I’ve been teaching my youngest to drive. We’ve had fifty hours of driving together without a single drop of blood shed. It’s a miracle 🙂 . Luckily, he’s a calm driver who remains unfazed on the road.
Driving with a newbie got me thinking about a lot of things, especially in the face of impatience from road users who’d forgotten they too were learners once. What it got me thinking about most though, was writing.
I spent a good portion of my working life as a retail standards coordinator in Quality Assurance, although it seems like a lifetime ago now. In the business world, our work is measured by the four levels of competence – unconscious incompetence (wrong intuition, L-plates), conscious incompetence (wrong analysis – red P’s), conscious competence (right analysis – green P’s) and unconscious competence (right intuition – licensed driver).
Like any job, there are varying levels of progress in the writing world too and this is how I’ve come to think of them: aspiring (learner), emerging (red P’s) and established (green P’s).
So why only green P’s when I should be at the top of the pyramid? After all the books I’ve written and had published, haven’t I earned my pretty blue pen licence? The answer is that even an established writer should never give up learning, never take unconscious competence for granted. We still need that scheduled PDA (Practical Driving Assessment) test we call edits, beta reading and critiquing, no matter how good we think we are.
An editor, proofreader and critique partner are valuable in the writing world. Like a driving instructor or test inspector, they find the mistakes a writer can’t always see because we’re too close to our plot and characters. They stop us from falling back on bad driving habits that may creep in as we head down the road to publication. We might not always appreciate or agree with their instruction or feedback, but it’s important we remove the emotion and reaction to analyze and learn from their advice. Be proactive not reactive, a skill in itself.
There is a lesser known fifth stage to competency it would do us all good to remember as we climb that ladder to success, no matter what the job is we’re doing. The stage licenced drivers often forget out on the road – empathy.
The Fifth Stage of Competency
If you cultivate an attitude of empathy around competency, you can unlock a fifth stage of competency: empathetic competence. Empathetic competency means understanding that competency isn’t a checkbox or goal marker that we achieve and leave behind. It’s about assessing yourself and your abilities against your potential, rather than the abilities and potential of another person. Ultimately, it’s about being mindful of the skills and abilities of others, meeting them where they are, and supporting them along their journey to growth and success. ~ Zac Ryland (Tier 1 Performance Solutions)
That’s why I’m putting myself on probation, stepping back down to my red P’s, assessing where I’ve been and where I’m going, how I can do things differently to stay fresh, motivated and inspired.
The takeaway message – be kind, be patient, be empathetic, be supportive. No matter how good we get, we were all learner drivers once.