Lesson #6 – Read and take to heart all you can about the task at hand…

…from those who have tried, and (possibly failing along the way, but who ultimately) succeeded, not from those who talk a good game but have never finished a race.

The only thing you learn from failing and failures is what doesn’t work and how not to win. Having said that, failure does give you insight into things to avoid and how not to lose. Henry Ford said, “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” Failing may in fact be a part of life and learning, but I believe we can often circumnavigate failure by applying the perspective and experience of others.

Whatever your endeavor, there are resources you can draw from that can give you a leg up on, shorten the learning curve, and minimize failures and missteps as you move through the 4 stages of competence. You have certainly seen them before, but I list them here for you in perhaps a different context. The 4 stages of competence are:

1) UNCONSCIOUS – INCOMPETENT. Basically, “You don’t know THAT you don’t know and you don’t know WHAT you don’t know.” You have been there… perhaps you are there now. I have been there, and and as I learn, I find myself there again, and again. Kind of like a child learning to riding a bike. Or like learning to Para-motor as I am doing now. I had no idea how to fly a Para-motor, and further, had no idea what I didn’t know or needed to know about flying a Para-motor.

When I got into Real Estate nearly 30 years ago, I knew nothing about Real Estate other than that I bought a home through my Brother-in-law, and he made it look easy, so it must be. It didn’t take me long to move to Stage 2 of competency.

2) CONSCIOUS – INCOMPETENT. This is a good place to be – temporarily – forever. At this stage you now “Know THAT you don’t know and you know WHAT you don’t know”. The critical thing at this point is to know WHERE to find knowledge, and not just information. There is a lot of information out there, but not all information is knowledge or in other words truth or factual, and therefore beneficial. In Real Estate I learned very quickly that I didn’t understand contracts, and agency, and how to find and persuade Buyers and Sellers to work with me. There was not only the starting, but the finishing of a transaction, and follow-through, and the care and keeping of clients. Then there was Financing with its special alphabet soup of programs and words and concepts like FHA203b and 245, VA, Fanniemae, and Freddiemac (Who was Fanny and Freddie and why were they so important to housing?), and buydowns and points and the ominous sounding “Et Aux”. What was that!? I have to say as an aside, it is unfortunate that the public runs into Realtors stuck at stage 1 or 2 and judge the entire industry by these people.

Well, at least now I knew what I didn’t know, and so I began to learn all I could about the process of Real Estate, and Building Rapport, and how I could act as facilitator and counselor to the great institution of Homeownership. But I was at stage 2, not as dangerous as I was at stage 1, but still dangerous. I read, and studied, and watched videos, and went to seminars, and attended classes, and was mentored by great people like Ole Dunn, who showed me by example how to be an honest, ethical, and effective Real Estate agent. My apetitie for knowledge was voracious and my capacity for absorbtion of this new knowledge was great… Now I am 54, and it seems like if it isn’t already in my mind, it ain’t gonna fit, or stay for long. My mind is like my wife’s new project – our vegetable garden in the back yard – she cares so much about that garden, she waters it 2 times a day, and doesn’t notice that there is so much water in the ground already, that any more just runs off… yep, that is like my brain…. no room for anything else…. Only problem is, I am not that smart to begin with. Some people justs have more capacity I guess.

But I digress… and at my age, I seem to do that more and more often with greater ease. Now where was I? Oh yeah…

As I said earlier, stage 2 is a great place to be temporarily – forever. This sounds a bit like an oxymoron. “temporarily-forever?” What I mean by that is that, when we discover that we are at stage 2, this is a good thing, because if you think (or act like) you know something, but really don’t, you are just an idiot. It occurs to me, that at this stage there is (or ought to be) a sense of wonder and an appetite for learning. (More on this appetite in a moment.) But from that epiphany, we should see some effort and forward motion; progress towards competence. If you stay at this stage without learning or developing skills, you are just as much an idiot as the person who thinks they know, or that they possess a skill, but don’t. (OK, “Idiot” may be a bit too strong, but you know what I mean.)

When I decided to run a Marathon, I knew I didn’t know, and so I read (and continue to read) as much as I could on the subject, and I found a mentor in a group called Team in Training, and I ran and still run a lot, in an effort to develop my skill and competence in running.

