A lot has been written about the 10,000 hours it takes to be at the top of a competitive field. A more relevant question might be "how long does it take to reach a reasonable level of competence in anything?"
In this TED talk by Josh Kaufman, he argues that it takes just 20 hours - 20 hours of deliberate practice. Due to the law of diminishing returns, there's a sweet spot. For a small amount of time you can get great gains.
The 4 simple steps for rapid skill acquisition are...
1. Deconstruct the skill
Any skill depends on a bunch of sub-skills. Break down the skills you need so you can practice these. To play a song you might only need to learn 4 or 5 chords.
Learn enough so you can identify your mistakes and correct yourself.
3. Remove barriers to learning
You don't need to read 20 books before you can start learning. Remove distractions so you can focus on learning the basic skills.
4. Practice at least 20 hours.
Commit to practicing for 20 hours. The first few hours of learning anything can be painfully difficult and a lot of people quit before getting through this.
Do you have any tips for learning quickly?