The next mental model I’m digging into is the idea of your “circle of competence”. This is something I’ve talked about a few times on here, most recently with my post asking “where is your perimeter?“, and finding the edges of your circle.
As Warren Buffett puts it:
“You have to stick within what I call your circle of competence. You have to know what you understand and what you don’t understand. It’s not terribly important how big the circle is. But’s terribly important that you know where the perimeter is.”
Taking it further, according to Albert Einstein, as you’re able to grow your circle of competence, you’re also quietly expanding your “circumference of darkness” around it. Another way to put it might be “the more you know, the more you know you don’t know”. This is generally a good thing.
Problems arise when you’re not accurate in defining your circle of competence, and you think you’re more informed on a subject than you really are. In Adam Grant’s words, this is when “confidence exceeds competence“. That tends to be a bad place to live.
Some people can get a bit embarrassed to admit where their competence ends, but it’s a powerful thing to be self-aware about. I know the areas where I can help others, and I know the areas where I need help, and keeping those two straight makes life much easier.