rule.

Caroline: I think he has a book as well that goes along with it.

Jason: Could be my brother. Did you look at the photo of him?

Caroline: Yeah.

Jason: We could be brothers. I will put a link in the show notes to his website so you can learn more about him. Honestly, separated at birth, maybe. I don’t know.

Caroline: The title of this podcast episode, the 20-hour rule. This is not a rule that we came up with. This is this rule that I stumbled across from this author, Josh Kaufman, but what the rule refers to, and I definitely encourage you to go watch his TEDx Talk.

Jason: Which we’ll link to.

Caroline: Which we’ll link to, but it refers to many of us have heard of this idea of the 10,000-hour rule.

Jason: By Malcolm Gladwell.

Caroline: I think Malcolm Gladwell in the book, Outliers, popularized it. It’s not actually his research.

Jason: It’s not his rule? Got it. Well, that’s a very interesting, classic thing of, when someone talks about something a ton, you just attribute it to them.

Caroline: Exactly. I also recommend you find out who that original source is. But the point of Josh Kaufman’s work is that he talks about this 10,000-hour rule, which, as popularized in the book, Outliers, is really this idea of in order to get to this expert level mastery in anything, you have to log like 10,000 hours of practice. Right? Well, that’s actually the message that it kind of became like through telephone, it became popularized. To become an expert, you have to log 10,000 hours.

Jason: What if it started at like 10 hours?

Caroline: Well, as it turns out, it’s not actually that. It’s actually referring to, I think, this commonality of people who get to the ultra performance level of like a highly competitive field. The commonality is that they had logged at least 10,000 hours. Anyway, it’s slightly different. But anyway, so Josh Kaufman’s work is about, okay, the takeaway that people sort of bring from that 10,000 hours is like, oh, well, it takes 10,000 hours to become really good at something. And that’s like, I think he said something like five years of a full time job, which is just really a wild amount of time. Right. And I think sometimes that becomes a barrier in people’s minds about how long it would take to get good at something. But he started to look at the learning curve and we all can picture a learning curve. And we all know that learning curves are pretty steep, meaning you go from being completely inept at something to being relatively capable of doing it with a relatively short amount of time of practice. And what happens with the learning curve is it actually kind of tapers off. So you have this steep rise in capability for putting in not that much time, and then it sort of tapers off and you only get incremental gains the more you practice. Right. For some reason when I was thinking of this, thought about, remember when we got really into Tetris 99?

Jason: Oh, yeah. On Nintendo Switch. It’s a game.

Caroline: Jason and I, two years ago, during the pandemic, got really into Tetris 99.

Jason: Yeah.

Caroline: And when we started, it was going so fast that we were just like, completely inept at it.

Jason: Well, here let’s give a quick overview for those of you who did not play, because I think it does help to paint the picture. So essentially there are like 99 people playing Tetris at one time. You’re all playing a game of Tetris and you’re sending blocks to other people as you create lines, if you know the game, Tetris. And the goal is that you’re the last person standing and you win. Now, the thing about it is there are so many people who are way better at Tetris than you who play this game. We could never get a number one. Like, we could not be the last person standing for months.

Caroline: No.

Jason: I’m just saying, I’m just sharing the game itself. That’s all.

Caroline: Right. I don’t know how long it took us, but the point that I was trying to make with Tetris 99 is that we went from literally not even being able to play on the board because people were just, like, sending us lines. It would get up to the top, where we just were off the board.

Jason: We would be in the game for like a minute and a half.

Caroline: Exactly. And we couldn’t do anything. And with just like a couple of hours invested in this game, suddenly it’s like you learn a couple of things. You learn how to do a little T-spin, which is like a very critical skill in the game. You get a better handle of the controls. And pretty soon now we can actually play the game, right? But then way down the road, when we had logged all these hours, we’re actually not getting that much incremental gains for each hour played because we’ve really topped off the crucial skills in order to play the game, right?

Jason: Well, and I think what happens, too, and it’s kind of like, again, why I wanted to explain a little bit more of the Tetris 99 thing is like, when we played enough hours of the game that we finally got a number one in it, and I know for me, it was like, okay, I don’t have to stress about getting better or faster. I’ve done the thing I wanted to do. So at that point, I never really got any better as I continued to play. I just had reached being good enough to be able to win the game.

