LIL #3: Lessons I Learnt This Week

Welcome to the third post of lessons I learnt(LIL) series. I had a good week and I am content with what I achieved. Telling yourself repeatedly that life is not a race and you can take your time and be at peace with yourself is a powerful feeling. There were two thoughts that repeatedly came to my mind this week that I wanted to share with you this week.

Lesson 1: Focus on your Circle of competence

Circle of competence is a mental model that says you should invest your energy and focus on subject areas that matches your skills or expertise. The mental model was developed by Warren Buffet and Charlie Munger. Buffet summarized the concept as:

Know your circle of competence, and stick within it. The size of that circle is not very important; knowing its boundaries, however, is vital


I have followed this lesson most of my life. I strongly believe that one should focus his/her energy in areas where they are most competent. I know my limitations and I try to be best in my circle of competence.

We all over time build build useful knowledge on certain areas of the world. For example, my circle of competence is software development. If I want to be more specific I will say I am competent in building backend distributed systems. This is where I have spent most of my time in last 15 years.

Knowing my circle of competence help me say no to requests that don’t fall under my circle of competence. Circle of competence is a useful decision making tool as you can use it to decide whether you should do something or not. Just recently I received a call from a big NGO that wanted me to work for them. I like most people want to contribute back to the society. But, after spending some time with them on the calls I realised that the work does not fall under my circle of competence. So, I politely said No. Saying no is very relieving.

Once you know your circle of competence you have to keep working on it so that you can expand it with more depth. If I take my example, I am expanding my circle of expertise by learning more about distributed system theory, different software architecture styles, and writing about things I learn.

Lesson 2: Learn from the failure of others

It is common to hear that you should learn from your own failures. If you are observant you can limit your failures and learn from the failure of others. In other words, you can learn at the expense of others. This is very powerful and it can help you reach your goals faster. But, it require you to observe other people closely and understand their traits and context under which they failed. Once you understand people around you well and know why they failed at something then you can avoid doing the same mistake. It is common in organisations that multiple leaders try to bring similar changes. Understanding why a previous leader failed can help the current leader understand how they can succeed this time.

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