Monday Morning Motivation | Four Stages of Mastery

Posted by Bill Esteb on Sep 28th 2019

The experienced professional makes it look easy. However, there are four stages to mastery.

1. Unconscious incompetence. This is when we don't know what we don't know. It's an uncomfortable time that we want to quickly escape. Think first day of practice.

2. Conscious incompetence. Now we know what we don't know. We ask great questions because we have enough orientation to see the gaps in our understanding. Think second year in practice.

3. Conscious competence. We know enough to be dangerous. But work can be fatiguing because we're constantly thinking. The upside? This is often when innovation and breakthroughs appear.

4. Unconscious competence. We don't even know what we know. In many ways muscle memory takes over for us. Relying on our gut permits supernatural insights that are often unexplainable.

We can get stuck along the way. Want to grow? Become unconsciously incompetent about some aspect of practice again.

But being unconsciously incompetent is an uncomfortable feeling. Especially as a career progresses and we have more responsibilities and others have increasingly higher expectations of us.

This is when we typically switch from playing offense to playing defense.

Defending what we have becomes more important than exploring the unknown or taking risks. This is when our point of view becomes calcified and our ability to tolerate the unknown becomes more brittle. The temptation is go beige.

Yet, playing it safe is actually the riskiest tactic.

Here are some suggestions for ways to reinvent your practice, forcing yourself to become unconsciously incompetent again:

  • Begin the transition to a cash practice.
  • Become an expert in pediatrics, sports injuries or headaches.
  • Learn a tonal technique or ways to help emotional issues.
  • Develop your public speaking skills.
  • Learn how to blog or create a podcast.

These and other growth opportunities are rarely risky financially. The barrier is usually emotional. Or forces us to question an outdated belief or jettison some dogma or excuse we've counted on to maintain the status quo.

The key is to grow. If we grow our business grows. It rarely happens any other way.


Bill Esteb has been a chiropractic patient and advocate since 1981. He is the creative director of Patient Media and the co-founder of Perfect Patients. He’s been a regular speaker at Parker Seminars and other chiropractic gatherings since 1985. He is the author of 12 books that explore the doctor/patient relationship from a patient’s point of view. His chiropractic blog, in-office consultations, patient focus groups and consulting calls have helps hundreds of chiropractors around the world. His Monday Morning Motivation is emailed to over 10,000 chiropractors each week.