A system through which you can “learn anything” in just 20 hours

A system through which you can “learn anything” in just 20 hours


The growth curve is triggered in the first moments when we come into contact with a new material, according to the Hermann Ebbinghaus diagram.

Russian, Arabic, Chinese? Violin, guitar? Quantum physics? Our brain is prepared to learn anything, however difficult it may be, and it does so quickly. At least, at the beginning.

Some experts established the most productive learning period in the first 20 hours of contact with a subject, and it has to do with the responsiveness and interest shown by our brain to new stimuli.

The German philosopher and psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus designed what he called the learning curve at the end of the 19th century . It consists of two variables, in which the vertical axis represents the subject or knowledge to acquire and the horizontal axis the hours to invest.

In this way, we can calculate the time we need to learn something. It is used today to evaluate the productivity in a company or to know if a task is or is not difficult, depending on the time that we delay in carrying it out.

With his diagram, Ebbinghaus wanted to illustrate that the first time we come into contact with a subject most of the knowledge is acquired in the initial period.


After some time, learning slows down and we enter a period of improvement that is less productive, because we take more time to achieve objectives.

This has to do with a process in the brain called habituation , the most primitive phase of learning.

Before a new stimulus, the sensitive and receptive response of the brain is very intense. As that stimulus is repeated, the brain’s response is less powerful.

Copyright of the GETTY IMAGES image
Image caption Our brain is more alert to new information and stimuli. When you get used to it, it’s as if your interest drops.

That is why learning something new, however difficult it may be, is rapidly increasing, since we start from scratch. Afterwards, it slows down.

“The 5-hour rule”

That period of climbing in learning is the first 20 hours of contact with a subject, according to Josh Kauffman, writer and expert in didactic and productivity processes.

One of the founding fathers of the United States, Benjamin Franklin ,I used a part-time method to learn new things. He called it “deliberate learning,” or as it is more popularly known, ” the five-hour rule .”

Face of Benjamin Franklin on a dollar bill.
Copyright of the GETTY IMAGES image
Image caption Benjamin Franklin only studied at school for three years but he read, wrote and set personal growth goals every day.

Every day from Monday to Friday, Franklin spent at least an hour learning something he did not know about before. After a while, when I felt that I had already acquired a good level, I moved on to another subject. And so constantly.

If we applied the five-hour rule, every four weeks we would learn something new with enough skill, says Kauffman in his book  The first 20 hours, how to learn anything quickly”.

Woman teaching little girl to play violin.
Image caption With the five-hour rule, we could learn something new every four weeks.

This system, with some variables, is used today by successful entrepreneurs such as Elon Musk , Warren Buffett, Mark Zuckerberg or Oprah Winfrey, as they have openly acknowledged when asked about the success of their careers.

The key, therefore, seems to reside in two factors: in ourselves and in our willpower to make time and learn something “deliberately”, as Benjamin Franklin would say.

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Rava Desk

Rava is an online news portal providing recent news, editorials, opinions and advice on day to day happenings in Pakistan.


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