How long will it take?

In one of my last articles, I went over how steno works but made no mention of how long it takes to learn.

That’s a question that comes up…a lot. I remember spending months wondering about that myself.

Will I have enough time to commit to this? What will the pay-off be? Will it actually be worth it? How much innate ability do I have? Will it take me more or less time than the average person to learn this?

It’s really easy to worry about not having enough time or having this sneaking suspicion that you won’t turn out to be ‘good enough’ to make it with steno. I have some good news though.

None of that matters.

Here, let me show you.

I could tell you that it would be reasonable to expect to learn…

  • the board’s raw letters after about your first couple of days
  • how to actually reach for each of the keys in about a week
  • how to write at about 2-3 wpm in the next week
  • and then at about 10 wpm after about your first month
  • and after a few months feel comfortable with the top 100 words .. and also have a basic sense of how all of the different sounds are mapped out onto the board
  • and then after about 6 months start to be able to write out text messages to friends
  • and after about a year start to hone your speed and vocabulary

But there’s something really important that gets lost in that kind of explanation – the how of all of this.

You can set up a schedule for yourself and tell yourself that you are going to hit certain milestones at certain points. You can constantly look at your progress and reevaluate whether this whole thing is actually worth it to you. But I think that’s a good recipe for burnout, and lots of frustration.

There’s another way though.

Steno is beautiful. It is deep. It is worth doing for its own sake. I think the best way to approach it, even if you do have goals in mind, is to find a rhythm, focus on mastery, and let progress be a byproduct.

I have recently been reading a book that I think does a much better job of explaining all of this. It’s called Mastery by George Leonard. Here’s a quote from the book:

“How long will it take me to master aikido?” a prospective student asks. “How long do you expect to live?” is the only respectable response. Ultimately, practice is the path of mastery. If you stay on it long enough, you’ll find it to be a vivid place, with its ups and downs, its challenges and comforts, its surprises and disappointments, and uncondititional joys. You’ll take your share of bumps and bruises while traveling–bruises of the ego as well as of the body, mind, and spirit–but it might well turn out to be the most reliable thing in your life. Then, too, it might eventually make you a winner in your chosen field, if that’s what you’re looking for, and then people will refer to you as a master.

But that’s not really the point. What is mastery? At the heart of it, mastery is practice. Mastery is staying on the path.