The First Fifteen Minutes

from Seth’s Blog

Learning something new is frustrating. It involves being dumb on the way to being smart.

Once we get good enough (at our tools, at our work) it’s easier and easier to skip learning how to do the next thing, because, hey, those fifteen minutes are a hassle.

Learning to use the new fax machine, or a different interface on the voice mail or even, yikes, a new version of Photoshop. (I confess that I dropped off the Photoshop train a half dozen versions ago, much to my chagrin.)

And so we get in the habit of giving a half effort, not really reading the instructions, shrugging our shoulders and moving on. The professional in us that was always eager to find tools that added leverage becomes the complacent coaster, defending what’s on the table as ‘good enough’. 

The problem with evaluating the first fifteen minutes of frustration is that we easily forget about the 5,000 minutes of leverage that frustration earns us if we stick it out.

Yes, Isaac Asimov typed all 400 of his books on a manual typewriter. But I’m glad Cory Doctorow has a laptop.

More here.

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60 Responses to The First Fifteen Minutes

  1. Olivia Tarnawska April 5, 2017 at 4:57 pm #

    I really enjoy how Seth’s blogs are always short and to the point, but offer a deeper meaning too. In this blog his ideas revolve around learning something new. Although exciting at times, it is also frustrating at times too. During times when learning something new presents to be frustrating, people are usually more willing to give up quicker due to their inability to understand or preform. They also lose more patience and in return make them less willing to stick it out. Godin titles his article “The first fifteen minutes”. I think he uses this time frame to give those who are learning something new an idea of the time needed to spend on executing the task. When he states 15 minutes, I also believe he intends that these 15 minutes are executed with dedication and motivation to really understand the information that is being learned. I also believe that when people are frustrated they tend to try and find quick alternatives. Like Godin mentions “And so we get in the habit of giving a half effort, not really reading the instructions, shrugging our shoulders and moving on.” However, finding the quickest solution will not always work. Additionally, giving up will not help a person either. With the statement “we easily forget about the 5,000 minutes of leverage that frustration earns us if we stick it out”, holds very true. The effort that a person will put in to learn something new will in the end pay off. This idea that Godin presents in one that I can relate to. Ever since I was in elementary school, I have had a lot of trouble understanding and executing math problems, especially word problems. This problem has followed me through out my high school days as well as my college days. Though with mistakes and trial and error, I was able to learn that dedicating “15 minutes” everyday to try and grasp the concept I am learning, will benefit me in the end. I hated, and still hate, dedicating time to a subject that I am not really skilled at. However, by dedicating a little time each day, the effort builds. Once exam day comes, I am prepared way more than I would have been if I put off those ’15 minutes” a day.

  2. John Zarro April 7, 2017 at 2:20 pm #

    This article on Seth’s Blog titled “The First Fifteen Minutes” was very interesting. I agree with the entire article top to bottom because the message of sticking it out to make everything else easier is very truthful. I can relate this article to personal experiences that I have dealt with. Every time I try to do something, I discard the directions and attempt to find an easier way to do it. The problem with this method is that in the future, whatever I built or whatever I did was done incorrectly. I have learned that there is a right way and a wrong way to do things, however, my method was clearly the wrong way.

    For example, recently I built myself a dresser from IKEA for my room. I opened the box and there was a ten page long manual with directions on how to build the dresser. Being the impatient person I am, I threw the directions aside and stated putting pieces together where they looked like they fit. After about 30 minutes of putting together most of the pieces, I tried to start putting my clothes into it and instantly it collapsed. At the time it seemed like a good idea to avoid the “frustration” or the “first fifteen minutes,” but in reality skipping that prominent time period made it worse for me in the long run.

    Overall, what Seth’s Blog is trying to say is that dealing with the first “fifteen minutes of frustration” will be worth it in the long run. I also agree with his ideology regarding half effort. Seth’s Blog says that “we get in the habit of giving a half effort, not really reading the instructions, shrugging our shoulders and moving on. The professional in us that was always eager to find tools that added leverage becomes the complacent coaster, defending what’s on the table as ‘good enough’”. Our generation tends to rather settle because it seems easier when it really isn’t. When we deal with those first fifteen minutes correctly, we make the future a whole lot easier. Short cuts and half effort will only cause us to fail when its time to perform correctly. Seth’s Blog then says, “ The problem with evaluating the first fifteen minutes of frustration is that we easily forget about the 5,000 minutes of leverage that frustration earns us if we stick it out.” He references what I said previously about just “sticking it out” and it will be worth it in the end.

