Josh Kaufman is a guy who’s held a TED talk. With the proliferation of TED talks, that doesn’t seem to set him apart much, but this does: he’s a guy whose TED talk I’ve watched.
TED talks take around 20 minutes, and you’re welcome to watch the talk in its entirety, but for my own benefit I’ve jotted down his four steps for learning a new skill here.
- Deconstruct the skill: break it down into pieces and practice the most important ones.
- Learn enough theory to self-correct, and then start practicing as soon as possible.
- Remove barriers to practicing (distractions, “activation energy,” etc.).
- Practice for at least 20 hours total: this commitment helps overcome frustration.
Adam Leipzig is another guy who’s held a TED talk that I’ve watched. His is half the length of Josh Kaufman’s, which gives him a leg up. His contention is that the happiest people focus outward, on serving others, and he suggests thinking about the following set of questions:
- Who are you?
- What do you do? Put differently: what is the one thing you feel supremely qualified to teach people?
- Whom do you do it for?
- What do those people want and need, and how do they change as a result of what you do? (This question forces me to be outward-facing in my reflection.)
Once you’ve gone through these questions and answered them to your satisfaction, Leipzig suggests changing your answer to the ubiquitous question “What do you do?” from a description of your job to a description of how others change as a result of your work. So, for instance, replace “I head the metallography lab in a steel mill” with “I make sure our customers have reliable data for their safety-relevant car parts” or something along that line. It’s still not perfect: the “change” component is still missing, so I’ve still got some work to do…