I am sure you have figured out that what I mean about staying at stage 2 “forever” suggests (or perhaps reflects my personal hope) that we (read that I) should constantly be finding things where we (read that I) lack knowledge coupled with a hunger to learn more or develop in our (read that my) knowledge and/or skill level in new areas.

So, then we come to stage 3 on this competence time-line

3) CONSCIOUS – COMPETENT. “I know what to do, if I think about it.” This is the stage that requires so much brain power. You have to think about the details that make up the task itself. For instance, when I run, I have a tendency to pull my hands up towards my chest, especially when I am not paying attention to technique. This is more comfortable, but less efficient than if you keep your elbows at a ninety degree bend. In fact, when I consciously think about keeping my elbows in closer to my body – about shoulder width – and at a ninety degree angle at the elbow, shoulders relaxed, and then with hands loose, not tight fisted, but more like I am holding a hammer, and imagine that I am hitting my thighs with a tapping motion as I run, my pace improves anywhere from 15 to 30 seconds per mile. Sometimes I am at stage 4 with this, but as you get tired, there is a tendency to change your biomechanics and get a bit sloppy – unless you think about it and do a mental inventory from time to time. On a long run, I go down a checklist of sorts in my mind; pace – check, stride – check, pronation – check, arm angle – check, breathing pattern – check, body relaxed – check, fuels and fluid intake – check, how do my joints feel head to foot – check, GI issues – check, focus on competitor ahead of me – am I reeling them in, or is he moving away? Then it is speed up, slow down, eat, drink, lengthen stride, shorten stride, change my breathing pattern to in on three strides and out on two strides, or back to 2 in and 2 out, don’t trip, how far to aid station, are my GI issues becoming an problem, and if yes, will I make it to the porta-potty? So much to manage consciously.

With regard to my arms, I am still at the conscious competent stage…. But some of you who are reading this are saying, I didn’t know that all that arm positioning stuff made a difference. So, I guess you know what stage you are at on that topic.

Great success can be found at this stage of competency. But it ties up resources, namely your mind. Our goal is to reach stage 4.

4) UNCONSCIOUS – COMPETENT. “I know what to do, and I don’t even need to think about it.” It becomes like breathing to you. Tasks, effort, skills all become second nature. This is the stage that is as close to perfection as one can attain in this life. – As an aside, it occurs to me as I write this, that true perfection would be “Unconscious Goodness.” We all know someone like this. They are genuinely good people, and they effortlessly go about life being and doing good without even having to think about it. Indeed these are the people, like my wife whom we say are “Without guile”. Too often we see people who are “good” as a result of ulterior motives, but it isn’t really in their nature. We question their sincerity and motives, and we feel tempted to say that they do not possess “Unconscious goodness.” (Sounds like some politicians I see on TV.)

Back to “Unconscious Competence”. I am a volunteer with Las Vegas Metro Police Search and Rescue. We train twice a month. We practice the same skills over, and over, and over again. We practice them in the class room, and on the mountain, in the daytime, and at night in the dark, in wind, and rain, and snow, and on the side of a cliff. And we practice them on our own, and with a real rescuer hanging on the rope over the edge of a cliff, 1000 feet up. We do all that so that when a real rescue comes, we can perform the same tasks with “Muscle Memory” regardless of the time of day, or available resources, or the environmental challenges we may face. And we practice so that we can become confident in ourselves and our team mates into whose hands we place our lives, so that when someone needs us, we can insure the best outcome. Our objective for all the reading and all the training we do is to attain “Unconscious Competence.”

There is so much going on in running (as in life), that to be effective and efficient, we need to move through all 4 stages of competence. And it all starts with an appetite… for learning.

I have devoured as much as a person with A.D.D. can about the sport of running. OK, to say I have “devoured” might be a bit of an overstatement. Because my attention span is so short, I have these books cubbied all over the house, and as one catches my attention, I pick it up and read a chapter or 2. I read the way I eat. Lots of small meals throughout the day, punctuated with the occasional overindulgent buffet.

