High Performance Incompetence


I recently had the opportunity to receive some high-performance driver training from an expert at a local club track. During our discussion and practice laps, I realized that although I have been driving for over 25 years, there is an entire world of nuanced expertise of which I am completely ignorant. I am currently, it turns out, an incompetent high-performance driver.

This was a wake-up call for me. As I drove away from the lesson and club track, I saw the open road differently – with a different, deeper level of attention and interest. I saw the same road I’ve driven hundreds of times as a new place of practice and learning. And while I don’t necessarily want to begin racing through the streets of my hometown with our family vehicle, I realized that I’ve underestimated the power of being a beginner. Today I came face to face with the reality that I am nowhere near an acceptable level of competence in a skill that yesterday I would have thought I didn’t have much to learn about.

I think it’s possible that where we think we are most competent is the easiest place for our ignorance to hide.

This reality has the capacity to paralyze us. When we come face to face with our own blinding gaps of self-awareness, one response could be to give up, to throw in the towel and say, “I’m never going to do that again; it was too scary.” We could retreat to the comfortable, normal space of the old routine that lends us its tradition and perception of support and safety.

With the sweat still running down my neck, I would suggest that getting back in the driver’s seat – literal or figurative – and facing the dangerous unknown of beginner mindsets is much more beneficial. Whatever the future holds for you as you uncover your incompetence, be willing to step into the courageous place of dangerous discovery. I believe the welfare of future generations of both leaders and non-leaders depends on our willingness to pull back the curtain, look deeply into the aspects of leadership and life that we are most confident in … and admit we still have a lot to learn.

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