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The Paradox of Mastery

The path to unconscious competence is a concept that describes the process of acquiring new knowledge and skills. It begins with ignorance, and ends with effortless perfection. This is often a long and arduous path, but it's the process that is more worthwhile than the result when it comes to personal development. Click the image below to watch the clips on YouTube where I speak about this idea.

We all start off without even knowing if we can do something, then discovering just how much potential improvement we can make in our ability.

Once we learn how to do the thing and practice enough, we become competent, but only when we are really focusing on the task.

Mastery goes beyond this. To approach mastery, we have to let go of our knowledge and everything we have learned. We have to be able to do the thing without focusing on the details.

It's only at this stage that everything you learn has become internalized.

If you're striving for mastery, don't be satisfied when you reach the level of conscious competence. Keep pushing the envelope!

In Zen, an important idea is to ultimately cultivate a state of effortless focus and presence. The way to attain this is by controlling our desire to linger on passing thoughts. We try to eliminate fixation by fixating on non-fixation. This is like the state of conscious competence. The last step where you let go of fixation on non-fixation, without your thoughts wandering is like unconscious competence. Your mind stays present and doesn't linger, regardless of the fact that you're not focusing on not lingering on those thoughts. I think of this as the final paradox of mastery, but speaking of mastery, the ultimate paradox is that attainment of mastery only ever reveals another layer of potential to master.

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