Patrick Schwerdtfeger is a motivational speaker who can speak about learning new skills quickly at your next business event. Contact us to check availability. The full transcript of the above video is included below.


Full Video Transcript:

Hi and welcome to another edition of Strategic Business Insights. Today we’re going to talk about rapid skill acquisition. How can you acquire a new skill in record time?

And there are a number of resources that you can look at for this, but let’s just deconstruct this quickly. There is a book that came out recently called Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. Actually, it wasn’t that recent. It was a few years ago. You might have read it. It’s a very popular book. It’s an outstanding book and Malcolm Gladwell is an outstanding writer. And he talked about—author, I should say—he talked about the 10,000-hour rule in this book, and basically the idea was that if you spend 10,000 hours on something you’re going to be world-class at that thing, and all the greats of our world including Bill Gates and the Beatles and countless others, they spent 10,000 hours working on something and they became the best at it because they spent that amount of time on it.

Now, the popularity of the book – it was a very, very popular book, New York Times bestseller, and so all of a sudden you hear this 10,000-hour rule being referenced all over the place, and in many cases you hear things like, “You need to put 10,000 hours into something to succeed at it.” That is not true. It’s not true. You put 10,000 hours into something, you’re going to be world-class. You’re going to be world-class. You’re going to be at the top if you put 10,000 hours into something. I agree 100%. But do you need to be at the very top to be good at something or make a living at it for that matter or enjoy it as a hobby or something like that? Absolutely not. You don’t need to be world-class to enjoy something.

So how much time do you actually need to invest to learn a new skill? Is it 10,000 hours? No way. Is it 5000? Is it 3000, 2000, 1000? It’s less than all of those. There are a lot of researchers that say that if you break down a skill and practice at it for as little as 20 hours you can already be remarkably proficient if you practice in a smart way – rapid skill acquisition. How do you break down that skill in a smart way and learn it quickly in as few as 20 hours? Now I’m not saying 20 hours is all you need. Some researchers say as little as 20 hours. But 20 hours is not a lot of time. My point is you spend 40 hours, work at something for a few weeks, you can be proficient at it remarkably well.

I’m going to give you four steps to rapid skill acquisition. The first one is to deconstruct the skill into its component parts. Deconstruct the skill. If it’s language, you’re breaking it down into basic vocabulary and vernacular structure, tenses and things, verb tenses. If it’s snowboarding, whatever it is, learning a musical instrument, you deconstruct it into its component parts. Compartmentalize the skill.

Second is practice in those increments, the component parts. Take one component part and practice that one thing over and over and over again. Secondly is practice it to the point of failure. Don’t just practice the one that is easy to do, you can do it. Push yourself to the point where you are right on the failure line where you can no longer quite do it. You’re pushing yourself. Your mind engages in that moment.

When you’re just about to fall when you’re snowboarding, it’s right at that moment that your mind is just hyper-engaged because it’s a fight or flight moment. If you’re not careful, you’re going to hit the ground. It’s going to hurt. Your mind is hyper-engaged at that moment. And it’s true for anything. I mean, snowboarding is an extreme example because there’s potential for actual physical harm, but the same is true for learning a language or learning a musical instrument or whatever it might be – push yourself to the point where you can’t do it and really think about it and break it down in your head and practice it again and again. That’s the third thing.

And the fourth one is immerse yourself in the process. Immersion – I talk about this in my TEDx talk. I have a TEDx talk called Learned Intuition and it’s all about immersing yourself in a skill. In fact, I’ll put a link to that video right here. So if you want to watch that TED talk, you can see it right here. But, intentional immersion.

So in other words, let’s say snowboarding—and I say this in the video, by the way—you’re much better off going five days in a row than going once a week for weeks. In both cases you’re on the mountain for five days, but when you do it all at one time, you’re immersed in it. Your subconscious mind engages and it starts to see the patterns and understand all the idiosyncrasies that make it work or not work. You get in that hyper-engaged mode for an extended period of time. You’re extending the state, the state that you’re in, and the learning process just accelerates enormously.

Or one of my greatest hobbies is salsa dancing. I go salsa dancing every week, something I’ve done for years. And I’ve never even done this, in fact. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, is to go salsa dancing like seven days in a row. There are salsa clubs all around. I live in the Bay Area, so there are tons of different salsa clubs. You can go to different ones and salsa dance.

And what I’ve always wanted to do is take a week and every afternoon get a private lesson—you can buy private lessons—and every night go salsa dancing at a club somewhere and do that for seven days in a row. If I did that my skill level of salsa dancing would probably double in that one seven-day period even though I’ve been dancing for 10 years, because when you immerse yourself in it, you start to put those correlations together, you can accelerate that learning curve dramatically.

So again, the four things: Number one, deconstruct the skill into its component parts. Number two, practice each component individually. One at a time, practice that one component. Third, push yourself to the point of failure in your practicing repeatedly, always pushing yourself further and further and further. Go right to failure. And the fourth thing is immerse yourself in this task for five days in a row, seven days in a row, whatever you can do to really immerse yourself in it. You will learn an extraordinary amount in a very short period of time.

So my challenge to you in life and business, however you want to implement this, is to pick one thing a month, pick one thing every month, and allocate some time, like five days in a row, seven days in a row, even three days in a row or four. You can learn an extraordinary amount of thing in a new skill or a skill you already have where maybe you’re just kind of a beginner at it or intermediate. You can skyrocket that up to being an advanced person in that capacity very, very quickly if you use these four steps to rapid skill acquisition. You can learn a lot in your life and improve your situation dramatically in a relatively short period of time if you do it quickly.

I would highly recommend that you buy Tim Ferriss’ books. Tim Ferriss wrote The 4-Hour Workweek, The 4-Hour Body, The 4-Hour Chef. He’s all about rapid skill acquisition and deconstructing skills to their component parts. He’s a great resource for you to check in with that. But even what I’ve said in this video is enough for you to really take this and run with it and use it in a whole bunch of different areas in your life, and I wish you luck in doing so.

If you do this or if you have done it in the past, put it in the comments below. I would love to hear those stories. Thanks for watching the video. My name is Patrick, reminding you to think bigger about your business, think bigger about your life.

Patrick Schwerdtfeger is a keynote speaker who has spoken at business conferences in North America, South America, Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia.