Navigating the Map of Reality: Understanding Your Circle of Competence

Alessio Frateily

Hatched by Alessio Frateily

Nov 02, 2023

4 min read


Navigating the Map of Reality: Understanding Your Circle of Competence


In our pursuit of success, we often encounter the challenge of navigating through the complexities of reality. This is where the concept of "The Map Is Not the Territory" comes into play, reminding us that our perception of reality is merely a representation, not the actual experience itself. Additionally, understanding our Circle of Competence, as exemplified by Warren Buffett, allows us to focus on areas where we have expertise, avoiding problems and maximizing opportunities for growth.

The Map Is Not the Territory:

In his work, Korzybski emphasizes that a map may resemble or differ from the actual territory. However, if a map accurately shows the relationship between locations, it reflects the same relationship found in reality. This concept of self-reflexiveness suggests that an ideal map would contain infinite layers, each representing a map of the previous layer. Ultimately, the map is a representation, not a substitute for the real experience.

Understanding Your Circle of Competence:

Warren Buffett's concept of the Circle of Competence provides valuable insights into how we should approach decision-making and focus our efforts. Buffett emphasizes the importance of correctly evaluating selected businesses, emphasizing that we don't need to be experts in every field. Instead, we should only evaluate companies within our circle of competence, which is built upon our knowledge and experience.

Expanding Your Circle of Competence:

While our circle of competence may start small, it can be expanded over time through continuous learning and experience. It is crucial to recognize the boundaries of our current circle and avoid straying from it, as mistakes are often made when we venture into unfamiliar territory. By gradually widening our circle, we can develop a deeper understanding and expertise in new areas while staying true to our core competencies.

The Power of Focus:

Buffett's example of Mrs. B, who achieved remarkable success in the furniture industry by focusing solely on her circle of competence, highlights the power of specialization. By dedicating ourselves to a specific area, we can overcome challenges and achieve extraordinary results. Mrs. B's success demonstrates that a narrow area of competence, when approached with unwavering focus, can lead to immense accomplishments.

Determining Your Aptitudes:

To achieve the most success in life, we must first identify our own aptitudes. Buffett advises against engaging in activities where others possess superior skills, as this often leads to failure. Instead, we should seek out areas where we have a competitive edge and play within our circle of competence. By pursuing endeavors aligned with our strengths and interests, we increase our chances of attaining greatness.

Expanding Your Odds of Success:

While not everyone can become a world-class athlete or excel in highly competitive fields, Buffett reminds us that success can still be achieved by developing a circle of competence. By slowly acquiring knowledge and skills through deliberate practice and hard work, we can rise above our limitations. It is important to define the perimeter of our current circle and operate within it, while continuously striving to expand our boundaries.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Define your Circle of Competence: Take the time to identify the areas where you have expertise and experience. This self-awareness will help you focus your efforts on activities that align with your strengths.
  • 2. Embrace continuous learning: While staying within your circle of competence is essential, it is equally important to expand your knowledge and expertise over time. Commit to lifelong learning and seek opportunities for growth and improvement.
  • 3. Be honest about what you don't know: Avoid the trap of overestimating your abilities. Acknowledge your limitations and don't be afraid to admit when you lack knowledge or experience. This humility will prevent you from making costly mistakes.


In our quest for success, it is crucial to remember that the map is not the territory. Our perception of reality is merely a representation, and understanding our Circle of Competence allows us to navigate through this map more effectively. By defining our areas of expertise, focusing on our strengths, and continuously expanding our knowledge, we can increase our odds of success and make informed decisions in both life and business.

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