“The Four Stages of Learning
(Super Hack for Learning Fast),”
by Tony Pearl
Here’s a question for you: Did you know that there are FOUR stages to learning something? Pretty much ANYthing you want to learn will go through these four simple stages. I’m talking skills, languages, techniques, basically…anything!
If you’re already familiar with the following concepts, great! But I’d still encourage you to read this information, because you still might just learn a little something along the way. Plus, I’ll do my best to make it fun for ya!
In this article, we’re going to cover those four stages of learning, and relate them to doing business – all in our usual fun, happy way. Ready? Let’s go…
Stage One: Introduction
Everyone has to start somewhere, right? In this case, the place where anyone starts anything new is based in ignorance. You don’t know that you don’t know. A fancier way to call this stage is: “Unconscious Incompetence.”
Quite simply, this is where you are not only made aware of your lack of knowledge, but you’re also introduced to the basics of what you’ve been missing out on.
For an example, I’ll draw on my earlier career experience as a Ballroom Dance Instructor. There were many times when I had the pleasure of introducing a student to a new type of dance that they had no idea existed until that moment of introduction. Once they were aware of their lack of knowledge, and saw how fun and cool that dance looked when I demonstrated, they would immediately want to learn it!
After that, they would be introduced to the basics of that dance, which would lead to…
Stage Two: Awkward Use
Now that you know you don’t know, and have been introduced to the essential basics of whatever it is you want to learn, it’s a natural progression to the ‘Awkward Use’ stage. This is exactly what it sounds like – you’re awkwardly trying to learn and use your newfound knowledge as you work to develop it into a skill.
This stage is also known as “Conscious Incompetence,” where at least you KNOW that you don’t know.
Again, this could apply to anything. But for now, let’s stick to our previous example of learning how to dance. Why? Because it’s fun!
So let’s say that someone just introduced you to salsa dancing. You had never seen this before, and once your eyes were opened, your mind was blown. This happens all the time, trust me. You say, “Wow! That’s amazing! I really want to learn and do that!”
Naturally, the next thing to do is to learn the very basics of the dance – the rhythm and the main basic pattern. That’s the previous ‘Introductory Stage’ right there.
The ‘Awkward Use’ Stage is what happens when you start to practice what you just learned. Now, if you have nothing in you that you can relate to this new skill (no previous experience or talent in this area), guess what? You’re going to struggle quite a bit!
In this example of learning salsa dancing, you’ll wonder if you have any rhythm at all. Or you’ll be confused by what you’re supposed to do with this wonderful, crazy new music you’ve never heard before that only “sounds like banging a bunch of pots & pans” (as one of my old students from way back used to say). You might feel like you’re learning how to walk all over again as your feet and legs betray you and not want to do what your brain is trying to tell them to do.
But your desire is stronger than your frustration from lack of immediate results, so you persist. You practice. Over and over again. You keep working at it.
Eventually, you make it to…
Stage Three: Conscious Use
This is where all that practice starts to pay off! You’re actually DOING and starting to ENJOY it! You’ve pretty much get the basics down, and can really see the light at the end of the tunnel now.
But you’re not done yet. Why? Because you still have to THINK about what you’re doing. It’s not quite…natural yet.
The fancy term for this stage is “Conscious Competence,” where you know that you know… you know?
For example, if you’re salsa dancing (which you’d actually be doing at this point of the game), you may be still counting the beats in your head, while at the same time thinking of how to do a certain pattern AND how to lead (or follow) that pattern properly WHILE staying on beat, smiling, and having a good time…while not running into anyONE or anyTHING. No pressure, right?!!
And you thought dancing was easy?! 🙂
Like anything else that’s worthwhile to learn and master, you keep at it. You practice this new skill as often as you possibly can, because you’ve deemed it important enough to do so. The more effort and ‘work’ you put in, the faster you progress.
Before you know it, you’ve finally arrived at…
Stage Four: Natural Use
Now THIS is where we all want to be: Natural! This means that once you’ve ‘got it,’ it simply becomes a part of you. It becomes as natural as breathing. You just DO it, and you really don’t have to think about it.
