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Knowledge and Understanding – Consider the Railroad Tracks

“I wonder where in the learning process the unlearning of bad habits comes in. Maybe you don’t unlearn at all. Maybe the process of learning anew writes over the old habits in the brain!”

Look at skill as a set of railroad tracks that are all rusted from lack of use and the elements. When the tracks begin to be used on a more regular basis, they become shiny and clean – almost polished in appearance. You must remember that skill comes from repetition. To trust it on game day, it must be built through structured deliberate practice.

There is a difference between knowledge and understanding. “Knowledge” is the presence of facts. “Understanding” is knowing when and how to use them.

All skill begins as knowledge. Through repetition, failure, and correction, skill is born – just like the railroad tracks get smooth and polished through frequent use. Now, if for some reason the traffic that was once on the set of railroad tracks (your old skill) was switched to another set of rusty old tracks (the new learned skill sequence) soon the rusty old tracks will be polished and shiny. The new skill circuit is born and the old skill circuit, like the unused railroad tracks, loses its shiny polished appearance and eventually fades into the weeds and gravel between the railroad ties.

It takes around 3,000 deliberate repetitions to make something consistent and subconscious. So, somewhere around 1,250 to 1,750 repetitions, the new circuit begins to take over and become a skill. The old one just fades away.