Art & Development

Expertise: All in due time

Expertise, as the formula goes, requires going from unconscious incompetence to conscious incompetence to conscious competence and finally to unconscious competence.

—Atul Gawande, “Personal Best.” New Yorker, October 3, 2011.

My first half-marathon, a few weeks ago, was exhilarating and grueling. I’m tackling another 13.1 miles this weekend in Staten Island.

Here’s a paradox: I’ll be better informed, faster, and stronger for this race. Yet I can also perceive more acutely how slow I am. I will, quite realistically and very literally, be at the back of the pack.

But as Gawande reminded me today, this is all part of a process. My unconscious incompetence has been revealed (and will continue to be revealed, I’m sure) so that my incompetence can be conscious at least. Like those clumsy, hairy, adolescent geese I used to see on my runs at Lake Merritt, this is a humbling, awkward phase, where there’s nothing to do but keep going, so that one might inhabit conscious competence one day.