Below is an excerpt from Seth Godin’s Blog that parallels the four stages to mastery of any skill;

Unconscious Incompetence

This is the initial learning stage, where you “don’t know, what you don’t know” as the saying goes. You are unaware of the mindset, the tool sets or the physical requirements of the skill you are trying to master.

Conscious Incompetence 

You’ve now become aware of the physical, mental and/or emotional requirements that are fundamental to mastering the skill. For example, I’m fully aware that I suck at golf…and I’m ok with that for now. The good news is that I understand the fundamentals and the physical/mental requirements, the next step is to practice and get some expert coaching.

Conscious Incompetence

With consistent practice, coaching and an open mind to learning, you begin to get it right. You have to still think about each step, it isn’t natural at all, there is only a glimpse of muscle memory or mental relaxation but you begin to sense when you get it right.

Unconscious Competence

This is known as, “Spontaneous Right Action”. The Japanese traditions refer to the concept of  “Mushin” or  “No Mind” or it has also been referred to as “Beginners Mind”. The Chinese have a similar concept call “Wei Wu Wei” or “Action Without Acting”. In the West, we use terms like, ‘In the zone’, ‘Game face’, ‘Flow’ and others. All of these terms refer back to the synergy of the mental, physical and intuitive elements that allow you to ‘get it right’ without thinking about. That is where true mastery of the skill begins…

The trouble is, as Seth states in his blog, that people get bored with game as it were and quit just as the door begins to open to real mastery. I would like to say that this has become much more prevalent in today’s information overloaded, disposable culture…but that’s not really true. The reality is that it has always been a part of the human condition. That’s why so few people throughout history have ever reached a level of mastery, in any skill let alone professional skills. It takes time…a lot of time, patience, discipline, consistent effort and often mentoring by someone with higher skills to move towards it.

Or as my father used to say, “If it was easy, everyone would be doing it”. But that is what makes mastery so worthwhile and valuable.

Seth’s Blog: Four stages of the game.

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