The Four Stages of Learning - Master Your Destiny

As mentioned in my earlier updates on LinkedIN ( and Twitter (@djsanthou),

This is a short lesson in itself in EVERY persons learning stages.

This is the biggest lesson that I hold true and remember from my early university days.

There are Four Stages in which Learning occur:

Refer to the diagram as I take you through the stages and give you an example:

Stage 1: Unconscious Incompetence

The individual does not understand or know how to do something and does not necessarily recognize the deficit. They may deny the usefulness of the skill. The individual must recognise their own incompetence, and the value of the new skill, before moving on to the next stage.

Stage 2: Conscious Incompetence

Though the individual does not understand or know how to do something, he or she does recognize the deficit, as well as the value of a new skill in addressing the deficit. The making of mistakes can be integral to the learning process at this stage.

Stage 3: Conscious Competence

The individual understands or knows how to do something. However, demonstrating the skill or knowledge requires concentration. It may be broken down into steps, and there is heavy conscious involvement in executing the new skill.

Stage 4: Unconscious Competence

The individual has had so much practice with a skill that it has become "second nature" and can be performed easily. As a result, the skill can be performed while executing another task. The individual may be able to teach it to others, depending upon how and when it was learnt.


I have attached the above as a reference note for the academics in some of my readers.

However, in most cases, I like to use examples.

Example: Learning to play Tennis

Stage 1: Unconscious Incompetence

Roger is new to tennis. He doesn't know anything about playing tennis; how to hit the ball, where to hit the ball, the appropriate grips to make certain shots etc.

Essentially, he is a SHIT player, but doesn't know it.

Stage 2: Conscious Incompetence

Roger realises that he is a SHIT player. He knows that he needs to change his grip for certain shots, amd possibly requires coaching.

Stage 3: Conscious Competence

This is the biggest change of events (in which many of us will find ourselves in our respected fields), in which Roger is getting better and knows what to do. He prepares for his shots, and thinks about things as they come. He needs to focus and plans things out step by step.

Stage 4: Unconscious Competence

Ladies & Gentleman, I present to you Roger Federer.

Lesson Learnt:

We are truly a master of a given art when we are able to DO (behaviour) things, without THINKING (cognitive).

I can walk and talk at the same time.

Think about that :)

Kind regards,

Daniel-Jacob Santhou
Creative Strategist

Melbourne, Australia

Twitter: @djsanthou


Social Media:


  1. When I begin a longer (over 30 hours) training program with adult learners I normally introduce the stages of competence on their journey from uncertainty -> understanding being:

    * You don't know you don't know
    * You know you don't know
    * You know you Know
    * You just do

  2. its not just a process but a cycle - which is why insights go out of date - when your unconscious competence becomes unconscious incompetence because the context has changed and your assumptions once correct are now misleading. .

    1. Hey John,

      I agree with you that insights go out of date. This learning curve is more applicable to a task at hand as opposed to an external influencing factor. It is within ourselves.


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