The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything Fast


In the latest episode of WTF, Marc Maron talks to one of my very, very favourite standup comics, John Mulaney. Mulaney, who spent years as a staff writer on shows like Important Things with Demetri Martin and, most famously, SNL (he was one of the guys who created Stefon), talks about his early standup career, particularly touring as an emcee for acclaimed comic and filmmaker Mike Birbiglia.

“I went on the road with him for 30 days straight. and that was like a huge turning point. The lesson for me was that before that tour with Mike, I always wanted the show to be cancelled. I always wanted to have done a show. I wanted it behind me. And after doing 30 days straight where I had to emcee every night, I started to want to do the show itself.”

This is a powerful idea. It evokes the 10,000 hour rule popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers (which is now, admittedly, largely debunked): at a certain threshold, you develop your skills enough to become an expert. The Beatles are the most often cited case of the 10,000 hour rule in effect. John Lennon describes a period in their early years where they honed their craft playing German clubs.

“We had to play for hours and hours on end. Every song lasted twenty minutes and had twenty solos in it. That’s what improved the playing.”

Somewhere between 10,000 hours in a German club and 30 days on the road with Mike Birbiglia, though, lies Josh Kaufman’s book, The First 20 Hours.  Continue reading

Reading List

As Jeff mentioned in the previous post, I’m scheduled to be on a panel at the Alberta Media Arts Alliance Society Symposium this Friday, May 9, where I’ll be talking with Calgary super-producer Spencer Estabrooks about finding an audience for your work online (check out his spectacular web series One Hit Die here).

While I cannot say definitively how the discussion will go (if I learned one thing in high school, it’s that the only thing you can count on in social situations is getting swirlied and jammed in a locker), there is one thing that is indisputable – I will mention like 8,000 books, because I have a personal believe-y that any problem, no matter how gigantic, somewhere, has a book that can solve it. I will also heavily plug the web app that Samsonite and I have in the works.

So after the jump, find a list of some books I am likely to recommend on the topic of internet distribution, business models and audience acquisition. Continue reading