Albert Einstein famously said, “You do not really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother.” In the learning process, when you understand the material so well you don’t even have to think about it anymore (and can explain it to your grandmother), you’ve hit the Holy Grail of learning.
But there is a curious point in the learning process where sharing what you know with someone else actually helps you learn it better. In other words, on your way to the Holy Grail, it helps to bring others with you.
So this month I’m asking you to bring each other along by sharing things from your Mental Game process and learnings. What has helped you make progress? Where are you stuck? What do your Mental Hand Histories look like? Sharing this knowledge & experience with each other will help others improve their Mental Game while solidifying your own existing knowledge.
At the end of this post are the specifics of how you can help, but first here is a bit more detail for those of you who may be thinking, “sure, that’s nice, Jared, but I need to fix my own Mental Game stuff, not someone else’s. Are you sure this will help me?” I can’t offer guarantees, but I can give you some theory and research to back it up.
The Adult Learning Model
New skills, knowledge, or expertise are acquired through a predictable learning process that has a distinct start and finish. Although certain aspects along the way may differ from one person (or skill) to the next, such as how quickly you learn, what comes easily to you, and where you get stuck, the overall process is exactly the same every time and each stage has parameters that distinguish it from other levels.
Of course when you are knee-deep in it, the learning process is much more fluid and blurry. A particular skill or piece of knowledge will often go back and forth between two levels many times before being firmly planted in the more advanced one. But the point is to keep skills steadily moving through the learning process so that high levels of performance can be maintained.
STAGE 1 — Unconscious Incompetence. You don’t even know what you don’t know. In other words, you’re blind to the ways that you lack skill or the weaknesses holding you back. It’s like being a beginner and sitting down to play Texas Hold ‘Em, or the first time you look at the order flow of a stock – you have no idea what’s actually going on.
STAGE 2 — Conscious Incompetence. Now you start to become conscious of what you don’t know. But that doesn’t make you skilled, it just means you now know what needs to improve. Think about this like the trader who’s learned some of the fundamentals of Technical Analysis, but doesn’t yet understand how to correctly utilize the indicators seasoned traders rely upon.
STAGE 3 — Conscious Competence. If you’ve reached this stage, it means you’ve done some work, gained experience, and can prove that you’ve got some skill. But there’s a catch. In order to remain competent, you need to think about what you’ve learned. If you don’t have the energy, or your emotions are too intense, you lose the competence and return to incompetence. This is what happens when you make mistakes even when you know better. Generally you do know better and that’s why you’ve reached this stage. But since you haven’t reached the next stage, under certain situations your skills still have the possibility of eroding.
STAGE 4 — Unconscious Competence. Now you’ve reached the finish line. At this stage, you’ve learned something so well that it is totally automatic. Meaning that the knowledge you’ve acquired is applied consistently, instantly, correctly, and without thinking, at all times, even under the most extreme circumstances.
Reaching Unconscious Competence is how you permanently upgrade your weaknesses, move the backend of your Inchworm forward, and thrive under pressure. Too often poker players, traders, etc. get ahead of themselves and lose sight of the need to achieve this level of mastery.
Side note, keep in mind that when I talk about mastery, I’m talking about the mastery of individual skills here, not the mastery of a craft. I’m not suggesting that you can be unconsciously competent as a trader, poker player, golfer, etc. I’m suggesting that individual skills and knowledge must be developed to that level in order to progress in your field of expertise.
Data and Research to Back Me Up
In order to train your knowledge to that level where it is automatic, you need a lot of repetition in varying different environments. Sharing knowledge with other people is a way to help reinforce the things that you are learning and get the reps that you need to reach unconscious competence. At a minimum, you solidify your existing knowledge, and that creates the conditions whereby you free up mental space to learn new things.
Another reason to consider helping others with their Mental Game is that research around testing in schools suggests it is important because testing helps learners practice retrieving information. I’m not going to test you, but the concept is interesting.
When you explain what you’ve learned to someone else, you’re in essence taking a test. Think of the times when you can’t explain what you know – that’s evidence that you don’t quite understand it yet. You failed the test. Retrieving information from your mind to share with each other is a different way of practicing and reinforcing that knowledge for YOU.
And yet another data point comes from what may be an unlikely source. In Alcoholics Anonymous, the 12th step of the program is helping another person with alcoholism recover. The philosophy behind this approach includes giving you a sense of purpose and accountability, ensuring you don’t become complacent, and inspiring others. Participating in the 12th step seems to lead to a greater rate of success. (For those interested in hearing more on the idea of service, consider listening to this podcast with author Simon Sinek. Around minute 11 he starts talking about AA and the role of service in general.)
Now I am not equating Mental Game issues with the trials of addiction, but I find it interesting that such a widespread and successful program embraces helping others as such a profound part of getting them on more stable ground. And if they are using it to deal with something so intense, what could it mean for something like the Mental Game? Would it speed up the process by which you improved?
Assuming you’re convinced this is a good idea, here are the details. Over the next two weeks, I’ll collect a sampling of contributions and bundle them together (anonymously) and post them on my website for others to read and learn from.
Here’s what I think would be helpful:
- Story of how you’re learning to correct a problem, where you ran into trouble, what helped you make improvements, etc.
- Examples of your Maps or A to C-game Analysis
- Examples of Mental Hand Histories
- Example of Goals Worksheet
If you don’t have these worksheets yet, click here to download them.
Or maybe you have another idea to share. I’m open minded and know full well that sometimes it’s the creative answers that do the trick. I worked with one trading client who had a caricature drawn of himself with the details from his confidence profile. Looking at a picture of a cartoon version of what he looked like when he was acting entitled helped him laugh, gain some perspective, and restabilize his confidence. If you’ve done something creative, let’s hear that too!
Please email your contribution to me here: firstname.lastname@example.org