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View Full Version : Going through the Valley of Confusion on the way to the Peak of Mastery



echerub
12-23-2012, 11:27 AM
I came upon a very interesting concept in the book How by Dov Seidman. It's the idea that mastering an area of knowledge or skill is not a linear journey, but one with a deceptive early peak followed by a dark valley before reaching a much higher peak of mastery.

The author saw this when he was teaching a law class at Harvard. B students demonstrated good command of the material. Whatever you taught them, they displayed a basic understanding, and repeated it back to you. A students had mastered the material and had "integrated the material into their being [...] They took charge of what they had learned, took it further, challenged it, and created new, innovative thoughts: thinking outside the classroom, if you will." What about C students? Some, of course just didn't do the work, but he noticed a surprising number who worked as hard as the A students. "They too did all the reading and understood the material well. And like those who got A's, they exuded flashes of brilliance, often trying to take their understanding to the next level. But when it came time to coalescing it into an understanding and expressing their thoughts, they were stuck in a deep valley of confusion, struggling to get out."

He compares learning to a non-linear journey, where you first attain competency on "Hill B", noting that it's easy to stop at Hill B. Then as you keep pushing you descend into a "valley of confusion" [my term here], and then there's a steeper, higher climb to "Hill A" for mastery.

The author quotes someone else: "If one really wishes to be master of an art, technical knowledge is not enough. One has to transcend technique so that the art becomes an 'artless art' growing out of the Unconscious."

What do you guys think of this? How have you experienced this yourselves or seen it in others? (This is from a business book, yet my first thoughts went to sharpening and cooking ... how very revealing about how my mind works!... but you don't have to limit yourselves to sharpening and cooking :) )

Vertigo
12-23-2012, 11:52 AM
Zen and the Art of Business Management?

RoanRoks29
12-23-2012, 11:57 AM
I really like that quote ( the last one) I think it defiantly is a true statement. I find myself struggling now being a chef,but I can remember when I was just out of school and every thing I learned I could repeat and hand back almost flawlessly and was not only cooking with my learned technique but with my heart. The thing is I think when we are trying to master a skill there that point where you look out from hill b and say I did it and then make camp and settle in or you look out from hill b and say there is hill A and it looks higher lets climb that, then you travel into the valley to not only be a master at the skill but to also gain experience and knowledge that will help evolve that skill into a natural ability to where you are not only doing that but you are being creative an wise and bringing not only your passion but your mind and body into your skill, that I think when that is accomplished you can say you have reached the peak of hill A. I agree there has to be that valley of confusion before any of us can see clearly. There is that point where we need to make mistakes using the skill in-order to become more experienced to become wiser and truly understand the skill in all of its glory.

Salty dog
12-23-2012, 05:49 PM
I'd agree.

Also, after a while everything seems so clear. And sometimes it's not what you expect to see.

mhlee
12-23-2012, 09:56 PM
Ironically, I felt the exact same thing when I studied for the Bar Exam. I felt like the first few weeks, a lot of the principles were things I knew, then, the following month of studying for the Bar was this ridiculous amount of information that I could regurgitate, but that I didn't understand how it all fit together. About 2 weeks before the exam, I felt like I understood the principles, could apply the information/principles to facts, etc.

rshu
12-23-2012, 11:01 PM
Great topic, I also heard it takes 5 years minimum to master a subject, and along the same lines of your concept there has to be challenges, discovery, and enlightenment. I think passion for the subject has to be the driving force to becoming a master, as opposed to just going through the motions...

Dream Burls
12-24-2012, 03:26 PM
I really like that quote ( the last one) I think it defiantly is a true statement. I find myself struggling now being a chef,but I can remember when I was just out of school and every thing I learned I could repeat and hand back almost flawlessly and was not only cooking with my learned technique but with my heart. The thing is I think when we are trying to master a skill there that point where you look out from hill b and say I did it and then make camp and settle in or you look out from hill b and say there is hill A and it looks higher lets climb that, then you travel into the valley to not only be a master at the skill but to also gain experience and knowledge that will help evolve that skill into a natural ability to where you are not only doing that but you are being creative an wise and bringing not only your passion but your mind and body into your skill, that I think when that is accomplished you can say you have reached the peak of hill A. I agree there has to be that valley of confusion before any of us can see clearly. There is that point where we need to make mistakes using the skill in-order to become more experienced to become wiser and truly understand the skill in all of its glory.

I think this is the key. That knowledge by itself can bring you to the first plateau, then experience combined with knowledge takes you to the second. It takes time understand how to meld the two, but once you do the combination is what allows you to exceed to far greater heights.

Crothcipt
12-25-2012, 06:50 PM
Since I have been out of school and haven't taken the time for a secondary education, and have taken math as a hobby in my early 30's. I had this thought many times about math too. At first I was just trying to remember some simple algebraic equations and how they worked. Many times I would struggle with something and wonder how the answer was achieved. It took a ton of time and struggle were as with a teacher I would have been walked through it. I also think with someone telling me what I need to do I wouldn't understand as much as I do now. I am no were near mastery, but I seem to keep seeing the next peak as I keep moving along.

Yes this also works in cooking. I def. can see it in forging and working with metal.

Lucretia
12-25-2012, 07:28 PM
Seen it many, many times.

The "first hill" is a matter of learning the vocabulary--what's a doohickey, what does it do. Learning the words, phrases, and basic skills. Then comes the hard part--taking that basic "vocabulary" and turning it into a meaningful language. Understanding the why and why not of things. There really are apprentice/journeyman/master levels to really understanding something and incorporating it so that it becomes part of you. The old idea of "you aren't paying me for the hour it takes me to do the job; you're paying me for the 10 years it took for me to be able to do this job well in an hour" holds true.

What I really, really hate is the people who get most of the way up that first hill and then call themselves experts.

mano
12-26-2012, 11:35 AM
Good read that gives some insight into the concept of "art and science." Someone said it takes 10 years to gain mastery. Maybe that's when true artistry begins to emerge.

bieniek
12-26-2012, 12:18 PM
Straight away I think about Jiro Ono.
I think it really might be possible to discover new things and catch the details better after cooking for over 70 years.
And it might need the greatest insight to improve on the simplest things.

I really dislike comments about cooking "its so easy to do" about a chocolate cake or lemon tart, or a simple soup. Yes its easy but to do it really well, is as hard and take as much time as you wish it to be. Depending on the level of understanding the maker posess.

Crothcipt
12-26-2012, 04:12 PM
Straight away I think about Jiro Ono.
I think it really might be possible to discover new things and catch the details better after cooking for over 70 years.
And it might need the greatest insight to improve on the simplest things.

I really dislike comments about cooking "its so easy to do" about a chocolate cake or lemon tart, or a simple soup. Yes its easy but to do it really well, is as hard and take as much time as you wish it to be. Depending on the level of understanding the maker posess.

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