Yesterday, I had a meeting with a colleague who had come from Mumbai. The moment we met he started complaining about the traffic of Pune. He’s new to driving and was peevish about how people in different cities drive differently and how difficult it is to grasp that vibe.
His statement took me back 8 years when I was learning this skill myself. I had to really work hard even to get the basics right. Hands on wheel in 10 and 2, left leg on clutch and right one on brake. I used to keep forgetting it all! The trickiest part for me was to get the car moving as it requires a strategic manoeuvre and precise timing of transitioning one’s right leg from brake to accelerator swiftly and smoothly. I remember my instructor sweating profusely in heat and exhaustion, until I was able to get my car from the driveway onto the road. Now, after so many years of driving I am proud to say that I am pretty good at it. I can now drive with ease, listen to songs and sing along whilst ignoring the noise on road, change gears effortlessly and even eat my breakfast if I am running late.
I invite you to pick up a pen and paper and write your name with your non-dominant hand. Unless you are ambidextrous, chances are, that it will take you more time and it will certainly be not as clean as you writing your name with your dominant hand. But, do you think if you continue writing with the non-dominant hand you’ll improve?
Of course, you will. You definitely will!
To acquire any skill one usually goes through 4 Stages of Learning. This model was been given by Martin M Broadwell in 1969. This article is an interpretation of the same concept in my own understanding.
I DON’T CARE (Unconscious Incompetence)
Here, we do not understand or do not realise that we may need a certain skillset in future. Since, we don’t realise it, we don’t learn or work to acquire it. We are happy and satisfied in the present situation and do not feel the need of any improvement or modification. Ignorance is bliss here. However, the only thing constant is change. Hence, it’s important to have a flexible and agile mindset. It’s crucial to have a bird’s eye view of where the organisation is heading and thereby what new skills would be expected from the employee in future.
MAYBE I NEED IT (Conscious Incompetence)
Here, we do not know how to do it, but we realise the importance of acquiring that knowledge or skill. In this stage the ‘want’ arises. This phase is useful because unless we realise the need for it, we will not actually do something about it. For instance, in my first job, I realised that a lot of my mundane tasks could be automated if I learn VBA macros. A strong need arose in me to take the training and thereby implement faster solutions. The mantra of this stage is ‘Necessity is mother of invention’.
LEARNING IS HARD (Conscious Competence)
This is the longest phase out of the four as here, one starts learning the skill, makes mistakes, corrects them, tries again and gradually achieves finesse at it. I relate this phase to the construction of a beautiful building, where brick by brick a masterpiece emerges. A lot of people ‘Give up’ here as they are not committed to do the hard work. They lack persistence and tenacity. Thus, motivating yourself in this phase is extremely important. Jaime Tardy has righty said ‘Success is a series of small wins.’ The following tips can be useful:
- Complimenting yourself for every improvement. Keeping a journal to track progress.
- Focus on what can be bettered and not criticizing self if a mistake is made.
- Sharing your victories with friends and family. Believe you me ‘a pat from dad’ is more motivating than anything else in the world.
OH BOY! I AM AN EXPERT (Unconscious Competence):
This phase reaps sweet fruits of all the hardwork, and toil done in the third phase. We go in an ‘autopilot’ mode where we have imbibed the learning and execution is happening now automatically. Other people compliment us on our expertise and ask us the ‘recipe of our success’. The skill acquired becomes a natural part of us and we wonder as to why was it so difficult for to learn it in the first place. We feel as if we knew this skill all along.
Learning is a process. It happens slowly but steadily; all it takes is a strong resolve. The only difference between a master and a beginner is that the master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried. Focus on refining yourself one day, one step, one breath at a time. Everything is difficult before it becomes easy.