The challenge of learning something new

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As you know I decided to start my own business. It is a new adventure for me and requires that I learn a lot of new skills.

Learning something new can be a challenge. The reality is that it takes time to learn something new.

In fact, according to some experts, it takes at least 20 hours to learn something new. In this TED talk author Josh Kaufman explains the learning process. It is worth watching.

We live in a culture that is big on figuring out better ways to do things. Hacks, shortcuts, and cheat codes seem to be all the rage these days.

I am a big fan of learning. It is one of my strengths. I look for ways to learn things quickly, but I recognize that you have to put in the time.

I am experiencing that fact first hand right now as I download new software tools and teach myself several new skills. It is taking some time. I am making steady progress and will get there.

During your lifetime you will need to learn many new things, so I want to pass along a few observations based on my own experience learning new things.

Starting out is usually ugly — expect it

When you start something new you do not know what you are doing, and it shows. It is going to be ugly.

I remember the day Jill and I decided to play tennis together. She is good at tennis. She has played for years, taken lessons, and knows how to play the game. I, on the other hand, have played very little, never had lessons, and don’t really know how to play the game.

As you might guess — it was ugly. She stood on her side of the court and simply hit the ball over the net repeatedly while I ran around like a madman trying to figure out what I was doing.

An odd thing happened the next time we played. My play improved, just a little each game, and we actually ended up having a competitive game. I still have not beat her in a game, but I bet I could if I practice on a regular basis.

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It takes awhile to go from the worst to good — expect a rough start.

Practice takes time — put in the hours

If only 20 hours is required to learn something new, then it should be easy to learn new things quickly. Right. The reality is that 20 hours is actually a fair amount of time.

As Josh Kaufman points out in his TED talk, you will improve a lot the first few hours — which is great. But, you will need to press on and keep practicing if you want to actually get proficient.

Riley — you are learning to drive right now. The DMV requires that each driver spend many hours behind the wheel before you get your license which is a good thing.

Every driver knows that it takes awhile to learn how to drive and get used to the various speeds and obstacles that you will encounter.

Put in the practice and get your 20 hours in. Don’t rely on hacks or cheat codes to make you proficient. You need more practice.

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How did the Beatles get so good at writing and playing music — lots of practice.

Get the help you need

The good news about our modern culture is that you can find help easily. We have numerous ways to connect and communicate with others.

When I announced that I was going to start my own company on Facebook several friends reached out to me, offering encouragement, and potential help. Many of them have experience that will help me a lot, so I plan to talk with each of them.

In addition to your own friends, experts exist, coaches are available, and the really good news is that you can find most of them online these days. In fact, you can learn a lot from others, and get help for free.

Youtube is a goldmine of information. You may remember the time when I could not figure out how to change the tire on our old Lexus (it had wheel locks that the manual did not mention), I went to Youtube and found a video that explained how to do it.

Most of these tools did not exist when I was your age. Take advantage of them. Leverage the expertise of others, and get the help you need. Just in case you don’t know how to change a tire, here is the video.

I hope that both of you learn new things on a regular basis. It will help you grow and become a more rounded person.

Gavin — you are excellent at playing the guitar. I encourage you to keep learning and become an expert.

Riley — you are a great soccer player. I hope you keep playing later in life. It is a great sport and will bring you a lot of joy.

Scoring a goal never gets old. Trust me.

Learning never exhausts the mind.
— Leonardo da Vinci


I write a blog for my sons called Doug Keating Letter to Sons. I am sharing content from my blog here. I hope you enjoyed it. All feedback is welcome. Thanks for reading it.

Originally published at on July 30, 2017.

Leader and learner. Father of two young men. Novice blogger,, Founder of All The Way Leadership!

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