To that I give you my short list of suggested reading materials (If you are interested obtaining any of these publications, click on the link beside the picture):

1) “RunFast” by Hal Higdon

Run Fast: How to Beat Your Best Time— Every Time


2) “Marathon: The ultimate training guide” by Hal Higdon

Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide

3) Ultra Marathon Man – Confessions of an All Night Runner

Ultra Marathon Man: Memoir Of An Extreme Endurance Athlete

4) “Runner’s World” magazine – Monthly articles by World class Elite runners and trainers

Runner’s World

5) www.Active.com – daily posts and articles from the best of the best on just about every sport.

6) “Runner’s World – The Complete Book of Running” (updated 2004) by Amby Burfoot – the definitive source for runners, this book is a 300 page compendium of articles from Runner’s world contributors, with illustrations, parenthetical comments, and observations from Amby.

Runner’s World Complete Book of Running: Everything You Need to Run for Fun, Fitness and Competition

7) “Hal Higdon’s – Smart Running” – Written in a Q and A format, Hal answers just about any and every question you could have about running.

Hal Higdon’s Smart Running: Expert Advice On Training, Motivation, Injury Prevention, Nutrition And Good Health
These are great because the content is fresh (as in current) and are written in a manner that both informs, and inspires me, and moves me forward along the running path in a healthier, and more satisfying way. Perhaps you have some books or publications that motivate, inform, and inspire you. Please feel free to share those with me.

OK, so these are books on running. Likewise, there are other books that inspire and uplift me. Here are a few.

1) The Book of Mormon.

Of course it has to be at the top of the list. As a Member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons), I hold this book of Scripture as sacred canon and a guide to my life. An account of God’s Dealings with the people who lived in the Americas from about 2200 BC to the 400s AD (we know them as the Aztecs and the Incas), and it tells of the trials and triumphs of what was once a great people. We can learn from the failures and shortcomings of others (if we can see those failures for what they are). If you don’t have a copy of this book, but would like one, comment me privately, and I will see that you get one (my gift to you).

The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ

2) The Bible. This book along with the Book of Mormon are companion books that remind us of God’s love for all of his children, and how our choices bring reward or dire consequences. They also tell us of the sacrifice Jesus Christ made for us. A short paragraph does not sufficiently describe the contents of these books, the way they move me, or the way they motivate me to be a better person.

Holy Bible

3) The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven R. Covey

This book tells me how to focus on mindsets, activities, and habits that will bring about positive change not only in my life, but also those around me.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

4) The Eighth Habit by Stephen R. Covey.

The premise of this book is: “Find your voice and inspire others to find theirs.” Covey sees leadership “as a choice to deal with people in a way that will communicate to them their worth and potential so clearly they will come to see it in themselves.”

The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness

5) The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren.

The spiritual premise in The Purpose-Driven Life is that there are no accidents—God planned everything and everyone. Therefore, every human has a divine purpose, according to God’s master plan.

The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For?

6) Getting Things Done by David Allen

Here I learned the Martial Arts phrase “Mind like Water” which tries to teach me that I “like water” should react to input, stresses, and “to do lists” with no more and no less (that is do not over react, and do not under react) than what is necessary to get the job done. (That was lesson number one. There are dozens more I am still studying).

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity

7) Scuba Diving Magazine. I love diving, so “diving” into this magazine is one of my escapes. Can’t be serious all the time!

Scuba Diving

So, here is my challenge to you: Find a good book to “devour”, and while you are feeding your body with good food and great running, don’t forget to feed your Mind and your soul. The world needs more inspired and uplifting people.

Do you have a favorite book, magazine, or article that I might enjoy? Please let me know about it.

3 Responses

  1. Such great inspiration–thanks for adding a wonderful charge to my day!! Would you consider doing a sales meeting on this for me????

  2. We Loved your post! We enjoy learning about the 4 stages of competence..we didn’t know that before.
    It was really insightful.
    Also you have inspired me to pick up more books during the day. Sometimes I think I need to find “time” to read, but now I realize that is not true (I was in stage 1) now I am in stage 2, and realize I can pick up all those unfinished books, and just snatch a chapter or two, here and there.
    Here are some books we love,
    The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis (he has a intriguing view of life after death), The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom, Believing Christ by Stephen Robinson & Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell

    Thanks for your great post! And for being a great realtor!

  3. The post is really excellent. It gives all the valuable information that is required for a realtor to know. The blogs like these would help them in providing a fruitful result.

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