I’m a fan of Stephen Covey and his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. In the book Mr. Covey talks about four stages of knowledge. Knowledge moves from not knowing that you don’t know to being a world-class expert. Along the way there are several steps that everyone must move to reach the highest level, which is being unconsciously competent.
First, you need to know that you don’t know.
If you want to learn something you need a learner’s mind. This means you have to admit that you really don’t know anything about a particular topic. When we’re younger we have no problem with this. As you get older, it becomes harder to admit that you don’t know something about a topic.
The good news is that if you decide to admit you don’t know, there will be lots of people around who will be more than glad to help you. It’s when you don’t admit that you don’t know that you can run into trouble. Too often we act like we know and as a result we give bad advice.
Learning is hard work.
Learning to be an expert is hard work. You have to struggle through the stage of having to think very hard about what you’re supposed to be doing. Your activities probably won’t flow. You’ll feel that you’re starting and stopping an awful lot. Then, magic starts to happen. You will have fleeting times where you just know what to do.
This is the dangerous part of learning. You’ve had a small glimpse into mastery. You might lull yourself to sleep by thinking that you’re now an expert. You might decide that you don’t need your teacher or coach anymore. Don’t lull yourself into a false sense of knowing. If you do, I can promise you there is a painful lesson or two waiting for you.
Eventually you’ll get it.
With lots of purposeful practice and hard work you’ll eventually get it. You can start doing your task without having to think about the steps. You’ll just know what needs to be done. You might even get good enough that you’re not sure how you achieve great results, but you do.
This is where art starts to become reality. Your work is no longer work. It’s more art than work. You don’t do the same thing every time. You don’t have to do the same thing. You know the structure of success and because it’s so ingrained in what you do you can now improvise.
The art is in the improvisation.
Basics are now easy for you. You don’t have to think about the basics and in many cases you don’t even know how you do the basics, you just do them. You’re now ready to make small adjustments that add massive amounts of value to the work you do. When you’re ready to move from practice to art, you’re in a position to be of the most service to those you work with.
You can’t be an expert and artist at everything. You can choose and if you choose what matters most to you and those you work with success is yours. The hard thing about being an artist is that it takes a long time, often years, before you’ve made it. Too often you might want to quit. Perseverance and an over arching vision will help you stay the course.
What do you think? Are you willing to do the hard work and become an artist?
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