Caroline: Sure.

Jason: And so the point that I wanted to make there was I think this is a very interesting akin to any skill in business that you hone, anything that you’re doing. Like, if you want to edit YouTube videos, it’s like, you need to learn how to use Final Cut Pro, iMovie, DaVinci Resolve, Adobe Premiere Pro, or whatever. But you don’t need to get to professional video editor status. You just need to get to the top of the curve where you’re like, oh, I can edit a video and not be stressed out about it.

Caroline: Exactly. And so that brings me to Josh Kaufman’s work, which is, he basically, like, through his own research, discovered that pretty much the time it takes to go from being completely inept at something to being pretty good is 20 hours. You would be astounded at any skill, drawing or painting or.

Jason: Tetris 99.

Caroline: Tetris 99, or anything. How you can go from being, I am not good at this, to I’m pretty capable. And he figured out it’s like about 20 hours. And so I just think this is such an interesting revelation because, again, for people who just think of the 10,000 hours and they just think, well, there’s no chance I might even be good. But it’s like you can go from not knowing how to play guitar to being able to maybe play a song definitely in 20 hours.

Jason: Yeah.

Caroline: Now there are some caveats, and he talks about this in his talk where it’s like, it takes intentional practice. It takes being able to, you can’t just, like, log the hours and not look up how to play guitar. Right. You have to go in with a plan. You have to know what does it look like to be good at this thing. You have to be able to get into the resources. But I just thought, what an unlock for people? Because there are so many people who have not undertaken learning the thing with their own business because they think it’s just impossible.

Jason: Yeah.

Caroline: I don’t know how to create a website or I don’t know how to set up a newsletter and set up a MailChimp account and set up tags like, I don’t know these things. And you can very easily convince yourself that it’s just impossible. Instead of flipping the mindset and going, oh my God, if I just got on the other side of the 20 hours that it takes to learn this thing, I would have my website done. I would have a newsletter up and running.

Jason: One of the things that this makes me think about, you have a note here that it’s about 45 minutes a day for a month roughly to meet that 20-hour rule. Just really quickly. Because really what I’m here for in this episode is just like the asides and the things, and then you can correct me if you like them or if you don’t. Tetris 99 got a squirrelly, but we made it through. Back when I was playing basketball in high school, this is going to matter, don’t you worry. I just played by myself. So I picked up a basketball at age like 15 and just like, shot hoops in my driveway. I didn’t have anybody tell me my form was bad. I didn’t have anybody to tell me how to dribble. I would just like, watch a game of basketball on TV or on a VHS tape because that’s how long ago it was. And then I would go out in the driveway and try and do stuff and then I really did not get much better. Then fast forward to I tried out for the basketball team and they had some practices that you could do, like ahead of tryouts. And someone literally told me, oh, here’s your shooting form you need to fix. So then I was spending like an hour with someone who’s telling me how to shoot the ball. And I got so much better, so much faster, because someone was giving me the right tools and tips to do it. Fast forward to then even further forward. I started playing basketball with people who were like, way better than me, but that I could be around and have this like, oh, I’m motivated to be as good as these people are, and I got to be as good as they were. And it’s a very interesting thing where I think in the online business space, it’s the same thing. You can sit at your computer and go, I am going to teach myself how to use Squarespace. Let’s just throw it out there because it’s a very easy one. You could sit there and try and figure it out, but don’t look up a single YouTube video. Nothing, like you’re just trying to figure out it’s very difficult. But then watch a couple of YouTube videos and you go oh, that’s how you move the box around and do these things. OK, that’s great. Then you could join like a Squarespace group where everyone’s sharing their advanced tips, their things, how quickly they set up layouts, what templates they use. And then you’re like upleveling again, right? And so I think what’s really interesting about this 20-hour rule to think about is like yes, you could do 20 hours by yourself, but I think there’s something really interesting to think about. How can you invest the 20 hours alongside a resource that will help you? And then maybe you’ve already done that, maybe it’s time to uplevel. And I don’t mean that in like you have to make more money and do that, but it’s like advance your learning into an area where you might push yourself a little bit further in the 20 hours, but it might get you further because you’re in the right place.

