Are You Successful by Accident?

I have a confession to make.  As an Aussie living in Maui permanently it was time to get my driver’s license and to do that I had to pass a driving test.  A couple of weeks ago I took it, and I failed.  I’ve been driving for nearly 30 years and yet I failed.  Driving is one of those things where we can develop bad habits and not even be aware of it.  Or perhaps we are aware of it, but we get away with it without any consequences, so subconsciously, our bad habit is reinforced.

Photo: Roee Zukerman

This doesn’t just happen with driving – it happens in most areas of our life where we have become so competent that we don’t stop to think about what we are actually doing.

We become what is called “Unconsciously Competent” – if someone asked us how to do something, we might not even be able to tell them.  Think about some of the things you do in a day and even what you are an expert at.  It has come so easy and natural for you, that you don’t even think about the steps it takes to make it happen.

Someone who is good at what they do, might not even be able to tell you how they do it, or they might miss important details because of this ‘unconscious’ competence.

Preparing for my driving, I suddenly had to become “Consciously Competent” to make sure that I was sticking to all the road rules – you know, no rolling stops, stick to the speed limit, parallel park, indicate in appropriate time before changing lanes.

There is a book called “Safe by Accident” which is about the concept that just because there are no accidents, doesn’t mean everyone is acting safely.  Many times it can be luck that prevents unsafe acts leading to accidents.

Let’s apply this to you and your business or career?  Are you lucky to be getting the results or success you are getting?

What are you getting away with doing or not doing?  Sometimes it can help to stop and think about what is you are doing in your business or life.  Are you going through the motions correctly or are you missing some of the details?  Often these details don’t have an immediate consequence, but perhaps missing these details over a length of time are the cause for you not quite hitting your targets or goals?

Or perhaps, you get away with missing out on a step in your sales or marketing – and you continue to get sales, EXCEPT you miss out on the big one – because you missed out that step.

Think about it.  

  1. What are you missing by being unconsciously competent?  What are you forgetting to do in your business and personal life that is having an impact on your results without you realising it? And,
  2. What are you unconsciously “INcompetent” at?  ie. What are you not doing because you just don’t know about it?

You remember a time before you learned to drive, learned your specific specialty, your sport or hobby.  Before you ever tried something for the first time, you were “Unconsciously Incompetent” – you don’t know what you can’t do.  You might even know some people trying to do some things and be unaware of how incompetent they are.

Once you are aware that you can’t do something, then you have progressed to be “Consciously Incompetent”.  Congratulations, you KNOW you can’t do it.  That’s the uncomfortable feeling of learning new skills that we all have to go through before reaching competency.

It’s really hard to know what you don’t know or to learn something you are not good at, on your own  – that’s why people learning to drive have driving lessons; that’s why I work with a coach – to fill in the gaps in my competency, to teach me what I don’t know, to help develop new skills AND to pick up the missing details.

Going for my driving test and failing it was a good lesson in paying attention to details (like the 20mph speed limit that I missed on leaving the carpark!) – something I can do more of in other areas of my life.

The good news is that I got the lesson and I paid attention.  Last week I PASSED and I have my Hawaiian driver’s license.  Woo hoo.

If you are not happy with the results you are getting, or you are ready to pass a bigger test in life, then I suggest you work with someone who can help take you to the next level.

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