I’m not going to say that I’ve “learned” them… but I have heard them and I try to apply them.


4 Levels of Competence

Skip Barber Racing School Hosts 'The Young Lea...
Skip Barber Racing School Hosts 'The Young Leaders Society' (Photo credit: Skip Barber Racing School)

Here is a lesson straight from Racing School that applies to EVERYTHING. We all operate in one of 4 levels of competence in just about everything we do.  See where you are…

Unconscious Incompetent“You don’t know what you don’t know.”  Most of us have progressed past this level in most of our pursuits.  At this level, we don’t know that we aren’t doing it right.  We can’t move past this until we figure out that we are wrong…

Conscious Incompetent“Trying to figure it out.”  Here, we know that we aren’t doing it right, but we don’t know the right way yet.  This is the stage where we are open to learning and/or getting a coach.

Conscious Competent“Head down, eye on the ball, follow through.”  I know a lot of golf folks that are here.  This is where we know the right way, and we can do it, but it requires thought and practice.  It is good… but not automatic.  Most good athletes are here… good, but not great.

Unconscious CompetentMuscle Memory takes over.”  Reflex.  Automatic.  This is the aspiration.  Fluid reaction with the right response.  Steering into the skid, almost before noticing the skid.  Threshold braking into a turn.  There are so many ways to describe this… but the bottom line is that it is the level of performance that we all aspire to reach.  The great athletes and performers are at this level.


Photo of 500 metres short track heat at the 20...
Photo of 500 metres short track heat at the 2004 World Cup in Saguenay. Apolo Ohno (USA) leads Thibaut Fauconnet (FRA), Mark McNee (AUS) and Sergei Prankevitch (RUS) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m not a big sports guy… I like octane sports, but the traditional stick and ball games have never been that interesting to me.  But, as a kid I played baseball, basketball and ice hockey.  I also was a short track speed (roller) skater, sprinter and high jumper.  It is fair to say that I wasn’t really good… in fact, about the only one I was really any good at was speed skating.  I was pretty fast for 500M.  I did the rest… and learned a lot.  In fact, in short races (500M is a very short race on speed skates), I was WAY faster than my coach.  But I learned how to be faster from him all of the time.

Sports are a GREAT training ground for kids.  But it isn’t so much the “character building” that we all hear about from our parents as we struggle to get better at a given sport.  The reason it is such a great training ground is that it is an opportunity to learn how to be coached.

Back in the days when professional athletes didn’t make boatloads of money very quickly in their careers (or looking at sports where the money isn’t cubic, like many Olympic sports), it was quite common to see great athletes have great careers in business after leaving the sports arena.

I think that the reason for this is that they became great athletes because they learned how to be coached.  They also learned how to learn and practice when they didn’t know what to do.


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