Caroline: Right. That’s something that I think he talks about is also a crucial part of that 20-hour investment is being able to kind of self-critique and know when you need to up level the skill or whatever. And so whatever resources are going to allow you to be able to do that, that’s a crucial part of it. It has to be this intentional practice, which I think is an interesting element to it. And just to relate it back to my flight thing, which I know is not probably an example that he had ever thought of, but I do think of every flight, I think of it as intentional practice. And so what do I say to myself? And I go, okay, here’s my toolkit of things to lower my anxiety during takeoff is really, like when we’re on the tarmac and then takeoff, that’s like the highest anxiety for me. And so I have my little meditative state that I try to go into and I have a playlist that I listen to and I was just reminiscing on the fact that, at the beginning of this year, I had one song on that playlist that was sort of like the gateway song that got me into the meditative state to be able to keep my breathing. And so I practiced my breathing and I’ll practice this meditative state and I’ll practice surrendering to the experience and that lowers my anxiety and I have an overall better experience. But then I got to this place where through practice and intentional practice I thought, okay, now I’m going to try takeoff without just that one song, like any song on the playlist. And then I sort of like mastered that and then I was like, okay, what if I am not even listening to the song at all. What if it’s just the breathing? And so that, to me, is an example of I’m doing intentional practice, and through repetition, I’m able to actually change my ability and my skill with being able to stay grounded and calm in something that’s a very anxiety-inducing situation.

Jason: Yeah.

Caroline: And so yeah, I think there really is something to this idea of repetition. And I think there is something also to this notion of empowering yourself by focusing on the input rather than the outcome. The thing that I love about this 20-hour rule thing is that it allows you to focus on what you can control, which is what you put into learning a new skill. So it’s like so often we think of, oh, I want to create the viral TikTok video or whatever. You can’t control that.

Jason: Exactly.

Caroline: But what you can control is your skill level at being able to put together a short form video. And if you think about it, in this container of 20 hours, you identify a skill that you want to acquire and you put together a schedule of intentional practice and repetition for yourself that allows you to control what you can control, which is the input of your time and the input of your focus.

Jason: Yeah. First of all, I just want to give you credit for getting better at flying because I know it’s been such a difficult thing this year. We’re just going to have to keep flying, though, because I don’t want this to wear off.

Caroline: I know I thought this to myself, too. I’m like, I don’t want to get out of practice now.

Jason: It’s like, if I went and shot a basketball right now, I haven’t shot a basketball in like four years. It’s just going to be airballs all day.

Caroline: I would like to test. That I think would be my next level of testing, is like, if we don’t travel for three months, once we’re done with our last flight this year, then that first flight back will be a cool test.

Jason: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. I think that’s very interesting, the input part of it, and I think the other part of it that I really like, I just wanted to come back to is this idea of like, 45 minutes a day for a month. Everybody has 45 minutes a day somewhere to focus. And I think the key is, like you just said, in that 45 minutes, it’s setting an intention of like, what do I want to do in this 45 minutes? Not like, what do I hope the end goal is at the end of these 20 hours? That I’m like, getting number one at Tetris 99. Yes, that’s maybe the deeper why of why you’re doing something. But it’s more about in this 45 minutes, like, what am I really trying to do here and in this day? And I think that everybody who could kind of follow this path is to sit down and go, I’m starting in 45 minutes. What’s my intention, OK, this is my intention for the end of this. Let me figure out how to make that happen. And so whatever that thing is that you’re working on, just every single day trying to chip away at it and not feeling like it’s this huge 10,000 hours for five years, you’re never going to really get there because who has the time to do that?

Caroline: Exactly. I’m down for any mental model that takes something that you thought was impossible and makes it more possible. And that’s what I think this rule does, which is why I thought it was worth sharing because that’s what it did for me. It really opened my mind up to go, oh, well, what are some things on my list that I want to apply this 20-hour rule towards? And could I go from knowing nothing to knowing something on five things? That would be cool.