The fancy expression for this stage is obviously: “Unconscious Competence,” where you’ve already forgotten that you know. Your brain and body are free to express whatever it is that you want to express, because you’re not having to struggle and think about it.
As this relates to salsa dancing, it would be like just grabbing your husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend/significant other/etc., and getting up to salsa dance anywhere, anytime, and not feel self-conscious or worried, because it’s just a part of you that you enjoy doing. Aaahhhhhhh… You’ve arrived.
By the way, do you know why people take dance lessons? It’s so they don’t look like they take dance lessons! Think about it. Once you get it, say “Ooohhhhhh!”
Here’s a Fancy Graphic I Made For You!:
A Couple Other Examples We Can All Relate To
Ok, so maybe salsa dancing might not be your thing… Yet. Your loss!
But that’s ok. I’ll give you a couple other examples that will make sense to you.
Back when you were just a little kid, someone walked by you with some nicely-tied shoes on their feet. At some point, you wanted to know how to tie your shoes. So some nice adult or older person started to teach you. Maybe they showed you the cute & classic ‘bunny ears’ method. So you tried it. And failed. Then you tried again & failed again.
But you didn’t give up! No, no… You kept trying until you got it…kinda. Until your shoes came untied 30 seconds after you thought you had it. So you kept trying, again and again, until… You DID have it!
And now you can tie your shoes without even thinking!
Several years went by. You made it to your teenage years. Maybe you took Driver’s Ed class in High School. Then came that fateful day your parent or driving teacher took you out for your first real driving experience.
You remember nervously getting behind the wheel of the car for the first time. All the things you had to remember. Steering, gas, brake, turn signals…parallel parking! Traffic!
Those first few attempts at learning how to drive were both terrifying and thrilling at the same time, right? But you didn’t give up, did you?
And now you can get in the car and drive anywhere without even thinking about it.
In fact, how many times did you just magically arrive at your destination and you can’t even remember the drive there? Exactly! That’s Unconscious Competence, baby.
The Four Stages of Learning… In Business
Now that we have all that fun out of the way, let’s talk about business, and how this stuff relates to it. Pay attention now, because this is not only important, it may just help you get over yourself. Keep reading…
Instead of Salsa Dancing, let’s say you were just made aware of something – a very serious problem you didn’t even know existed in your life until recently. Little did you know, this “problem” has been keeping you from having the success you truly desire and deserve. Worst of all, because you didn’t even know about it, you never even knew what to do to fix it.
Suddenly, someone (maybe a mentor) comes along and points this problem out to you. At first, you’re shocked, embarrassed, and maybe even a little upset! How could you not have known this? Why didn’t you learn this in school? Or from a friend? Why are you only finding out about this now?
You’re made aware of what this problem has been and is still costing you – in terms of time, money, and frustration. So you decide to do something about it. You decide to do what winners do: Confront this issue head-on, and fix it. By ‘fixing it,’ this could mean learning a new skill, getting some specific sort of education, or by literally fixing something.
Let’s use a very REAL and common example here. Let’s say that this ‘problem’ that’s been holding you back for so long is your lack of real SALES and communication skills.
More specifically – If you suck at talking to sellers on closing calls.
You’re suddenly made painfully aware of this issue when you hear someone you respect talk to someone in a whole new way and get incredible, mind-blowing results… Results that you never even knew were possible…until you see them in action and hear them talking.
Right in front of your eyes (ears), you hear this person talking in a bold, new fashion to the prospect. Within mere minutes, they were able to take a prospect from ice cold to laughing with them to discovering their motivation to closing them on the phone – easier and faster than you ever thought possible. Best of all, they did it with NO rejection, no adversity, and NO problems!
The depth of your pain is exacerbated when you see the ultimate result of that conversation – that this person was able to make in ONE phone call more than what you made all YEAR at your job.
