Some people say that it takes 10,000 hours of learning to master a new skill. I don’t know about you, but patience isn’t exactly my strong suit. Thankfully, for people like me, there are ways to cut those 10,000 hours to something more manageable.
Build on What You Already Know
It’s usually much easier to remix a familiar skill than it is to start from square one. I took French for seven grueling years, and though I struggled with grammar at first, I eventually grasped it well enough to string together fluent sentences.
Although Spanish is a different language altogether, I found it easier to pick up after I’d already learned French. This is because I was familiar with the structures and elements that the two languages share. Someone who is already a savvy car mechanic could quickly also learn to fix motorcycles and bicycles because they use similar skill sets. And someone who is a painter might find interior design more intuitive than they realize when they don’t have to consult the color wheel or debate the composition.
Get Someone to Show You
Apprenticing skills can shave years off of the process as we are invited to watch, learn, and try the skill under the watchful eyes of a master. Having them show you their tricks and shortcuts can save you the time it took them to discover them in the first place.
The master becomes somewhat “immortal” by passing on their skills, and you get to learn faster than you would on your own.
Break It Down and Get Specific
To persist in learning a new skill, and to learn that skill faster, you can break it down into smaller baby steps that are easier and take less time to master.
For example, if you are trying to learn to play the violin, you can set aside time each day of a week to practicing one scale at a time. From there, you can dedicate another week to learn different positions on the neck. Focusing on mastering one specific, smaller skill at a time can make highly complex skills much quicker and easier to master.
Plus, you’ll get a little morale boost once you start accomplishing a bunch of small tasks successfully. Protip: I like to give myself an imaginary gold star for mastering even the smallest things because it encourages me to focus on my success rather than my failures, which helps me persist. Giving yourself credit is the same thing. Positive reinforcement doesn’t have to come from outside to make a difference.
Reinforce Your Learning Multiple Ways
The brain takes in and processes information in many different ways. It’s important to reinforce the things we learn through engaging not just one, but all of our senses. It may be helpful to read a manual on how to mountain bike, but there are numerous other ways we can learn this skill: We can watch YouTube videos, attend in-person lessons, and listen to podcasts. There are so many resources at our fingertips, many of them free, so why not take advantage of all of them? If you know your learning style, that’s great, but being bound to it can cut you off from the myriad things waiting to be picked up by your other, less dominant modes of learning.
However you go about learning new skills, along with the strategies mentioned above, persistence and curiosity can help take you far. With enough time and the right mindset, you can put yourself on the path to learning anything. Give these strategies a try for yourself and see how quickly you can take on that new endeavor!