Author Rolf Dobelli writes in his book The Art of the Good Life
that the world is too complex for any one person to understand it: “Even if you’re highly educated, you can only understand a tiny part.”
But for Dobelli, that reality should be empowering, not discouraging.
You can have outsized impact and success if you stay within your “circle of competence,” a term coined by the investor Warren Buffett.
Inside that circle are the skills you have mastered. The key is to know your circle of competence and stay within it. The size of your circle is less important than knowing its boundaries.
Dobelli notes that someone who’s operating within their circle of competence can be orders of magnitude more effective than another person who’s merely good.
A brilliant salesperson can solve the same problem in a fraction of the time that it would take a salesperson who is mediocre.
The same goes for computer programmers, designers, lawyers, researchers, surgeons, and other skills.
Another benefit of staying within your circle of competence is that you no longer need to feel bad about your deficiencies.
It doesn’t matter how many areas you’re average in. What matters is that you’re far above average in at least one area. A single outstanding skill is more valuable than a thousand mediocre ones.
As Dobelli puts it: “If your kids can’t tell whether that squiggle is supposed to be a horse or a cow, stop dreaming of a career as an artist. If you can barely cope with a visit from your aunt, drop the idea of owning your own restaurant.”