Back to school, on your own.

I think it’s been 22 years since we could safely ignore “back-to-school” sales. Andrew started kindergarten in 1991. Hope graduated from college in May.  And I still have a drawer of crayons and folders and notebook paper.

I’m still drawn to the sales. There is something about starting fresh with all those supplies. Something good for parents, something daunting for the students, something helpful for retailers. But truth? You still have to walk into class and learn. The crayons don’t learn for you.

I watched Josh Kaufman talk about learning anything in 20 hours. I was captivated. Twenty hours of focused, undistracted, intentional, moderately researched practice. It doesn’t make you an expert, but it gives you a start.

If you think about it, that’s about half the classroom time of a college course.

I decided that I wanted to learn Hebrew in 20 hours by the end of August. Then I adjusted my goal to learning the Hebrew alphabet in 20 hours. Then I adjusted my goal to learn the shema in 20 hours.

That was a week ago.

I know four letters. I haven’t come anywhere close to a solid hour.

When I wrote that last sentence, I meant it in a self-critical way. But I realized that in one hour, I’ve learned four letters. So in five hours, I might learn all 22 letters. So I might even make my learning goal if I spend the 20 hours learning.

What do you want to learn? Not be be brilliant at, not to be world class at. What do you want to learn?  During the next four months, by the end of the next school year, what do you want to know how to do?

I’d love your answers. And if you answer, you have my permission to go buy some new crayons.

And then use them.

10 thoughts on “Back to school, on your own.

  1. David

    I tried to learn the Cyrillic alphabet before going on a business trip to Moscow in June. One article I read said that it was possible in one hour. It isn’t. I did manage a few letters but still found myself getting confused!

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  2. Rich Dixon

    I can’t think of anything totally new I want to learn, which surprises me. Lots of stuff I want to learn MORE about or get better at, but nothing new. Can I use my crayons for those things, or do I get an “F” on this assignment?

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    1. Jon Swanson

      hmm. what if you picked on element of one of the things you want to learn more about? Because that’s something new, isn’t it. But you get to use the crayons anyway.

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  3. Susan Pieters

    To write better. Seems a scene takes me about 20 hours. So maybe that is the natural time needed to do one little thing. And maybe each scene can be better than the previous one. But this isn’t what you meant; it’s not something new to try to do, it’s something I want to be “world class” at. But still each 20 hours is another step.
    How long does it take you to write these 300 words, Jon?

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