My quest is to improve as much as possible in 100 hours in various complex skills, such as learning a language, playing a sport, dancing, cooking or playing a musical instrument.
Along the way, I will describe the process of skill development and what type of practice it takes to improve a skill.
One hundred hours is not necessarily the end, but rather a goal to work towards. At this point, I will either choose to continue the next 100 hours with the skill or take a break and focus on another one.
Why 100 hours? You may have heard that it takes 10 000 hours to master a skill/field, or that you can ‘learn’ any skill in just 20 hours.
Well, that depends on how good you want to get. There is a big difference between being able to do a skill and becoming good at it. And those two goals require different amounts and types of practice.
I’ve chosen 100 hours because it is substantial, and you can achieve meaningful improvement.
In many of the skills I will try to improve, I’m a complete or relative beginner (less than 20 hours of practice). In others I’m intermediate (50–200 hours), and a few I have practised for longer.
In 20 hours you can become better than many people. Better than the people who haven’t practised the skill at all. But compared to people that are good at the skill, you will still be a beginner.
If your goal is to impress people who have never done a skill, this may be sufficient. But if you want to be regarded as good among other people that are also good, it requires more. It is much easier to impress someone who hasn’t tried something than a person who has practised a skill for years.
I have for example practised Ultimate frisbee for about 200 hours now, and if I play with beginners, they usually think I’m quite good. But I just joined a team where people have played for years. And pretty much everyone is better than me. And if I one day reach the level of these players, there are even better teams to join.
Also, remember that things you learn quickly go away quickly. Deep learning requires time. Memory for these skills are not that strong, and in weeks or months you will have forgotten much of it.
The positive of doing fewer hours is that you will have time to try more skills. I recommend that you try a skill for example for 10/20 hours to see how you like it, before committing to 100 hours of practice. Check out Danny Forest; for instance, he has been learning three skills a month for over a year now, totalling over 50 different skills.
10 000 hours
10 000 hours, on the other hand, has by many been accepted as the time it takes to become an expert at a skill or in a field. But rarely do you need to be an expert at a skill before you can enjoy it and be proud of what you can do.
10 000 hours of practice usually takes at least a decade to achieve, and goals that are far into the future are much more challenging to stay motivated for. Even if your final goal is to become the best in the world at something, it is better to divide your efforts into shorter time frames (for example 100 hours).
There is nothing magical about 100 hours. 44, 78 or 350-hour challenges can work just as fine. The most important thing is to have a goal to work towards.
Many people worry about the 10 000 hours it takes to master something. I recommend that you instead start thinking about the 100 hours it takes to achieve substantial improvement in a skill.
Put in the effort
There is a strong correlation between how much effort you put into learning something and how good you get. The more hours of quality practice you put in, the better you will be at the skill.
I can’t think of a single skill that I’m proud of that I haven’t put a lot of effort into.
Be proud of putting in a lot of effort. Focussing all your attention on one thing is impressive.
An essential part of getting better at a skill is to make it a priority and create time in your life for the practice.
If you put in 100–200 hours of quality practice in a complex skill, you have a good chance of reaching an intermediate level (depending on the skill, and how much practice the people you compare yourself with put in. e.g., learning a language usually requires more hours).
And if you want to keep going and reach the expert level in a complex skill, it usually requires thousands of hours.
You are special, but not that special
We all like to be unique. And you are! But when it comes to physical rules and how learning works, we all have brains and bodies that function in similar ways. Applying good learning methods and putting in the hours’ matter for all of us.
If you practice something for 20 hours, that someone else has practised for 100 hours, they are likely to be a lot better than you.
Someone good at learning skills may be as good in 20 hours as someone else is in 100 hours. But if you compare two people who are equally good at learning, or two different versions of yourself; the person or version of yourself that practised for 100 hours will be a lot better.
Start your 100-hour challenge
In 100 hours you can become very good at a skill. Not world class, not a professional, but a lot better than you were before. And if you keep applying 100-hour challenges to your life, you may someday find yourself at the elite level in the domain you choose to pursue.
If you were to start your 100-hour challenge, what skill would you learn?
What skill have you always wanted to become really good at?
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My 100-Hour Challenges: