How to Master Any Skill

Updated: March 28, 2012

Caleb Wojcik

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Is the simple act of practice going to get you closer to expert status or is perfect practice the only way?

About a month ago, ran an article by Geoffrey James detailing the simple steps for "mastering any skill".

In this essay, he discusses a strategy made popular by Greg Wingard that states:

"Your mind goes through six specific stages when mastering a skill–three in the “theory” segment, and three in the “practice” segment.

The Theory Segment

  • Unawareness: You are unaware that there is a skill to be learned.
  • Awareness: You realize you need to learn that skill.
  • Clarification: You understand what you need to do differently.
The Practice Segment
  • Awkwardness: You attempt the new behavior and find it difficult.
  • Familiarity: The new behavior is easier but still not automatic.
  • Automatic: You no longer think about the behavior but simply do it."
Once you've reached the "automatic" sixth stage you have supposedly "mastered the skill".

But, is this in fact the best way to build skills rapidly?

Can Expertise Be Broken Down Into Simple "How to" Steps?

The article then goes on to claim that there are five simple steps you should follow to stay on track:
  1. Script the new behavior.
  2. Practice it... perfectly.
  3. Rebound and fix.
  4. Accelerate through mental rehearsal.
  5. Make it part of your identity.
While this is not extremely detailed, the general outline of practice, adjust, and repeat is what you've been taught since you were a kid.

This list also perpetuates the widely held believed that "perfect practice" is the ultimate way to get better at something.

But, is there a better way to perfect a skill? Are there shortcuts to becoming an expert?

No Single Path to Expert Exists

We've already discussed how you should actually stop being a perfectionist and start making more bad stuff and how your good taste is actually holding your creativity back, so there really seems to be a wide range of opinions on what the best way to becoming an expert really is.

Should we all just agree to disagree? ;)

Or, is there an ultimate path for perfecting a skill that someone should be seeking out before they get started?

We'd love to hear what you think in the comments of this post or on the Expert Enough Facebook page.


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