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What’s the best way to begin to learn a new skill?

What’s the best way to begin to learn a new skill? Is it listening to a lecture? Reading a book? Just doing it?

According to Daniel Coyle in The Little Book of Talent: 52 Tips for Improving Your Skills, “Many hotbeds use an approach I call the engraving method. Basically, they watch the skill being performed, closely and with great intensity over and over, until they build a high-definition mental blueprint.”

The key, according to Coyle, is to create an intense connection. You need to be at the point where you can almost imagine the feeling of performing the skill you’re trying to learn. For physical skills this is easier. Pay attention to the movements, the timing, the rhythm. But a lot of the skills we want to learn are mental.

For mental skills, simulate the skill by re-creating the expert’s decision patterns. Chess players achieve this by replaying classic games, move by move; public speakers do it by regiving great speeches complete with original inflections; musicians cover their favorite songs; some writers I know achieve this effect by retyping passages verbatim from great works.

Still curious? Learn how to practice better.