“The Mind, Once Stretched By A New Idea, Never Returns To Its Original Dimensions.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
You’re smart, so once you see this, you naturally want to acquire that magic skill.
…That’s the Introduction Stage.
You start trying to learn it on your own, but encounter much frustration because this stuff is all new to you. You’ve been used to doing things a whole different way. You struggle.
…There’s Your Awkward Use Stage.
So you start to study some more. Maybe you’re really smart and get yourself a qualified mentor/coach to teach and train you on this amazing new skill. This will actually help you shave a TON of time and frustration off of your learning curve, but you’ll still have to put in the work. You’ll still have to practice and develop the skill.
After practicing and applying what you’re learning, you’re starting to make progress. Conversations are coming easier now, and maybe you’re starting to gain confidence, get better results, and feel better about what you’re doing already. Great! But you still have to think about it and have the scripts and materials in front of you as you do it.
…That’s the Conscious Use Stage.
But you keep at it. You keep practicing on everyone you talk to. You do your first deal. And your next. And the one after that. Best of all, you’re really starting to have FUN with it all…WHILE you’re making more money than you ever thought possible just a short while ago. Not only that, but more people respect you and are somehow magically drawn to you and want to work with you.
In only a short while, you are now doing this naturally, without even thinking about it. You ‘somehow’ just automatically know what to say and how to say it to get easy and quick results without having to read a script.
…Congratulations. You’ve arrived at the Natural Use Stage.
Something truly magical happens when you’ve mastered a high-valued, worthwhile skill. Life gets easier. You (usually) make more money with less effort. And that space where you used to feel unsure about things is replaced with confidence and peace.
How Long Will It Take To Go Through These Four Stages?
The time it takes you to get through the four stages of learning depends on a few things. Those things are usually:
Talent (as it relates to what’s being learned);
Existing, transferable, and/or related knowledge/skills (if what is being learned is close to something already known and mastered);
Patience (to go through the natural four stages)
Desire (to learn – must be higher than frustration)
A Good Teacher (Goes without saying)
A Good Student (Also goes without saying. Student must be willing to put in the work)
Here’s a Special HACK For Super-Fast Learning:
Let me share one of my simple secrets for fast and easy learning. Check this out…
Anytime you’re wanting to learn something NEW – First, look for the FAMILIAR elements of what you’re learning, then focus on only learning the NEW stuff. The last thing you’ll do is simply marry the NEW with the familiar.
For example, say you want to learn a new sentence in a language you’re learning. The first time you hear it, you’re like, “Huh?” But when you break it down, you’ll probably identify some familiar words that you already know. Don’t worry about those yet-because you already know them. Focus on learning ONLY the NEW ones. Then practice them until you’re more familiar and comfortable. Finally, you’ll fuse everything together – the new and the old, then solidify what you’ve learned by practicing and using it a few times. Boom! You just learned something new a lot easier because you focused on the new part first, rather than trying to learn everything at once. Make sense?
So there you have it! You now know “The Four Stages of Learning!”
Plus a special learning hack to help you learn new stuff even faster.
The next time you want to learn a new skill, learn a new language, or learn and get good at just about anything, simply remember these four stages, in this order:
- Introductory Stage.
Unconscious Incompetence: You don’t know that you don’t know.
- Awkward Use Stage.
Conscious Incompetence: You know that you don’t know.
- Conscious Use Stage.
Conscious Competence. You know that you know.
- Natural Use Stage.
Unconscious Competence. You forgot that you just know.
Now that you know that you know this, what do YOU want to learn next?
Until Next Time,
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Copyright 2019 Tony Pearl | All Rights Reserved
BIO: Tony Pearl is a writer, speaker, copywriter, coach, mentor, marketer, musician, poet, ballroom dance instructor, world traveler, father, fiance, internet marketer, voiceover artist, and real estate investor. He’s also a Politically-Incorrect Insomniac with ADHD who specializes in adding massive value to people’s lives by helping them overcome limiting beliefs, have more fun, and make more money while improving lifestyles through investing in real estate!