    In conclusion, I must say I always love reading Seth’s Blog because they deliver life lessons in short articles that are usually entertaining to read. This article was like every other as it gave real life examples of what the blog is trying to convey, but at the same time including the author’s personal insight. His insight usually adds some comic relief to articles that share a serious message regarding life and life’s secrets or tips. Even though it is very had to deal with the first fifteen minutes in my eyes because I am so impatient, I know I need to in order to prosper in the future with anything from building little Legos to studying for final exams. In order to excel in life, effort needs to be put where it is needed and the previously mentioned “half-effort” needs to be abolished.

  3. Halli Schwartz November 1, 2018 at 8:03 pm #

    A wise man once said, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” When one attempts to gain a new skill, complete a new task, or try to do something they never have before, it is quite difficult. Trying to gain a new skill is hard, because, without any past knowledge, one needs to start from a blank page, and fill it with facts and research and experience. In other words, when the going gets tough, some may not want to keep going. In the article, “The first fifteen minutes,” the author discusses the process of learning a new skill, and discusses how this process may prove quite difficult in the beginning. This may detract one from learning a new skill. I feel as if this article truly pertains to the example of learning how to ride a bicycle. I, admittedly, was terrified to learn how to ride a bike, so I started a bit later than most people. When I was around ten years old, my father asked me the question that he had asked me many times before, “Are you ready to try to ride your bike without training wheels?” My face froze, as I was so scared of falling down and injuring myself, as this had previously occurred to me as I was roller skating. However, I decided to put my big girl shoes on, and finally face my fear. My dad and I drove to a large high school parking lot, and he unloaded my bicycle from the trunk of our car. I buckled my helmet, made it as tight as I could, and prepared for the worst. I looked at the empty parking lot, and suddenly became determined to finally complete this action that I probably should have learned a few years prior. With all of the persistence that my ten year old body could hold, I hopped on my bicycle, put both feet on the pedals, and immediately fell over. I remember the hopeless feeling in my gut. I felt as if I would never be able to do this mundane task, and mentally prepared to use training wheels my whole life. However, my father interjected into my thought process, and told me to try again. This time, with his hand holding up the bike, I felt a little safer. So, I tried again. This time, I actually moved the bike a little bit, but as soon as my father’s hand came off the seat, I tipped over, and scraped my knees. My mind went back to the training wheels for life, and all of my slim, but still existing, determination faded quickly. Yet again, my dad told me to keep pushing, and that I would soon be thankful that I did not give up. I hopped back on my bicycle, with little confidence, and started riding, I made it around the parking lot, believing that my father was running behind me, holding the back of my seat. But, when I looked back, I saw him in the distance, with a big smile on his face. The first fifteen minutes were torture, but once I acquired my new skill, I felt as if I was on top of the world.
    As I look back at this experience, I could have allowed it to make me not learn new things. I could have gotten “in the habit of giving a half effort, not really reading the instructions, shrugging our shoulders and moving on” (Godin 4). As learning how to ride my bike was difficult, I could have not wanted to learn anything else, as it could be as difficult as it was to learn how to ride my bike. When the first fifteen minutes proves tough, many may not attempt to learn many new things, because they may prove just as difficult as their past attempts at new skills. However, if they do not attempt many new things, and push through the beginning and learning process of these attempts, they will never see the benefits that they would have gained by completing the learning process and obtaining new skills. “The problem with evaluating the first fifteen minutes of frustration is that we easily forget about the 5,000 minutes of leverage that frustration earns us if we stick it out” (Godin 5). Without pushing through the obstacles, one will never be able to seek the rewards. If I had not kept trying to ride my bike, then I would not have been able to ride my bike all the time currently. If one does not work hard to learn a new computer program, they may not be able to gain a promotion based upon this skill. Reward always comes from hard work, so when we all realize that we should get through the first fifteen minutes, reward will be inevitable.

