What Is Your Circle of Competence?

Warren Buffet refers to the Circle of Competence as the useful knowledge we’ve accumulated throughout our life.

Through the experiences we’ve gone through, we’ve picked up wisdom and various life lessons, factual knowledge.

But we’ve also developed, as Charlie Munger says, our own skill-sets and areas of expertise.

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Warren Buffet’s “Circle of Competence”

But I also wanted draw a comparison of the Circle of Competence to Anthony Robbins’ idea of the Comfort Zone.

The Comfort Zone

In his book “Unlimited Power”, Robbins talks about our comfort zone being a circle.

Very much like the most inner circle of our Circle of Competence.

We are perfectly comfortable in and familiar with everything in our comfort zone.

In life, we will encounter various problems – challenges or obstacles.

Robbins conceptualises these as “X’s”. In other words, if there is a problem, an X will stick to the outer rim of your comfort zone.

If you don’t overcome the obstacles and challenges, your comfort zone will shrink

If you successfully overcome that obstacle and get rid of the problem, your comfort zone “eats” the X, and it grows bigger.

Essentially – the more X’s your comfort zone “eats”, the more you grow.

The nuanced point

Through life, you will run into obstacles and confront challenges.

Whether you’re going through life actively or passively, you will inevitably run into these.

But if you navigate life with a bias to action, you will run into obstacles far more often.

Because you are actively looking to expand your comfort zone, the universe will fight back and throw all these X’s and challenges at you.

Because the universe doesn’t care if you grow or don’t grow.

All the universe wants is for you to find your mate, spread your seed, and let someone pump out a vehicle that contains 50% of your genes.

So if you’re actively making life happen for you and not happen to you, you’ll have more challenges to overcome.

“Those who understand that there is little difference between obstacle and opportunity and are able to turn both to their advantage.” – Nicolo Machiavelli

And as you jump over the hurdles that life throws you’re way, you’re comfort zone will widen, you’ll become more adept at overcoming these obstacles, and you’ll become more competent.

Because you’ll learn valuable, hard-earned truths and wisdom as you expose yourself to this growth-promoting experiences.

And you’ll grow as a result.

So if you live with a bias to action, your growth over time will behave like compound interest.

The intersection between the comfort zone and the Circle of Competence

Is the Circle of Competence analogous to Robbins’ concept of the comfort zone?

Doesn’t your Circle of Competence increase in size as you navigate life with a bias to action?

Warren Buffet mentions that though our Circle of Competence can expand slowly over time, you should stick to what you know, to what you’re competent at because if you don’t, you’ll be more likely to make mistakes.

But as a culture, we condemn failure and glorify success.

Are mistakes really that bad?

After all, you’ll grow if you properly heed the lessons from them.

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Why Facebook is Junk Food

Facebook appeals to basic, biological needs.

Yes, to some extent these social needs are tended to when you go on Facebook.

But there is a glass ceiling to how much Facebook can fill up your ‘social bar’ (like in The Sims.)

Going on Facebook gives you the impression, the illusion that these needs are being met.

And this, in large part, is thought to contribute to lower self-esteem levels and higher depression rates among the Millenial generation.

I think this is because Facebook is becoming the centrepiece of their social lives rather than a supplement.

Facebook alone can’t feed the need for social connectedness and the need to form strong, meaningful relationships with other people.

It doesn’t completely feed the need of social connectedness; it just gives you the impression that it does.

Facebook is (social) junk food.

You feel like you’ve eaten, but you haven’t eaten well.

After a while, you’re undernourished but all you’re feeding yourself with is crap.

It is a 100% parallel with diet. If you eat junk food all the time, obviously your health will deteriorate.

And there’s this question that keeps floating about:

Does Facebook cause depression? Is it cause or effect?

There is no clear cut answer but one way of looking at it would be to say that it’s a vicious cycle.

Perfectly healthy teenagers will substitute going out for FB and will start to become depressed in the same manner that they would become malnourished on a diet of junk food.

By the same token, a depressed person will go on FB to improve his mood and feel social, but will over time realise that the baseline for being social won’t be met through these means.

What do you think?

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Lead and Be Strong In Your Decision-making

Being strong and firm in your choices and decisions is a valuable skill to master.

It is a skill because in a world that is abundant with options, it can be really difficult to a) choose in the first place, b) be confident that the choice you made is the right one, and c) stick with your decision once you’ve made it and not “flake” on it.

Perhaps more importantly, an opportunity cost of deciding is time and there’s always another option where you could spend it better, spend it elsewhere, or simply to save it.

Because time is indeed a precious resource.

You have probably noticed how the importance of time trickles into and manifests itself in everyday language.

You spend time with people.

You try to find time.

People who would like some of your time ask politely whether you have a moment to spare?

There is no time like the present, so why waste it on trying to decide?

As Barry Schwartz, author of The Paradox of Choice puts it:

“Time spent dealing with a choice is time taken away from being a good friend, a good spouse, a good parent, and a good congregant.”

You also expend precious mental resources when trying to decide.

In my earlier posts on willpower, you will realise that using up your willpower and decision-making capabilities on one decision means you will have less to use for the other decision.

That’s why Barry urges us to:

“learn to be selective in exercising our choices. We must decide, individually when choice really matters and focus our energies there, even if it means letting many other opportunities pass us by. The choice of when to be a chooser may be the most important choice we have to make.”

And it’s not just trying to make a decision that uses up your willpower, merely thinking about making the decision will have the same effect.

The problem of abundant choice in the world rears its ugly head in the most inconspicuous of situations.

Like on a night out.

In his book Behavioral Economics Saved My Dog, behavioural economist Dan Ariely tackles this topic and comes up with a decent solution.

“When someone asks what do you want to do tonight?, what they are implicitly saying is: What is the most exciting thing we can do tonight, given all the options and all the people involved?

The problem is that figuring out the absolute best solution (the optimal solution) is very difficult.

First, we need to bring to mind all the possible alternatives; next we need to work out our preferences and the preferences of all the people in the group.

Then we have to find the one activity that will maximise this set of constraints and preferences.”

Okay so once you’ve gone through these motions – what’s next?

Ariely suggests:

“To overcome this problem, I would set a rule that limits the amount of time you are allowed to spend searching for a solution, and I would choose a default activity in case you fail to come up with a better option.

For example, take an acceptable good activity (going to drink at X, playing football at Y) and announce to your friends that, unless someone else comes up with a better alternative, in ten minutes you are all heading out to X or Y.

I would also set up a timer on your phone to make it clear that you mean business and to make sure that the time limit is honoured.

Once the buzzer sounds, just start heading out to X or Y, asking everyone to come with you and tell the people who do not join you immediately that you will meet them there. 

After repeating this tactic a few times, your friends will get used to it and you should experience an end to this wasteful habit.”

What you can do

It’s tough making decisions.

But sometimes, among all the options that you’re considering, it doesn’t necessarily matter what you choose.

Dan Ariely explains why:

“The larger point is that once we have spent a substantial amount of time on a decision, and we still can’t work out which option is the best, it must mean that the overall value of the competing options is more or less the same. It is not that the options are identical, but that the difference in their overall quality is hard to distinguish.” 

So if – on a night out for example – you’re having trouble deciding between option A, B, and C which are identical in value then save yourself the trouble and just choose any option.

You’d be surprised to notice that once you’ve confidently made the decision to go to place A and lead the group, that option somehow becomes more valuable because it’s moved the interaction forward.

And your unwavering confidence in your decision and you’re enthusiasm about your choice rubs off on your group of friends.

And more often than not, the choice you made turns out to be the right one.

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Build Your Own Empire

I understand when someone talks about their struggles in trying to escape.

In trying to escape both the physical poverty they were born in to…

And the paralysing self-doubt and debilitating mental poverty that continues to stifle their growth and self-development way into their 20’s and beyond.

In a banned MTV interview with Tupac Shakur, 2Pac shares a powerful message:

When you’re born, usually you’re born into a dynasty or an empire (…) following in your father’s, grandfather’s footsteps. You’re always told “oh your father, your grandfather did this” so we got this, the family heirlooms…

There’s none of that in the outer city. I call it the outer city ’cause we left out. There’s no nothin’.

We didn’t get any family heirlooms, the family crest…all of that stuff that you would think was so important was meaningless. I mean come on – our family crest was cotton (…)

The only thing we could leave behind is culture, is music, dignity, and determination. That’s all we had.

I feel as though I’m cheated because instead of me fulfilling my prophecy, I have to start one. Instead of doing a good job and carrying on an empire, I have to build one. 

And that’s a helluva’ job for a twenty-one year old. That’s a helluva’ job for any youngster, male or female, to have to build an empire for your family.

Especially when the odds are that you know that somebody else who lives in the inner city – the real inner city, suburbia – who, when he’s born at 16 he gets a car, [it’s] automatic. There’s money in the bank for college, for Christmas you go for vacation somewhere…”

Skip to 3:17-4:43 to watch the bit of the interview relevant to this post, but I urge you to watch the whole thing. It’s illuminating.

