The 5 Stages of Mastering a Skill


Whether we want to learn how to play a musical instrument, get to the end of a video game, or learn a skill that is required in our business, there are stages that we must go through in order to become a true master.  

Depending on the skill we want to master, there are physical and mental obstacles to overcome.

Some studies say that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert.  Others say that "practice makes perfect," while others say "proper practice makes perfect."  

Here are the stages that I believe separate the casuals, the amateurs, the students, and the professionals, from the masters.

Stage 1 - Comfort

Feeling comfortable is a natural state where we do not feel stressed or worried. We are naturally able to be ourselves. However, for many of us, the sales process does not come naturally, but we end up having to leave our comfort zone everyday anyway in order to do our job successfully.

Comfort is what keeps people in a job that they dislike for years. Comfort is floating down the river of life and accepting the path of least resistance. Comfort is not taking the time to learn any new skills.

Stage 2 - Desire

When we have the desire to reach a goal, gain a skill, or to ask someone out on a date, it is necessary to get outside our comfort zone.  How many people have attended a concert and then desired to be the next great guitarist of a popular band? The artist makes it seem so easy and lucky for them, they get all of the fame and the perks of being a rock star.  

A professional salesperson who is recognized as a top performer must have the desire to earn the sale. It is the ability to stay motivated even through the times of rejection and obstacles that makes people successful in the long-term.  

In Seth Godin's book The Dip he explains that things often start out easy, but then the obstacles appear and people go into a dip which is when they get stuck, their goal seems unattainable, and they have no motivation to climb out of their rut. What gets people out of this dip is a strong enough reason to work hard and struggle in order to achieve their desired goal.  

Stage 3 - Learning

"A smart man learns from his mistakes. A wise man learns from the mistakes of others." - Unknown

Having the desire to learn an art, skill, or task is the first step of taking action to achieve your desired goal.  Someone that wants to learn an instrument may learn from an instructor, or watch videos that people have posted online.  

A sales professional may learn about the sales process, product information, and study their market to achieve their goal.  In business, the market is defined as your customer, competition, and industry. The better you know your market, the better you set yourself up for success.

Stage 4 - Practice

Knowledge can only take us so far.  The physical and mental acts of repetition will reveal our strengths and weaknesses.  

There is a saying in the music industry that "it takes ten years to make an overnight success."  People often do not see the hours of practicing, studying, and preparation it takes to make something look natural and easy.  Professional athletes and musicians spend hundreds or thousands of hours preparing to perform in front of an audience for a few minutes or a couple hours.  

Sales professionals practice their phone scripts, pitches, and presentations so that they can build trust and keep the attention of their potential client. For most people it takes hundreds of phone calls to become comfortable enough to overcome objections, present value, and relate to their target audience.  

Stage 5 - Mastery

"I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times." - Bruce Lee

Mastery is practicing the basics over time and using your strengths to focus on what makes you different from the amateurs, students, and professionals.  By following the stages of desiring a skill, learning about every aspect of the skill, and practicing the skill until you can compete with the best in the world, a person could potentially be considered a master.

A chess master must see the patterns of play and understand the different tactics of their opponent.  Only by being coached, studying all of the other great players, and putting in the time, can a chess player compete against the highest ranked players in the world.  

To master the art of selling, we must understand as much as we can about our customer.  We must know their needs, history, situation, character, their experiences with the competition, and where the customer's industry is headed. This is how we eliminate all objections that stand in the way of the sale.

Many people start a career or a business without ever having the desire to master their skills. This is what will separate the amateurs, professionals, and masters from each other.  Are your desires aligned with wanting to put in the time to learn and practice the skills that are needed to generate your income?