  4. Michael Zera November 2, 2018 at 2:32 pm #

    In this article titled, “The First 15 Minutes,” the author creates an argument explaining the “first minutes” in evaluating or learning something is going to help in the long run. The problem that the author is trying to convey is that most people become frustrated in the first moment of learning something new that we as people sometimes decide to shove the situation aside and either ignore it or barely be attentive in what is occurring. As Seth explains, we as people become used to giving “half effort” in certain situations such as reading instructions to a test. Personally, and I know for most people, they have made an error on a test because they either did not read the directions or just went too fast. All it takes is a few minutes to thoroughly read the instructions, and a few more minutes to look over your answers to make sure everything is the way it needs to be. Society today is so focused on doing everything as fast as he or she can that completing something does not always mean it is correct. For example, being the first one to finish a test, or being able to do the homework the fastest does not mean you are learning something. Most people, as the article suggests, struggle with giving their full effort and giving full energy in the first moment of possibly learning something new. This article immediately reminded me of my freshman year when I tried out for the golf team and got cut. I remember never playing golf, but just wanted to get better being with the team. I got cut, and instead of stepping away from the game, I practiced everyday for the rest of summer and eventually made the team the next season. I could have easily walked away from the sport, and accept failure, but I did not. And I am so glad I didn’t as the game of golf taught me so much while meeting new people every time I am playing. Like the article, it is difficult to learn something new as “it involved being dumb on the way to being smart.” Most people do not have the work ethic compared to others that like to take the easy way out by giving little effort. That is the experience in learning something, you learn how to fail first and begin to learn so much along the way in succeeding. Always approach something with great pride, importantly in the first minutes of learning something, because you never know when you will need it for the future.

  5. Kent Flores November 2, 2018 at 5:49 pm #

    In the online blog “The First Fifteen Minutes” by Seth, we are presented with the idea that most of us fail to continually grow in a subject after we have become fairly good at the basics. For example, Seth used himself as a victim of this failed growth trend when he decided to not learn the newest skills on Photoshop, and he preferred to stick with the older model which is not as efficient as the new one. We have all been a victim to the voices in our head that tell us that we do not need to learn new tools, because we already have one way of doing it. We all become frustrated when opening up instruction manuals since that is the time when we have to acknowledge that we lack understanding of the item before us. As humans, we all hate to feel stupid, even if it is for a short period of time. Seth explained that it is the first fifteen minutes of learning a new subject or tool that will actually allow us to have hours of leverage once we learn what we are trying to learn. If we give up within those first fifteen minutes, we become stagnant and someone else who is willing to feel dumb for a little bit, will become smarter than you and surpass you. This reminds me of a famous quote that says “hard work beats talent when talent does not work hard.” This quote embodies what Seth is trying to get us to comprehend, and that is to always grow even if growth makes us feel temporarily stupid. I remember a time when I did not want to learn how to code, because I felt that maybe it just was not for me, but I attempted to learn how to code anyways. I took a course and I literally knew nothing about the subject and I felt like quitting, but I stuck with it, because nothing great in life comes easy. The ability to constantly grow in my opinion is the hardest yet most accessible tool our brain is equipped with, yet few use it. For all those who want to learn a new skill, I fully encourage to not give up in the first couple of attempts, because if you continue to push to learn it, one day the most difficult materials about that skill will become basic to you.

  6. Danielle C. April 29, 2019 at 11:29 am #

    I agree with Seth’s post. Learning something new within the first fifteen minutes can be frustrating, especially if others are good at what someone is learning, people will get embarrassed and immediately be good at it. I have experienced this in many occasions. For example, my friend is a very good and skilled golf player and I am okay playing golf, but not skilled as she is. When she asked to play golf, I would think she would want to do miniature golf, but she wanted to go play a full professional game. I was okay with it, however the first fifteen minutes became very frustrating because I don’t play golf as much as she does. Another example is cosmetics. Many makeup artists create beautiful and unique looks. As some create a step by step tutorial, some people will complain that their appearances don’t look as good as the professional. The professional has done the look many times and has some skills that most people cannot get so easily. It does take a precise technique and patience. However, this patience and technique is not always there and can get some people frustrated. Also, if they do not follow the directions and go completely by the picture or a video that has no directions, it can make the final product different and not look as it exactly is intended. Some tips that could be good to make the first fifteen minutes seem easier is to do some research before going straight in. By having some information this can make the fifteen minutes easier. Another tip would be to not be embarrassed and ask for help. As much as people would like to show off to others and be able to do the skill right away, people did not learn to do it on their own. They had either a professional, trainer, family or friend teach them. Helping one another is good and others will not laugh or make fun of someone when they ask for help. Another tip would be to practice the new skill often. If you learn something new and take a break, it can be forgotten. If someone practices many times in a row, they will get the hang of the new skill easily.

