29 October 2023

Article: "Bridging the Gaps of Competency"

"Bridging the Gaps of Competency" is an insightful look at the mastery process over at Medium.com, by Sean Kernan. Some points and themes have been mentioned here before, including how plateauing works. It's a member-only story, but here are a couple of the most relevant quotes from the article, including a chess reference; the "spectrum" mentioned below is the four stages of competence.

I remind students that, regardless of if we are talking about art, coding, pottery, or any skill, change isn’t linear. It’s completely normal to be stuck at a certain level of competency, and then abruptly level up.  It’s like that moment you suddenly realize how to solve a math problem. It all falls into place.


A good teacher is effective at diagnosing where you are on this spectrum. They may not use these labels, but they can intuitively know and help specify where to make changes. They’ll also demonstrate unconscious competence. They’ll show you, in some tangible or visual way, what the skill should look like in its finished form. Don’t assume you need a grandmaster to teach you. In fact, your best bet might be someone who is a stage or two better.

For example, if you are stuck at stage 1 (unconscious incompetence), someone at stage 2 or 3 may have immediate memory of how they got to the next stage. In other words, don’t conflate ability with ability-to-teach. In chess, for example, a grandmaster may have an encyclopedic knowledge of openings and endgames but no patience for beginner mistakes...


You show me someone with an open mind, a desire to learn, and a fighting spirit, and I’ll show you someone who is on the road to mastery. 

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