Build an empire

It’s easy to get bitter about not getting the springboard to an awesome life that you deserve or to whine and complain about how easy others have it while for you it’s always been an uphill battle.

You can wallow in self-pity, be bitter or angry about the fact that others get things handed to them with no resistance while you’re constantly struggling – but that’s life.

The gazelle can complain about the lion until it goes blue in the face.

Ain’t nothing gonna change.

Accept it.

Own who you are and where you come from.

Adjust your beliefs to enable you to function in the objective world – not in the idealised, fantasy world of how you wish the world to be.

Because you are not entitled to anything and the world owes you nothing.

If you want something – you have to go to get it.

Though you may have escaped or are still yet to escape the physical poverty you might be living in, you also have the job of having to de-programme yourself from the mental poverty that you were conditioned into from a very young age.

Because you can’t build an empire on shaky foundations.

Develop an inner directness whereby you yourself decide how to live and develop the necessary metal support structures to help you along your way like a strong self-confidence, self-assuredness, and high self-esteem.

Those things don’t come from reading only.

You need action; what you do will change how you think.

And you need to win small victories to climb the mountain.

But it’s definitely possible – you can still build an empire.

You’ll just have to work harder for it.

But the best thing about is that it’ll be your very own.

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Build on Your Strengths (Don’t Waste Time on Your Weaknesses)

This is what Charlie Munger, Warren Buffet’s right-hand man and investment partner, has to say about building on your strengths.

“You have to figure out what your own aptitudes are. If you play games where other people have the aptitudes and you don’t, you’re going to lose. And that’s as close to certain as any prediction that you can make. You have to figure out where you’ve got an edge. And you’ve got to play within your own circle of competence.

If you want to be the best tennis player in the world, you may start out trying and soon find out that it’s hopeless—that other people blow right by you. However, if you want to become the best plumbing contractor in Bemidji, that is probably doable by two-thirds of you. It takes a will. It takes the intelligence.

But after a while, you’d gradually know all about the plumbing business in Bemidji and master the art. That is an attainable objective, given enough discipline.

And people who could never win a chess tournament or stand in center court in a respectable tennis tournament can rise quite high in life by slowly developing a circle of competence—which results partly from what they were born with and partly from what they slowly develop through work.”

Working on your weaknesses can be a waste of time.

It’s more work than it’s worth. If you don’t have a natural talent for it, why force it?

So:

“Double down on your strengths” – Gary Vaynerchuk

But be careful with how you interpret this advice. 

Some would use it as an excuse not to focus on things they’re just not good at.

For instance, in high school you can’t just forget about studying maths.

You have to be self-aware in assessing how much effort you have to put in to bring that area up to some respectable level.

Sure, this comes at the expense of focusing your energies on your strengths.

But once you don’t need maths (e.g. because you’re going to studying English literature at university), you’ll be able to shift your focus to the qualities you think make you stand out most.

And if you build on your aptitudes enough, your weaknesses won’t matter.

You will have compensated for them.

Build on your strengths because that will yield the most results.

P.S. Thanks for reading and feel free to subscribe to my email list.

Know Thyself: A Psychological Tendency Worth Knowing About

 

Cognitive dissonance is the tension caused by holding two conflicting ideas.

Here’s Nir Eyal, author of Hooked, who perfectly summarises the idea with the aid of an age-old fable:

“In a classic Aesop’s fable, a hungry fox encounters grapes hanging from a vine. The fox desperately wants the grapes.

Yet as hard as he tries, he cannot reach them. Frustrated, the fox decides the grapes must be sour and that therefore he would not want them anyway.

The fox comforts himself by changing his perception of the grapes because it is too uncomfortable to reconcile the thought that the grapes are sweet and ready for the taking, and yet he cannot have them.

To reconcile these two conflicting ideas, the fox changes his perception of the grapes and in the process relieves the pain of what psychologists term cognitive dissonance.”

When you’re experiencing cognitive dissonance, it can affect you in different ways. I’ll talk about two of the major ways it can influence you in your daily life.

The Experiment

Cognitive dissonance was presented in an experiment by Leon Festinger and his colleague.

Students entered a lab and were asked to do a boring task.

They were bored out of their minds.

After the experiment, the experimenter asked if the student would lie to another participant who was waiting outside to participate. The student was asked to say that the study was in fact lots of fun and not boring at all.

One group of students was paid $20 to lie to another participant.

The other group was paid $1.

What happened?

The students that were paid $20 were fine with lying to the other unsuspecting participants.