  7. Ashley Bock May 2, 2019 at 3:50 pm #

    Learning something new for many of us is not enjoyable this because we have to get through the frustrating how to or the learning process that will help us in the future. This frustrating start to learning something new is exactly what Seth’s Blog addresses in his article “The First Fifteen Minutes”. I agree with Seth’s opinion completely, which is that once we get good enough at a particular skill or task we skip the instruction manual or the frustrating how to because it takes time to read or watch and just out of laziness or sheer lack of motivation to try something new, we skip the whole learning in general and just not try. For instance, Seth himself has given up on Photoshop a “half dozen versions” (Seth’s Blog) ago. This because he did not want to learn the new skills needed to use it. I think today’s people get comfortable, comfortable in their environment, their job, or ways to tackle a task, and when something new comes about that requires a different way of approaching it or requiring new skills, many individuals would rather stick with what they know. However, I feel Seth has written very clearly the issue with this way of thinking and that is an issue with going through “the first fifteen minutes of frustration is that we easily forget about the 5,000 minutes of leverage that frustration earns us if we stick it out” (Seth’s Blog). This is exactly it instead of considering the future of our actions and benefits it could bring us, we focus our attention on the short frustration and annoyance that learning something new will cause. This is something I try not to do weather it comes to school or in everyday life, because the future is changing very quickly, and we need to learn more skills in order to keep up evolve with it. So, sticking with one way to do something will not benefit anyone’s situation.

  8. Adelina P October 8, 2019 at 6:00 pm #

    The magic number according to Seth’s post is 15. It only takes 15 minutes to learn something without being frustrated anymore. It sounds very reasonable since learning something new can be challenging and stressful when you don’t know what you’re doing. However, once that time is up, and you familiarize yourself with whatever you were learning it becomes second nature to you. A great example, learning something new at work, and being taught by your coworkers who have done it for many years and mention to you that once you get the hang of it, you’ll be able to do it in your sleep, that is practically what it means to learn something in 15 minutes. When doing something new for the first time can be seen as tedious because it seems as if others know more than yourself, but those 15 minutes of frustration will stick with you many more hours afterward. It is all worth that slight moment to grow, and become better each day than you were from the last.
    To counter-argue Seth’s point, Josh Kaufman believes it takes 20 hours to learn something new. People want to be the best at what they do and not care about time. You have to stick out those 20 hours to feel rewarded at the end and accomplish that thing you wanted to learn. However, Seth’s point noted that people only need 15 minutes of frustration before getting over it. Kaufman mentions that putting 20 hours deliberately, continuously, effectively, and focused practice is the only way you can master what you’re learning. 20 hours is only 45 minutes a month. However, there is a way to invest the 20 hours most efficiently. You have to “deconstruct the skill”, meaning there are smaller skills within that one skill you want to learn, so master those first and climb the ladder to that one skill. Another thing is, making sure you don’t procrastinate, you should learn just enough, practice and realizing where you go wrong and fixing it. Also, making sure there are no distractions, with that will power you can practice effectively. Lastly, practice for at least 20 hours. Now, what does it take 20 hours or 15 minutes?

  9. Samantha Russo October 9, 2019 at 12:34 pm #

    I am most definitely someone who, after a few times of trying doesn’t understand something, will just drop it and let someone else go. I don’t like to be seen as incapable of a new task or skill. I would rather attempt something my own way before admitting defeat and asking for help. Just last semester I interned at a district legislative office. I’m someone who grew up with technology so I had no problem creating excel sheets and sending emails to constituents. Something in the office though had everything puzzled and that was how to insert a blank envelope properly into a printer so that we could type out addresses rather than handprint them. I assume it was because I was the youngest that had everyone in the office look to me for help. I must have went through ten different envelopes while using Google to see if anyone had any tips. I didn’t want to admit I had no idea what to do but I also didn’t want to ask for help. I stuck with it for at least twenty minutes before I printed the envelope correctly and we were able to use it to mail out important documents. I admit, those first fifteen minutes had me thinking that I was technologically dumb, I mean how can someone not print on an envelope correctly but after continuously trying, I was able to do it and now can easily help insert envelopes for printing.
    This was a rare case, if we’re being completely honest, where I stuck with a new task until completion because I didn’t want to seem unknowledgeable in the office. I, and so many others, get comfortable in knowing how to work something one way and if we are forced to take on a new skill or idea, we find it hard to keep up and will give up before ever getting close to solving it. I’m getting better as admitting defeat or sticking through those first fifteen minutes without giving up like I’m so used to doing. I don’t like not knowing something immediately and having to look up how to do it at first but once I’m past those “first fifteen minutes”, I know a new skill and I’m able to flaunt my newfound knowledge on a subject.

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