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What Plateaus Teach Us
BY HIRO BATSU | 1 min read

The acquisition of skills involves 3 stages: 

  1. The Cognitive Stage: This is where you are thinking, expanding your mind and your ability in the way that makes it possible to utilize new concepts. It usually involves slow progress and a good number of educational mistakes.
  2. The Associative Stage: This is the beginning of comfort. As you begin to gain competence in your new skill, you are able to make associative connections that strengthen and simplify your skill.
  3. The Autonomous Stage: Beyond comfort is automation. Sublimation. With competence and repetition, the performance of tasks can become a largely unconscious act. Like typing or driving.

It is in the third stage where stagnation and plateaus begin to occur.

With comfort, complacency, and automation a skill becomes vulnerable to flatness or even deterioration.

This is the “OK Plateau”. The place where “good enoughness” can slip into ultracrepidarianism and Dunning-Kruger-esque thinking errors.

The OK Plateau is the place where full cups of tea reside.

If you want to get better, you need to break comfort. You need to reenergize your skill acquisition process. This often involves moving fast and breaking things.

Fail Wisely and Disrupt Yourself

You will not become a better reader by reading comfortable books. You will not become a better coder by engineering simple programs. You will not become a better writer by writing boring essays. You will not become a better athlete through rote repetition.

But Use Caution

If the books you read are senselessly complex, you may just waste your time. If you attempt to engineer too far beyond your skill level, you may just kill your love of coding. If you try to write about what you don’t understand, you may just create empty words.

And perhaps, most importantly:

If you abuse your body and push it too far, you may break yourself beyond repair.


So, caveat emptor-- reader beware.

While moving fast and breaking things can keep you learning and growing… Sometimes the best way to improve is to step back and start slowly from the beginning again.



For more on this subject, enjoy some BrainPickings.



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