“I have no idols. I admire work, dedication and competence.” —
One of the models that helps me cope with learning new skills is the 4 stages of competence.
It helps remind me of the progression from the early awkward stage to the competent stage.
According to the model, you move from unconscious incompetence to unconscious competence.
From Unconscious Incompetence to Unconscious Competence
Here are the 4 stages:
- Unconscious incompetence. You don’t know what you don’t know.
- Conscious incompetence. You know what you don’t know.
- Conscious competence. You know how to do it, but you have to think your way through it.
- Unconscious competence. You can do it without thinking. You just know what to do.
Driving a Car and Unconscious Competence
One of my favorite examples is learning how to drive. When you first learn how to drive a stick shift, you very quickly learn that you don’t know how to do it (conscious incompetence).
As you practice you can start to think your way through it (the conscious competence stage). As driving the stick shift becomes a habit for you, eventually you can drive without thinking, shifting gears effortlessly while you think about other things (unconscious competence.)
Tying Your Shoes and Unconscious Competence
Another example I like is when I first learned to tie my shoes. My aunt gave me an effective technique and I remember practicing it all day. I built unconscious competence soon after and I could tie my shoes pretty quickly which helped when I raced out to play.
Photo by chefranden.