The 4 Stages to Mastering Any Skill or Ability

Achieving mastery of any skill, technique, and ability takes time and a lot of repetition.  Anyone can master a skill of their choice.  It takes commitment, focus, determination to get to the stage of mastering your skill / talent / job of choice.


Wisdom is the knowing precisely how to apply knowledge.  Anyone can have knowledge and not know how to use it beneficially.  It takes wisdom to take appropriate action with the knowledge you have.

Since this blog is focused on giving you, the reader my knowledge and experience as a window cleaning professional, I will be speaking to you on this subject as it relates to the skill of window cleaning. These principles can be applied to any line of work and/or any other form of skill, job, talent, or ability you are desiring to become really good at.

Stage 1: Unconscious Incompetence

Anyone can clean a window. Yet, not everyone can do it really well. If you have very little experience cleaning glass, you may wonder why there are smudges and streaks left behind after you’re done. You don’t know what you did wrong. You’re unaware of the factors that contributed to streaky, smudged glass. You are unconsciously competent at getting it wrong.

The first stage of learning is known as unconscious incompetence. You don’t know what you don’t know. You are unconsciously competent at doing it wrong.

When you are first doing something new, you are unaware of what you need to do to get the desired results. You also don’t know what you should not be doing, so you mess things up by doing the wrong thing. The good news is that you will get better if you stick with it.

Stage 2: Conscious Incompetence

In this phase of learning, you are more aware of what you to do and what not to do. As you learn what action is required, you can begin to practice it. You become more aware of what you are doing wrong, yet it is still hard to do it effectively to get the desired results.

In this stage you can know what techniques you need to do and yet be very incompetent at doing them well. You are consciously incompetent at this phase of learning.

Stage 3: Conscious Competence

As you continue to focus on learning your skill, talent, or ability you will begin to know what you need to do to get the desired results and how to do it. This stage is known as conscious competence. You now understand what you are doing wrong and how to do it correctly. You are consciously competent at your talent, skill, or ability.

In this phase, you still have to think consciously of what you are doing, so it takes a lot of focus and attention. You want to be sure you are doing it right and be aware of and eliminate any bad habits that may hinder you from achieving the results you desire.

You may be in this phase for a long time, depending on the amount of repetition you do. This is the phase where the master has the student train respectively doing the exact same correct moves over and over and over again. The more consistently and longer duration you repeat the correct action, practicing your skill, talent, or ability, the sooner you will reach the final phase of learning.

Stage 4: Unconscious Competence

The final phase is mastery. As long as you have been sticking with the learning process and have been training correctly in the previous stages of learning, you can reach this phase. This level of ability is where the student becomes the master and can now teach others.

In this stage, you now know what to do and you can do it without thinking about it. You instinctively do the correct actions without thought. You effortlessly take right action. You are unconsciously competent at your talent, skill, or ability.

To reach this stage of ability usually takes many years of repetitively practicing correctly your skill, talent, or ability. It is very important that you are learning the correct method of action in the previous stages so as to avoid becoming unconsciously competent at doing it wrong.

The Level of Mastery

How you achieve the level of mastery is by watching and imitating someone who has mastered the same skill. Learn to emulate the correct actions and then repeat that correct action long enough and as many times as possible until you become unconsciously competent at doing it without having to think about it.

When you are doing the action and you realize your mind is wandering and you are still doing the action really well without having to think about what you are doing, you have mastered your skill.

This is the level where Olympian athletes and black belt martial artists reside. If they want to remain at this level, they continue to train their bodies and mind by repeatedly doing the right actions and getting better and better at their skill. They do not give up and stop training when they experience frustration in the earlier phases of learning. They focus on taking correct action. They challenge themselves to keep doing it a little better and as a result achieve mastery.

How can you apply this knowledge in your own life? Learn from others who have been where you are at and are at a level of mastery you would like to someday be. Watch, understand, learn and take repetitive correct action as you train and practice your skills.  You will see yourself move thought the four phases to mastery and someday be able to share what you have learned with others.

What are you working at mastering?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below.  Enjoyed this article?  Please hit one of the share buttons so others can benefit as well.  Thank you for reading.

William King

William currently lives in the Greater Vancouver area of British Columbia, Canada with his wife Natasha and cat Noah. He has been cleaning windows professionally since 2004. William has worked for multiple window cleaning companies as both an employee and a subcontractor until he committed to building his own business in 2012. His business has grown since to provide a very nice income for the family. Natasha manages the office and accounting of the business as it continues to grow. With 28+ years of experience in the cleaning industry, William's intention with this website is to share his experience and knowledge with people who would like to learn how to create their own window / gutter cleaning service business.

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