Yesterday my 6 year old daughter was crying about a picture she was trying to draw. She couldn’t quite get the lines and proportions of the woman she was drawing perfected.

She was crying about it because she was frustrated.

My wife told her that all artists cry when they are learning.

Ever get frustrated when you do something new?

My wife pointed out to me that my daughter was just becoming aware of how much she had to learn about drawing.

There’s a term for this in learning, its called Conscious Incompetence.

You see everyone who masters anything, goes through the same 4 stages of competence as they develop their skills.

Those 4 stages are…

  1. Unconscious Incompetence
  2. Conscious Incompetence
  3. Conscious Competence
  4. Unconscious Competence

It’s an interesting cycle of development to understand.

It works like this. First you start out learning something new. You don’t know just how bad you are at it. This is the stage of Unconscious Incompetence. You like doing it and you don’t know that you aren’t very good at it.

At some point your bliss wears off, and you become aware of you incompetence. Maybe you compare yourself to how someone else performs, or how you think they perform, and you conclude that you aren’t very skilled at this. This is the stage of Conscious Incompetence. You are painfully aware of how incompetent you are.

This is the stage where the real learning and development happen. Because now that you are aware of your incompetence, it’s very easy to get frustrated, angry, or scared and give up.

And give up is exactly what many people do in all variety of different endeavors every day when they come to the realization that they are not as good as "the best" in their field.

So what?

Even the "best" had to be the incompetent at some time.

Even the so-called Naturals were not as good as they are today at one point in time. Now that point in time might have been when they were young, and don’t remember much about how they learned, or how they mastered. But they went through this cycle.

The third stage then is where you start getting really good at something, and you know it. You can see that you are doing things the right way, that you are succeeding, and you are excited about it. You are becoming Consciously Competent because you are aware of every little thing you are doing right to get the results you want.

It’s like when you learn how to golf, and you start hitting the ball just right, and you know just what you are doing that is right. You know where to put your feet, how to hold the club, how much to bend your knees, etc. That is conscious competence.

Finally as you continue mastering your new skill, you evolve into Unconscious Competence. You hit the point where doing your new thing takes little thought at all. You just do it you stop paying attention to every little detail of the How, because its now second nature to you.

This is the stage of the Natural. You walk up and hit the ball, and it goes where you want. You pick up the phone and you say the right thing. You stand up to speak for a half an hour, and you do so without getting nervous or breakin a sweat.

Everyone gets to the Natural stage at something because this is the process we all go through to master new skills.

So now that you are aware of the mastery cycle, don’t give up on something when you become aware of your incompetence. Find good models and good teachers to help you push through to the stage of Conscious Competence and eventual mastery.

You’ll be proud of yourself for doing so.

Sell with Pride,

Shameless Shamus

P.S. a great model to use in mastering your sales skills is the Persuasive Selling Skills Audio Program.