The Four Stages Of Competence/Learning How to Learn
Life is nothing but a series of mistakes and correct actions because otherwise no one could learn anything. One has to go through the four stages of competence – are you familiar with them? It wouldn't hurt me to delineate them anyway, as they are vital and this reminds me that I should put them up as a personal post or blog. The four stages are:
Unconscious Incompetence = this is where I don't even know that such a thing exists so I am unconscious of my incompetence. I use a simple example. Imagine I lived on an isolated island I'd never seen a car or a typewriter – so I have unconscious incompetence with respect to driving and typing. So now a car in a typewriter or car placed in front of me with somebody utilizing them. Now I go over and I sit in the car in the drivers seat and I realize I don't know what the hell I'm doing, or a go to the typewriter and I'm bewildered – now I have the second stage:
Conscious Incompetence = Now I have at least the ability to learn, but it requires all of my attention to be directed as in driving I need to know to turn the key, put the car in gear, step on the gas and brakes as needed, steer the steering wheel, use the turn signals, adjust the rear-view mirrors – and of course this is going to put me into a strong cognitive dissonance or confusion trance until I figure it all out. Even then I may be able to drive but not with the passenger telling me about their vacation. I have developed the third stage:
Conscious Competence = Now I am competent and can drive and use a typewriter more and more efficiently. At some point this "know how" sinks below the dividing line of waking consciousness and the subconscious and unconscious, and I have reached the fourth stage of competence:
Unconscious Competence = now I can drive and listen to your story or type without looking at the typewriter but instead at what I need to type. Just for our amusement, let's look at some of the things which required us to go through all four stages:
Walking, Talking, Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, Riding a Bicycle, Tying One's Own Shoes, Running, Skipping, Using Silverware, and Etc. Ad Infinitum.
NONE – Not one came without conscious effort, and one must make a series of correct and incorrect actions which the brain then trims in its plasticity during rest or sleep will perform a kind of topiary deleting incorrect actions and strengthening correct actions. If we only did correct actions we could learn anything because we would already know it – this is known in neural plasticity as "neurons that fire together, wire together; neurons that fire separately, wire separately."
Every impression – absolutely every impression conscious or unconscious knocks into the vessel of alchemical metal powders, or as I like to put it, the kaleidoscope of "i"s.