The 4 Levels of Learning

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To have an acting career, you must be committed to becoming a life-long learner.

So today we are talking about “The Four Levels of Learning”.  When you get stuck or feel that you cannot do something… just take a peek at these and know that the things that are new to you might take a little getting used to …and it is just a part of the journey.

Here are the four levels:


This is when you don’t even know what you don’t know


This is when you understand that you don’t know something


You understand how to do something and you are aware of your efforts


You don’t even have to think about doing something.  It now becomes second nature

So you might be wondering …

How Do These Show Up In Your Acting Career?

Let’s break them down a bit more.


(You don’t know what you don’t know)

When you started dreaming about being an actor you might have thought it was all easy, fun, and glamorous and being an actor meant you would just get to …well… act.

And if you were a good actor, then you would walk on red carpets.  And they give would you awards and money.  This is what I call the “Entertainment Tonight Syndrome”.  This is when newly famous people appear to be over night successes. In the beginning, brand new actors (and people who are not in the entertainment industry) don’t understand all of work and details that are required for a successful acting career.

Many believe they will just have to be a good actor…and that will give them a career.  But being a good actor is really just the beginning.


(You understand that you don’t know something)

This can feel yucky … And when taking on new challenges, you might start to get into a state of overwhelm.

Examples of things that might start out feeling awkward the first time you do them.

*Taking your first headshots

*Breaking down a script

*Learning how to get an agent the first time

*Setting up your Twitter or Facebook

*Your first interview or red carpet

*Sending out a mass email for the first time

*Pretty much anything on IMDb

*How to navigate on your first big set

It goes on and on …

All of these things can feel intimidating…especially the first time.

This (sometimes frustrating) step in the learning process is when you are learning how to do something in your career for the first time. Maybe you just took a fantastic biz class and realize that there are new unlimited actions that you can take to move your career forward.  Or maybe you are a highly trained artist but just started working with an entirely new acting technique and feel like you are brand new all over again!

Just when you thought you had the hang of going out for auditions that your agent gets you… self-taping becomes more popular.  And so you have to learn a new skill.  Or just when you get used to Facebook…they change the rules!  Or the world invents some new social media site that you have to have your 9 year old teach you how to use.

Understanding that an actor’s work is never done, and that there will always be new things to learn will help.  Just know there will always be changes and new things to learn.  That is part of what keeps an acting career interesting!


(You understand how to do something and you are aware of your efforts)

This is when you have done something at least once or twice and feel competent enough to repeat the process.


Going on auditions. (Prepping, Finding parking, Signing In, Working the Room, etc…)

Acting on stage or on a set

Updating something on your IMDb or Website

Going to a class or networking event.

All of these scenarios still take effort and each situation may be very different, but you now have experience under your belt and you have enough skill to problem solve whatever comes your way.


(You don’t even have to think about it.  It is now second nature and a habit.)

This might be when someone hands you a scene and your technique automatically kicks in.   When you are really strong at cold reading, it starts to become much less stressful to work on a scene.  When you become skilled at improv, the last minute changes on set and at auditions become a LOT less scary.  Your training and experience just kind of kick in.  … it’s just another day at work!  In social media … this might look like when actors just automatically tweet / post any ole thought that pops in their head.   This can also show up in how an actor’s daily routine becomes a habit.

Unconscious Competence can be something to strive for in certain areas of your career.  For example …some might argue that you should memorize your lines so well that you can recite them backwards and forwards and in your sleep.  This doesn’t mean that you become stiff in your acting because you are over-rehearsed… it just means you know your lines so deeply that if they change the script on set or if your scene partner on stage goes up on their lines… you can remain flexible and roll with the punches.

Just remember that NOBODY is born knowing how to do anything in an actor’s career.

So when you get frustrated or scared about doing something new, just remember that you aren’t SUPPOSED to know how to do it… Until you LEARN how to do it and practice, practice, practice.  I see actors all the time think that for some reason they are supposed to be an expert at something right from the start that is brand new to them.  But since the answer does not jump out and bite them and they don’t know how to do it all right in that moment, they just freeze and stop and don’t do anything.

Remember to just take that big scary project on your to do list and break it down into bite size bits.  The more you build your “taking action muscles”, the faster and easier the process of learning will be. And always just remember to take the first step… right NOW.

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