Jason: And I think that’s the other thing, right. I think our entire at least like the society that we exist in, especially in the online business space, it’s about this idea of mastery. You have to be like a Notion master and you have to be an expert at Squarespace and you have to be a guru at online marketing. It’s like, how about you just be a good enougher? And it’s like, just get good enough at writing email newsletters that people want to open them for me every week. Just get good enough at creating Instagram content that people enjoy getting your stuff maybe on their feed if it shows up. Just get good enough at all these skills that you feel confident in them. It’s like back to the YouTube video editing thing that I was talking about. You don’t need to be a film level editor to succeed at making YouTube videos. You just need to feel confident in using an editing app and be able to publish the videos. That’s it.

Caroline: Exactly. Because I think of how many people listening right now have the thing that they want to do, but they’re holding themselves back because they’re living in the 10,000 hours expert world instead of the 20-hour good enough for world.

Jason: Exactly.

Caroline: And that’s all I want this to do, is give somebody out their permission and confidence that it doesn’t take that much, that it is possible, and that you can take a step forward in acquiring that skill or doing that thing or working towards that goal and that it’s more attainable than you think it is.

Jason: Yeah. Do we want to leave someone with a little bit of audience participation moment here and ask if there was a skill that you wanted to get better at or one thing you wanted to accomplish that maybe you’ve been feeling a little held back on? Like what is that thing? What is the thing you want to spend 20 hours getting better at? And be specific and have it not be like I want to make viral TikTok videos but it’s like I want to get good at short form vertical video. That’s the skill that I want to learn in 20 hours. If you want to send us an email,

Caroline: Tell us what you’re working on.

Jason: Would be fun to receive some of those. Is there something that you would want to do in the 20 hours?

Caroline: What do I want? Well, I think the most top of mind one that I’m going to apply this mindset to is learning Portuguese, because I think the idea of learning Portuguese feels like such a big.

Jason: Totally.

Caroline: Thing. Like, I’ll never be fluent.

Jason: Everyone says this difficult.

Caroline: And I’m like, yeah, but I can already tell that I’m avoiding because I have a little thing on my calendar to do my app and stuff, and I’m kind of avoiding it because it just feels too big. But I wonder, I’m going to start thinking about what’s the version of me.

Jason: The good enough.

Caroline: Being conversational in Portuguese, where do I think I could be in 20 hours as opposed to 10,000?

Jason: And also, I think it would be really interesting to look back on, right? Like, if we applied this rule to learning a language. Yes, absolutely. No one’s going to become fluent in the language in 20 hours.

Caroline: Absolutely not.

Jason: But like, how far along could you get?

Caroline: Yeah. Could I go from not being able to converse to having a conversation with a server at a restaurant?

Jason: Right. Exactly. Mine. What I’m going to do, thank you so much for asking. For the first time in our lives, we are going to have well, it’s actually not the first time, but it’s the first time that it feels doable. We’re going to have a pool. I’d like to learn how to swim in a comfortable way. Like, I can swim right now. It’s not like I can’t swim. I can swim freestyle. I can swim breaststroke.

Caroline: But you know that you’re not technically swimming well.

Jason: Not at all, because I’m also gasping for air at all things. I also don’t wear goggles, and, like, that would really help. But that’s part of it, right? It’s like, I don’t know what I don’t know in the world of, like, comfortable swimming.

Caroline: You’re like, how much better could I be at swimming in 20 hours?

Jason: And that’s the thing, right? I’m not going to try to be Michael Phelps. I’m not interested. I’m not trying to do it for any type of speed in lap times. I just want to be able to swim comfortably as a good form of exercise as I get older, that, like, I’m not going to be able to lift weights forever. And that’s like, the only form of exercise that I normally do besides walking. And because we’re going to have a pool for I don’t know how long, I’d like to take advantage of it and get in the pool every day and swim and be a confident swimmer, and maybe I can do that in 20 hours, but we’ll find out. So I think that’s the thing I want to try. Also, our pool is very small.

Caroline: I was picturing you trying to do laps in this pool.

Jason: It’s not as small as our tiny pool that we had when we lived in California that you cannot do a lap in.

Caroline: It’s probably three tiny pools long.

