August 20, 2014
Making the Impossible Look Easy
I’m going to try to keep this short (yeah, right) since I’m sleep deprived and don’t want to babble excessively. We’ll see how well that works out in practice.
Today I’m going to talk about a topic that is semi-related to something I’ve talked about before which was the issue of Becoming an Expert and Deliberate Practice. While there is still a great deal of debate over some of the actual concepts involved in that (short version: the 10,000 rule is mostly nonsense and the idea that ANYONE can reach the top level with sufficient practice is equally nonsense. Malcolm Gladwell and the rest can suck it is what I’m saying) the overall idea still holds: nobody reaches the highest level of anything without putting in the work (it’s simply that one can’t deny the importance of genetics in the talent vs. work debate). That is, no matter how much talent you have, nobody is born being the best. You still have to put in the hours.
But that ties in, maybe indirectly, with today’s topic; an oft-heard statement (by folks not involved in a given activity or who are only casually involved) is how “Such and such just makes it look so easy.” Athletes, performers, creators of all types are known for making what seems like an impossible task look almost effortless. Don’t get me wrong, there may be physical effort involved but when you are talking about the expression of skill itself, skills that look like they should be impossible are performed by the best in any field with almost no effort.
And that brings us to what I want to talk about today which is a model of learning that is usually called the 4 Stages of Competency (and I’ll talk about a 5th). I’ll be honest that I’m cribbing from the Wiki a bit with additional commentary:
There’s really nothing of value to say about this. The person in this stage of ‘competency’ is not only unskilled but isn’t even aware of the skills that they might lack. So consider something like powerlifting. Someone in the stage of unconscious incompetence is not only unskilled at powerlifting but may not even be aware that it exists as a thing. Like I said, not much to say here.