Learning steps – they begin with unconscious incompetence. We are blissfully unaware that we don’t know, that we are sadly lacking in skills because we have never considered the matter.
As a child, I had never even dreamed of driving a car. I had no idea how much I didn’t know because I have never even considered the matter. Then, as I moved into my teen years, my Dad let me sit behind the wheel of his car. Oh my! I was awash in the next learning step – Conscious Incompetence. As I faced all those knobs and dials, I was keenly aware of how much I did not know.
When it came time for me to get my driver’s license, I took drivers education and practiced a lot, much to the chagrin of my poor Dad who had to ride along with me, bless him. Over time I became Consciously Competent. I COULD drive, and it took quite a bit of a concentration on my part. Relax, my drivers ed. teacher would say. . .only it sounded more like, “REEEELAX!!!!!!!!X@#!#@#X”. I had to take my drivers ed. exam several times before I passed, but with time and practice, I was a driver.
Today I jump in the car and take off without even thinking twice. I have reached Unconscious Competence. Still, sometimes when there are unusual circumstances – heavy traffic, fog, or slick roads – I have to give driving all my attention. This brings me to alertness as I slip into Conscious Competence again.
This is the path to mastery as we succeed and fail and succeed again, dancing back and forth between different learning steps. This path isn’t linear, which is part of the fun of it all.
Nobody ever became world class at anything because they didn’t have any weaknesses. Few are the geniuses who spring from the womb as fully formed masters, and even these “prodigies” worked very hard to develop their abilities.
Still, for some reason, people seem to want to skip over this process and find an easier ride. I hear students comparing themselves to those who have been coaching for years and judging themselves harshly when they come up short. They imagine that they just don’t have what it takes to be a great coach.
Everyone is looking for the 10 steps to mastery, that fast elevator ride that enables one to pass over the incredibly awkward and vulnerable process of learning something new.
Many potentially great coaches give up far too early, or go for the “quick approach,” investing in superficial training so that they can be “done” with learning.