Jason: Yeah, they’re short laps, but and I’m also very long, so it’s not going to be very much.

Caroline: Do you think how many…?

Jason: Full strokes?

Caroline: Full strokes? Three?

Jason: I think five.

Caroline: I don’t think five.

Jason: We’ll find out. We’ll report.

Caroline: You forget how long your wingspan is, too.

Jason: We’ll report back. Maybe I’ll just cheat it and do short ones, like old T-rex freestyles. So we’ll see. I don’t even know where to look to learn that. I’m sure there are YouTube videos and things, but we’ll find out.

Caroline: I have heard of the Internet, and I think you find a couple of things these days.

Jason: But that’s a good example, right, of, like, anybody who’s trying to learn any skill whatsoever. It feels super overwhelming because you’re like, I don’t even know.

Caroline: Where does that even exist?

Jason: Just start looking.

Caroline: Trust me, it exists.

Jason: You’re going to find some stuff.

Caroline: Totally.

Jason: All right. So feel free to send us the one skill that you want to get better at in your life in 20 hours, and we’ll report back on ours as we work on them. Me, as it becomes swimming, you, as it becomes learning Portuguese so that you can order all of the cinnamon rolls at the restaurants that I want to go to.

Caroline: Very important.

Jason: And yeah, we appreciate you all listening to our pod. Hope you got something out of this one. This is a fun little rule that you learned. I didn’t know about it before we started recording, so it’s a fun thing for me to.

Caroline: By the way, the TEDx Talk that I stumbled across, 2013.

Jason: Nice. Yeah, pretty solid. When was your TEDx Talk? You have a TEDx Talk out there.

Caroline: Don’t throw it out there.

Jason: Was it 2014?

Caroline: I think it’s 2014.

Jason: Nice.

Caroline: Let’s not. Don’t look for that.

Jason: I have two. Thanks for bringing that up. Isn’t that wild? That’s super weird.

Caroline: Yeah.

Jason: Yeah. They’re both not very good.

Caroline: It’s fine.

Jason: It’s why I got a second try. They’re like, the first one wasn’t great. Thanks so much for listening to our podcast. We love your faces. For all you new WAIMers, welcome, welcome. And we’ll be back next week.

Caroline: Have a great day.

Jason: Bye.

Caroline: Bye.

146 – Learn A New Skill Using The 20-Hour Rule by Josh Kaufman

(Big Fat Takeaway)

It takes intentional practice to learn or adapt to new things, such as learning a language or even learning to manage flight anxiety.


This article written by

Jason Zook

I'm all about that Cinnamon Roll life (that just seemed like a "cool" way to say I love baking and eating cinnamon rolls). Also, I co-run this WAIM thing as well as Teachery. Currently, 75ish% completion of Tears of the Kingdom 🧝‍♀️⚔️.

Continue the conversation:

Now What?

Join "Growing Steady," a Monday newsletter designed to help you grow a calm business—one that is predictable, profitable, and peaceful.

Each Monday we'll visit your inbox with our 3 P’s format: Get 1 actionable tip for improving your systems or strategic planning [🔄 Predictable]; 1 actionable tip for boosting your audience or sales [🤑 Profitable]; 1 actionable tip for bringing more ease, contentment and fun to your journey. [🧘 Peaceful].

Wandering Aimfully Through Our Podcast: What is it all for?

181 – 30-Day Content Challenge Stats and Lessons Learned

Listen to our full episode on our 30-Day Content Challenge Stats and Lessons Learned below (with full transcript) or find our podcast by searching What is it all for? in your favorite podcast player. Four Key Takeaways for our 30-Day Content Challenge (Calm Business Encyclopedia) 1. Reflecting on the Calm Business Encyclopedia project We wrapped […]

Wandering Aimfully Through Our Podcast: What is it all for?

180 – Simplifying Your Business

Listen to our full episode on Simplifying Your Business below (with full transcript) or find our podcast by searching What is it all for? in your favorite podcast player. Five Key Takeaways for Simplifying Your Business 1. Simplifying for a calm business We noticed a recurring theme emerging from the introductions in our WAIM Unlimited […]