She writes that there are four stages of learning, and these are applied to anything that we learn - bowling, cooking, driving a car, or riding. The four stages are these:
- Unconscious Competence: this is that stage where you don't know what you don't know. I can cite many of my own examples here. When I first started riding as a kid, I didn't know anything about being on the bit. I knew you could pull the reins tight, but I didn't know the bit did anything more than stop the horse. Not knowing is sometimes bliss.
- Conscious Incompetence: this is the stage where you know what should be happening but you just can't make it happen. Every one of us knows this feeling. I know what I am trying to accomplish, I just don't have the skills to do it. I want to ride a canter half pass, but my aids are still not refined enough to make it happen.
- Conscious Competence: In this stage, you know what you want to do and with a lot of concerted effort, you can make it happen. I can get Speedy round and on the bit, but to keep him there, I have to work really hard.
- Unconscious Competence: this is the stage where you can do it without even thinking. Most of us drive a car at this stage. It's when you can do something so well that it looks, and is, effortless.
I really appreciated how encouraging she was about not feeling any shame or embarrassment when you don't know something. She stressed that good students recognize that until they truly master something by going through those early stages, they can never get to the stage of Unconscious Competence. She even went so far as to that we should be excited about being incompetent because "it's the first step to learning this skill inside and out."
It was quite liberating to hear that being incompetent, and knowing it, is the first step toward mastery. So let's hear it for the dummies!