I’ve had the experience before in life – as I am sure you have – of becoming absorbed in a new skill or topic, learning a tremendous amount, but then hitting a plateau at some point and never really advancing much further.
For example, I’ve had this happen with studying a foreign language. I could speak Russian quite well at one point, after a couple of years of very concentrated practice, but I never really advanced past the initial level I achieved. Indeed, not only have I not advanced, but my proficiency in Russian has now steadily declined over the course of a decade.
Maybe you have experienced something similar with learning a language, or a musical instrument, or with pursuing the advanced skills and thinking that could propel your career forward.
In any of these scenarios – and countless others – we may be sufficiently motivated to engage in deliberate practice, and by doing so, achieve a significant level of competence. But eventually, the gains in learning that we get from our practice start to flatten out. We practice, we study, we go through the motions, but we don’t really get better. In the case of my experience with Russian, my motivation began to wane and my pursuit of higher levels of competence – and ultimately, mastery – faded along with it.
Recently I discovered recently that Whitney Johnson and Juan Carlos Méndez-García have developed a model that elegantly captures this sort of experience – and the remedy.