How to Learn New Skills in 20 Hours

I have watched Josh Kaufman and maybe you are also one of the 22 million viewers of his YouTube video about “The first 20 hours and how to learn anything”. The video is based on his book “The First 20 Hours.”

This is a short version tutorial:

Naturally I had to put it to a test: Can an adult with dyslexia, with average or poor reading skills learn to read in twenty hours? And what steps would allow this shortcut to happen?

It wouldn’t mean that he or she’d be perfect at it, but achieving a competency level that improves the confidence and allows for full comprehension without having to read a text several times should be possible, right?

Testing if a Dyslexic Adult Can Learn to Read in 20 Hours

To test if adults with dyslexia with average or poor reading skills could learn to read in 20 hours, I needed to identify the steps that would create a short-cut to their learning.

For my experiment I decided that:

  • It should be about reading a book of interest, not a Dr. Seuss ‘Cat in the Hat’ book
  • We would have five days, during which 20 hours would be dedicated to spelling and reading
  • The rest of the time will set the scene for it:

1.  The student will need to be able to FOCUS

2. Have the ALPHABET, the building blocks of reading, made himself in clay and fully mastered

3. Learn the most basic grammar, including punctuation marks

The video recommends intervals of Struggle and Sleep.

Dyslexic adult learn to read

During our experiment we had 45 minutes of work, 15 minutes of rest, which varied from a meditation, relaxation or removing emotional blocks that stop improvement.

We used a visualisation meditation that improves the focusing ability, makes our students feel relaxed and grounded. Nobody can learn in a state of anxiety and stress, so that proved to be most valuable and enjoyable for our students.

Often less is more and we have found that the best results came when there were intense, but shorter spurts of effort and time in between to get up and switch to a relaxing pace, often to play some educational ball games that additionally help with focus, balance and brain gym.

The reading level of half of our adult students was actually not bad at all, but comprehension, speed and memory held them back from reading more than was absolutely necessary. Without reading more, spelling is also hard to achieve.

There are more than 600,000 words in the English language and although the average English native speaker only uses about 20,000 words, there is still a lot of room for spelling mistakes.

For the poor readers (which would relate to a level 1 reading score) the relaxation and slower pace were even more important, as there is considerable frustration, anxiety and even trauma around literacy. School was painful, shameful and usually exited as soon as possible.

It was the removal of these emotional barriers that made reading even possible, as without it, success would have been sabotaged at every step.

Alan was of one these students. He worked as a carpenter on a building site, but couldn’t pass any trade exams to become a foreman or go beyond the tools. Even though he is very good at his job, is bright and has great problem solving skills, he lacked the confidence to become a subcontractor and get paid what he’s worth. He also lacked the confidence in his relationships and in social situations.

Releasing the trauma of some of his early memories was huge for Alan. There was the time when the whole class laughed at him, when he stuttered in front of them, trying to read out loud. There was the time when a girlfriend ridiculed him in front of his mates. There was the time when he overheard his parents talk about him not being able to achieve much in life…

The Key Ingredients of how Dyslexic Adults Learn to Read in 20 Hours 

Dyslexic adult learn to read

From my work with Alan and many other dyslexic adults, the key ingredients to a dyslexic adult learning to read in 20 hours are:

  1. Where there are negative memories connected with reading, these need to be neutralised. I use tapping (also known as Emotional Freedom Technique – EFT) and other releasing techniques before anything new could even be attempted. We only had five days, but much of our time was spent with the removal of the old beliefs. This made room for new beliefs about being a better reader.
  2. Every single hour (or rather 45 minutes to every hour), the alarm went off and we reinforced the focus by listening to a visualisation tape for 8 minutes, followed by EFT.
  3. Alan created his own alphabet in plasticine, upper case and lower case. There were some letters that were connected to triggering memories and we neutralised these.
  4. We went through the punctuation marks and their meaning and application.
  5. We looked at these little sight words and made meaning of them.
  6. He chose to read ‘Harry Potter’, which may be a children’s book, but not an easy one. 
  7. From not being able to read even one line without guessing or changing a few words and having no comprehension after a sentence, Alan went on to read fluently, asking for help with a few words in each paragraph and could comprehend and remember the entire passage he read.
  8. Yes, there is still a path ahead of him, but he now has a road-map for that and had developed the confidence and belief of what was possible.

The work was worth it and paid off. Although the reading was still at a slower pace, the level of confidence and relief is so palpable and rewarding to see.

It’s like the blueprint is there, the path has been laid and now the journey can be walked on, without the big boulders of insecurity to stop the progress.

The approach I use sees that every student has a 6-month program to continue to mastery, 30 min a day, involving a couple of exercises each day. If more time is spent, the program can be completed in three months.

So yes, reading in twenty hours can become a reality – but students are encouraged to continue to travel these new neural pathways, by reading for half-an hour each day for a while, to fully imprint this skill into their subconscious brain.

Then literacy becomes a default skill, something that can be retrieved without struggle and pain.

Like every new skill, it takes at least 21 days to become a habit.

I have made it easy and free for every student to start the journey by himself or herself, with a free FOCUS and READ course in five steps:

It’s a free audio version of a program I have recorded with a dyslexic adult who was in Queensland and we did a mini program via zoom.

For $ 147 you can have access to the video version.

This extended version includes all the downloads, including the visualisation to focus and is easier to follow along. 

The program is designed with creative, visual and hands-on learners in mind and will definitely assist dyslexic adults to learn to read.

Dyslexic adult learn to read