Conscious Incompetence

Even coaches have coaches, and mine challenged me to do my first Facebook Live. 


I did it this past Sunday afternoon.  Did you catch it?  I showed you a sculpture that my sister made to fit over my river rocks water fountain.  (If you missed it, you can click here to go to my feed, you’ll need to scroll down a little)

It was an opportunity for me to face my incompetence in doing live video, and boy howdy, jumping in to follow through taught me so many things:

  • I learned that practicing ahead of time works because I knew what I wanted to say, and I said it. 
  • I learned to pay attention to how I hold my phone because when you put your thumb on the microphone, no one can hear you. 
  • I learned that filming landscape on my phone did not translate to portrait on the feed. 

So, I was sideways and muffled.  But I got my point across and my niece swore I was “adorable,” so I don’t consider it a bad experience. 

In fact, it was a terrific learning that left me eager to try again.  Keep your eyes open, I’ll be back!

Learning is a process

I used to flyfish the Arkansas River in Salida, Colorado.  Some of the rocks I saved from camping along the river are in my water fountain.  The Arkansas begins in the high country, near Leadville and flows 1,460 miles eventually joining the Mississippi.

The headwaters, where the baby river begins, flow at about 250 cfs (cubic feet per second).  By the time it gets to Salida, it averages 1200 cfs on a hot summer day.  When it makes its way to the state of Arkansas, where I now live, it flows at 26,000 cfs.  That is big water.

And learning is like that too.  You start off with just a trickle, and as you get more and more competent, you get stronger and deeper in your new knowledge base.  

Sometimes, we think we need to know everything before we begin (like me and Facebook Live).   We compare ourselves to others who have been practicing for years and feel like a failure because we’re not perfect out the gate.

And we give up too soon.  We throw up our hands because all we have is a trickle, feel incompetent, and walk away. 

It would be very easy for me to do that now. I have to ramp up patience and tenacity, the only things I know that will get me through.  I will figure this out because my good medicine is needed in the world.  My message is important and I’m willing to bumble publicly to get it out there.

Learning moves you from unconscious incompetence, where you don’t know what you don’t know, to conscious incompetence.  That’s where I am right now with this, and that’s where folks often bail.

When you stick with it, you move into conscious competence.  At that stage, you have to pay close attention, but you know enough to do it correctly.  Now your trickle is becoming a stream. With practice, you become unconsciously competent.  You can do it without having to think about it. The river flows effortlessly.

My sister, Carita, who created that beautiful sculpture, is at that stage with video.  Her company, Embrace Your Narrative, teaches folks to create video memories from photographs.  Click here to see her video of the fountain.  And, yes, that’s me singing in the background – my unconsciously competent skill!

I’m curious to know what you are learning right now.  Have you ever bailed because something didn’t come easily?  Shoot me a comment and share your experience. 

2 Replies to "Conscious Incompetence"

  • Antonia Ruppert
    August 15, 2019 (4:26 pm)

    Thank you for your blog post. My challenge is that I hardly ever bail – I am very stubborn. So when I find something I’m incompetent in, I just keep hitting my head against the wall until it moves. Ha ha!

    • Debra
      August 15, 2019 (11:56 pm)

      Let’s just call that tenacity! LOL

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