They went on and on about how whimsical and enticing the actually boring experiment was.

They felt comfortable for lying just for the money. In other words, being paid that much was sufficient justification to lie.

And when these students were asked later on if they enjoyed the task, they bluntly replied that it was boring.

The students that were paid $1 were different.

Getting paid just $1 to lie to other participants wasn’t enough of a justification to lie.

They did so anyway but the important part about this is that they ended up convincing themselves that the experiment was fun.

After the entire experiment, when they were asked if the experiment was fun, they said that it was.

Why?

The students that were paid $1 had two discrepant thoughts:

“This task is boring” and “I’m being paid just $1 to lie.”

These conflicting, discrepant thoughts caused tension (i.e. dissonance).

To reduce this tension, they fundamentally changed their opinion about the dullness of the task.

They had to because thinking about how only $1 was enough to bribe them to lie was too uncomfortable a thought to have.

Here’s the full experiment in more detail:

Here’s a thought…

The danger about people working in low-paying jobs is that cognitive dissonance may arise in the same manner as it is showed in the following Dilbert cartoon strip:

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“Dilbert” by Scott Adams

One final, even more realistic hypothetical scenario:

Imagine you hate your job.

But you’re still going through the motions in that job.

Why?

Well, you might start persuading yourself that it’s comfortable, familiar, pays okay, that going to find another job would be too much hassle, and that it’s actually not that bad really.

It’s actually not that bad, really…

Know Thyself

If you’re not satisfied with something in your life, don’t rationalise the problem away.

Now that you know about cognitive dissonance, you are now conscious of the mental gymnastics we are wired to go through and the tricks your mind can play on you if you let it.

Re-wire, de-programme.

Don’t fall for this trick.

Because if you do, ultimately – the joke’s on you.

P.S. Thanks for reading and feel free to subscribe to my email list.

Review: Manage Your Day-to-Day.

Manage Your Day-To-Day: Build Your Focus, Find Your Routine, & Sharpen Your Creative Mind Review

What Manage Your Day-to-Day did for me 

Upon starting whatmybrosaid, I became really interested with the idea of habits, structure, routine, and deep focus. 

I was on the look out for valuable advice and any practical tricks about juggling the various projects and undertakings I had going on.  

I wanted to be the type of person who was able to have multiple projects going on.

I wanted to be the type of person who was getting stuff done and being insanely productive all the while not compromising on time for play.

This book doesn’t offer a productivity system, but it offers valuable insights into the human condition from which these tips and tricks stem from.

And these tips and tricks are pretty universal as they help you tend to various areas of your life without neglecting any. 

It’s the little things.

Like:

Make use of the entire day.

Wake up in the morning.

If you want to improve your creativity, start writing at the beginning of the day.

That context and habits matter – creativity doesn’t just come but it can be elicited (this one was a major thing for me…I even wrote a super popular post about this subject)

Or that energy and willpower are vital things to take into account when planning your workload.

And lots of valuable advice on unplugging and taking the time to recharge so as to restore balance to your life, and why it’s important to find moments of pure solace in the age of hyper connectivity.

The devil really is in the details.

And this book is all about details.

Details that add up to broader picture of overarching success and productivity.

For me it was also a nice bonus that all the book was a joint effort.

That is, different types of writers, from various fields, whether it be from the world of film-making, business, or behavioural economics all used their unique voices and styles to add value to this great book.

By reading so many different, versatile styles, you learn what type of writing you like to read and notice how totally sometimes drastically different styles can still speak to you.

I find this quite cool because you’d have to read a few books in a row to reach a similar conclusion.

What Manage Your Day-to-Day can do for you

This is a playbook of ideas that will help you:

~ Improve your productivity,

~ Tweak your schedule to achieve a better structure in your life,

~ Optimise your work and gain control of your workflow,

~ Create an environment for yourself that would foster creativity,

~ Carve out time and energy for everything you want to do in a day.

On the whole, this little powerful book will give you a huge productivity boost.

It will open your eyes as to just how much you can accomplish in a single day. 

Why Manage Your Day-to-Day works

An impressive list of contributors shared their hard-earned nuggets of wisdom in this little book.

People like Dan Ariely or Scott Belsky who have enjoyed huge successes in their careers offer tips on how to perfect your routine, implement more structure into your life, or improve your creativity.

It’s all trial tested advice.

They are normal people who share many commonalities with you and me but for some reason excel at what they do.

And these reasons are in here.

If you want to be successful, just model success. 

P.S. Thanks for reading and feel free to subscribe to the whatmybrosaid email list for more posts like this.