Remember when you first began to get curious about what was coming out of the radio?
He was a freshman in high school when he realized that he listened to the radio differently than most people. While his friends turned up the volume for the music he turned it UP when the disc jockey talked. He began to notice there were different kinds of personalities (“he’s the funny one”) and even talent levels (“he can talk really fast right up till they start singing,” long before he knew what hitting a post meant.) Even in his pre-pubescence he sensed that the voices booming in from Chicago were better than the ones from Buffalo Gap.
That 14-year-old John Frost didn’t know what he didn’t know. Then he began to realize that he didn’t know. Noel Burch described this process as “The Hierarchy of Competence.”
That 14-year-old me moved from Unconscious Incompetence to Conscious Incompetence. And that’s when the fun really began.
I remember sitting with the PD of my first big station watching him go through air check tapes. He would take a cassette, put it in the cassette machine and listen for no more than 15 seconds. He would then take the cassette out and toss it into one of two boxes, one labeled “potential,” and the other labeled “fossil fuel.” Aware that I was a Conscious Incompetent I asked him what he was listening for.
“There’s nothing wrong with him that 10 years of 4 hour shifts won’t cure.”
Malcolm Gladwell formalized that idea decades later in the book “Outlier” with “the Rule of 10,000;” it takes 10,000 hours of practice to make you an expert of anything. That perspective from a programming mentor changed my trajectory in the direction of Conscious Competence.
Today, everyone of us can all learn something new. Let’s never waste that opportunity.
“It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”