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  • Writer's pictureDavid Gaudet

Anatomy of a Competency



I have been apologetic for the ambiguity or unassertiveness of the word "competency" in the context of what I'm promoting in my book, in this blog, and beyond. With this post, I'm going to pivot away from that mindset, and dive into what makes a competency - in the context of competency based learning - so valuable. What follows is an excerpt from my book, "The Daily Undoing: Being Better at Being Human", where, with the help of contributor, and CBL thought leader, Marc Boivin, I dive into understanding the anatomy of a competency, and how that knowledge is important in using the book.


Begin Excerpt Here...


As you seek greater competency across the eight categories in this book, it might help to have a framework in mind to which you can identify and organize a competency’s three ingredients: Attitude, Knowledge and Skill (AKS Framework). For that may I present every educator’s best friend, the Venn diagram, which is present on each action page of The Daily Undoing.


The letters AKS within the Venn, represent Attitude, Knowledge and Skill. Full disclosure, I did not invent this framework, any more than I invented the concept of competencies. Like the concept of competency based learning, the AKS framework is in a state of constant evolution, stemming from the work of a vast trail of pioneering researchers, scholars and practitioners. And it is a path marked by ongoing discussion and debate over the exact meaning and construct of competencies. In some circles, for example, the “A” stands for “Ability”. Marc and I liked “Attitude” better, so took the liberty to change it. So with humble acknowledgement to those who came before me in developing the whole notion of CBL, and the framework upon which it is learned and leveraged, let’s just say, I feel the overall system used here most fits the spirit of a book whose subtitle is “being better at being human”. With that said, let’s take a closer look at each of these three elements:

  1. Attitude - the perspective a person has on something, and the feelings that result in that interaction.

  2. Knowledge - the explicit information that exists on a particular topic and the ability to process and recall that information.

  3. Skill - the tangible abilities that are displayed by applying knowledge, usually through the completion of certain tasks or activities.

Thus, to be competent, a person has to be able to manage these three elements in a way that allows them to show that they not only understand something, but also can apply it to a real-life situation. And while all of this is happening, the person presents a beneficial attitude towards the process and seeks to continually work on improvement. As noted thought leader in human motivation, Daniel Pink, asserts, “Goals that people set for themselves and that are devoted to attaining mastery are usually healthy.”

Similarly, the goal of The Daily Undoing is not simply to memorize knowledge nor gain a master credential symbolizing a skill. It is to create an internal mental flywheel of high performing competencies from which to draw when the twists and turns of your life’s story summons them into action. It is also about attaining a state of mind that you can never attain mastery. You can only commit to its pursuit.

Mastery is elusive, because it is rarely something that can be reached. But it is in the process of working towards mastery where one can start to find the freedom and limitless potential of competency based learning and escape the restrictions of our education and work systems that reward based upon certain designations (e.g., A+, or $5,000 bonus). Instead, to seek competency is to drive towards constant and continual self-improvement, one clear action step at a time.


I thought a lot about all of this when coming up with the book’s subtitle. While competency based learning is the foundational theory, my hope for you, as you participate in the pages that follow, is that competency based learning is seen as competency based living. And when you begin to realize your conscious intention in practicing the eight Pillar Competencies, using this AKS framework, you should feel a sense of reward not for being perfect, but for your ongoing diligence toward being better at being human. Grammarians will shudder at that last phrase, arguing it should be, “be better at being human”. But this is a hair worth splitting. Like competencies, we never arrive at mastery at being human. Our job is to simply continue trying. There should never be a point where we feel, “Okay, I’m better - enough”. We should always be “being better”, our operating system always updating.


Whether it’s learning, living or being, these are non-linear concepts. They ebb and flow with moods, personal situations, external forces, in real time. There are a year’s worth of daily actions here for you to jump in and out of as time and self-motivation permit. If we have learned anything from 2020, it’s that we cannot define ourselves by time in the traditional way. Hours, days, weeks and months are not as important as health, relationships, connections, aspirations and goals. Give yourself permission to pick up and use this companion in a way that fits YOU. While designed as a daily habit-forming exercise, don’t punish yourself if you open it only once a week. Conversely, if you wish to bite off more than one exercise in one day – go for it.

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