Think about this scenario for a second: there are two people, each with an exact set of circumstances in a closed environment; both the same race, age, gender, living in the same city, with the same education and the same opportunities decide to start the same business and provide the same service, but in a period of 2-3 years only one of them does incredibly well and the other fails dismally.
Even though every person is unique and capable of doing similar things, the greatest and best business owners have an inherent drive that differentiates them from others.
At the end of the day, it’s all about who the person is that determines their success.
A Wall Of Limitation
Around the late 1800s, Sir Francis Galton proposed in his book Hereditary Genius that individuals could progressively improve until they hit a wall of limitation, regardless of education or determination to keep pushing beyond it.
He recognised that people were limited to a certain level of skill, abilities or talent and that once coming into contact with that wall, there was no surpassing it; however, most people never quite get to that wall, instead coming to a place called the “OK Plateau”.
It’s something that I’ve noticed in coaching my different clients and there’s a lot of solid and interesting theories to back it up.
Psychologists in the 1960s discovered three unique stages that we all go through in our journey to learning a new skill or ability and that there is a stage that everybody inevitably reaches called the “OK Plateau”, where we get comfortable and stuck in the process of mastering that particular skill or ability.
This is a prominent feature in all of us and in particular, business owners.
Similar to the process of learning how to drive a car, we start off with complete and total awareness and heightened cognitive function in the way that we process and learn how to make efficient use of the new skill we’re attempting to master, while progressively getting worse at the skill with time after a certain level of understanding and control is attained.
In these three stages that psychologists have discovered, we reach a stage of relaxation and autonomy in the way that we manage a skill, leaving the final steps of mastery or expert-level status to slowly fade from our sights.
The Three Stages Of Skill Acquisition
By taking a look at these three stages, we can see exactly how we move from the unknown to the known, to doing great until a certain point and then to doing a shit job, thereafter.
The first stage, known as “the cognitive stage”, is where we begin learning with great amounts of effort and ability, using strategies and tactics to navigate the new skill in the most effective way, while keeping a high level of awareness on rectifying mistakes that we make while processing this new information.
Similar to the learning phase in driving a car, where we’re alert, aware and constantly engaged in how to best apply this skill, so that we can take the necessary steps to mastery.
Move forward to the second stage, the “associative stage”, where we make errors and mistakes, rectify them and develop better ways to use the skill efficiently and effectively. We start becoming far more adept at the skill and it starts becoming easier to handle.
Again, with the car analogy, we’re going through repetitive sequences and begin forming a sense of comfort in the way that we drive, while not needing as much attention to be paid as it becomes a bit easier for us.
In the third stage, “the autonomous stage”, we’ve come to our most comfortable level in making use of the skill that we’re learning; basically taking the step from ‘learning’ to ‘learned’. In this stage, we act through muscle memory and begin to develop habits that have us finding shortcuts and loopholes in the way we operate the skill. This is where it becomes dangerous for us.
As with driving, when we reach that stage of autonomy, we tend to feel supremely comfortable in making use of the skill, that we recognise when to change gears through sound, we engage in multitasking by listening to music, making and taking phone calls, use one hand and are capable of conversation during this important task.
It’s at this point that we reach the “OK Plateau”, becoming autopilot in our control of the skill and feeling a massive sense of comfort in how we make use of that skill.
This becomes dangerous for business owners and entrepreneurs in particular, as they become relaxed and lose the original sense of focus that they had in the early stages of starting their business. Once money is flowing, the workload is easier to manage and control and learning becomes a thing of the past; the growth and potential of the business becomes stunted.
Everything becomes easier, so you take your foot off the gas and decide to coast, rather than keep pushing towards the wall of limitation; to the point of true potential that you possess.
Don’t Stop At Mediocrity
During this crucial stage, it’s so important to keep away from the mediocrity that comes with being highly-autonomous and in a perpetual mode of being in autopilot mode.
The psychology shows that it’s possible and highly rewarding to push past that plateau and strive towards even higher levels of success. Once you’ve learned how to drive, it doesn’t quite end there, as professional or expert-level driving is a skill that can also be added to that existing repertoire.
In the same way, business owners should take themselves above and beyond to the next level and become experts in their field, instead of resting and relying on a state of comfort.
By refreshing yourself, you can push through the limitations that you’ve made for yourself and create an environment of exponential growth and dominance in more than one field, expanding yourself to better and even more promising rewards.
Many entrepreneurs in that stage can often begin developing a nasty bias, known as the Dunning-Kruger effect, where they believe they are the absolute best at what they do, absent of the skills and talents necessary to actually launch themselves past the stratosphere. It’s absolutely crucial to become aware of the limiting self-belief that you actually load on yourself and begin the process of learning and education all over again.
Don’t stop at a point that you think is ultimate success, as it’s more than likely that you haven’t even reached that wall of limitations, just yet.
Your journey just begins when you find autonomy, ease and comfort in the skill you’ve developed. That’s when you take on the next chapter, the next level and enter new arenas to conquer.
I know that I, myself, haven’t quite reached my wall of potential, so I’m still constantly learning and open to as much new information as possible.
In taking this stance, I want to learn exactly what it takes to convince amazing people like yourself to take me on as a business coach – what it will take to make you my client, so I can be pushed even closer to my wall of limitation, while helping you reach yours.
Teach me! Show me the way to your pocket, I mean your heart. (Just Kidding!)
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