A Three Level Model for Skill Development

One of the things often stressed by many top performers is the importance of high frequency training. Something about daily practice seems to produce results in the shortest timeframe possible.

Although this is especially true with technical body skills like dancing, drumming, or golf, my experience is that daily practice is also important for individuals who are trying to gain theoretical knowledge, too. The body and the mind seem to work best when they have the opportunity to adapt to a new skill on a daily basis.

But, why is this true?

I'm going to present a model to help explain the dynamics of skill development, with the aim of providing insight as to why high frequency training is the most effective technique in skill development, universally.

The Three Levels of Individual Skill

Given any individual who has any skill - for example, a 12 year old female who plays piano - her level of performance on any given day can be classified into three levels:

  1. Base Level Performance
  2. Peak Performance
  3. Expansion of Performance

It is important to note that a person may reside in different levels for each skill they have, at any given point in time. However, I suspect that individuals who push for Expansion of Performance in one area are more adaptable and can more readily push for Peak Performance or Expansion of Performance in any other skill they desire.

Base Level Performance

Everybody has spoken with a musician who complains that they are 'rusty.' When they say this, they mean to say that they are out of practice. Sure, they might be able to play their instrument, but not as well as they used to when they practiced frequently. Such an individual can be said to reside at Base Level Performance.

At the Base Level, a person's performance is sub-optimal. A runner will be slower, a writer will be less creative, and so on. Because the mind has not been presented with challenge for a period of time, it has instead allowed itself to either stagnate or invest its resources in another skill.

Sadly, most adults spend most of their time at a Base Performance Level, in whatever skill they have. With the exception of their career, they often do not prioritize skill development and therefore are stuck with whatever level of performance they happened to acquire during childhood. And, if their job isn't challenging, than the entire mind can slump into laziness, with side affects such as depression, memory loss, insomnia, and so on.

The challenge of the Base Performance Level is understanding when and how to escape it. Because we all face time restraints, it is impossible to achieve peak performance in more than a handful of skills at any given time. Therefore, many skills a person has will remain at this lowest state, most of the time.

Again, I will stress the importance of environmental factors, because they will always dictate which skills we choose to spend our time with. In late capitalist society, most people spend most of their time pushing for performances which generate immediate revenue. Even at school age, children learn the skills they imposed upon them by adults. They play the sports that are popular within their culture, and read the stories which portray the morals the adults believe are noble.

Indeed, it is remarkable the level of creativity and superflous skill we see today, given the restraints most of us face socially. Only time will tell what kinds of skills individuals in the future will develop, as freedom and human awareness become ever more expansive.

This is why motivation is the key to pushing individuals from Base to Peak Performance. Be it intrinsic or extrinsic, only a dynamic force can shift the focus of the mind from one skill to another.

Peak Performance

Many people reflect on a time when they were "in their prime." What they are describing is a timeframe in which they were having frequent peak experiences. When the mind and body are repeatedly saturated in the practice of a skill, Peak Performance is acheived. Regardless of a person's relative skill level - novice or advanced - Peak Performance is the timeframe in which a person is doing something the best they have ever done.

In order to attain Peak Performance, environmental circumstances must support frequent practice. In many skill areas, daily practice is required in order for the mind and body to unify in a peak experience. And, it is only when peak experiences happen regularly that we perform at our best.

Performance Expansion

The ultimate human experience is education. Because, the only way to learn something is to remain within the Peak Performance level for an extended period of time. When a person is truly doing their best work, the natural consequence Performance Expansion - the devleopment of increasingly advanced skill.

The challenge, again, lies in creating the circumstances in which an individual can experience Peak Performance. Meaningful results are only possible when the individual can remain focused on a skill for months, or even years at a time. And, as a person becomes more advanced in a skill, it becomes increasingly difficult to improve.

Conclusion

Although it is necessary for individuals to learn skills and allow them to stagnate, there is a process involved in acquiring new skills, or refining things to a higher level. High frequency training is ideal for skill development because it forces an individual to remain within the Peak Performance stage, which, of course, results in Performance Expansion. When skills are only practiced irregularly, the mind and body cannot escape the Base Level stage.

It is only when environmental circumstances are supportive that an individual can remain in the Peak Performance stage long enough to experience Performance Expansion. If society is to progress, support must be given to individuals to facilitate extended periods of Peak Performance. As the world's problems become increasingly complex, the human capacity to resolve them must be refined. After all, problems can only be resolved from a higher state of awareness than the place they were born from.

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