CIRCLE OF COMPETENCE: Stories & Application

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Okay fam!


Did you enjoy reading the Circle of Competence: Your Gifts & Talents? Was it helpful? Did it resonate with you? [Please let me know. Good or bad, it helps me grow].

(If you didn’t already, I encourage you to read it. This post is a continuation of the explanation of The Life-cycle of your Gifts and Talents)

In the first post about your Circle of Competence, I ended on the note that you can trace your steps from uncertainty, obsession, and desire back to your gift. Let me demonstrate that insight with a true story.

Tim is a smart young man whom I met and befriended over a Shabbat dinner when I lived in Madison, Wisconsin. He was a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin in Madison and was on the rowing team [love the sport].

During one of our talks, Tim expressed his frustration. He was unhappy that folks were coming to him with too many questions. He was also frustrated about the following:

  • He was unsure about his core competence (skills, gifts, and abilities)
  • He felt he didn’t know how to relate with the business world
  • He also wanted to contribute to humanity, but felt inadequate and didn’t know how.

Sound familiar?

Tim’s concern sounded like a destiny parable to me. I was excited and asked him the following questions:

  1. What type of questions and problems are people coming to you with and especially what subjects are they related to? 
  2. What types of discussions engage your attention the most?
  3. What subjects, books, articles do you read the most? Which do you easily understand and find intriguing that you spend extra time wanting to know more about?

Clue! Note to self

When people come and keep on coming to you with questions you feel ill-equipped to answer, even after you send them away – It means you have the answer.


The gift in you is the answer. Folks coming to you see or perceive the answer. You have the answer. You just don’t know it yet!

Q: So, what types of questions was Tim being asked? More so, what subjects were these questions related to?

A: Physics, Math, General Business Knowledge and often opinions on politics*

With a little dialogue and by his estimation, Tim noted that –

For Physics, folks came to him – 70% – of time. For business, it was – 20% and for politics, about – 10%.

From this, you can make a good guess of what Tim’s field of study is or could be. If you thought – Nuclear Engineering and Business Administration (minor), you are right. Tim also had an interest in contributing on some level in the politics of Nuclear Energy.

Q: What was Tim interested in and what did he find himself spending extra time studying and wanting to know of, even though it had nothing to do with anything?

A: Atomic laws, Laws of Energy, The Big Bang theory, Philosophy, Gravity, Space…just to name a few. These things intrigued him. He read books,articles, watched YouTube videos in these fields, including engaging in talks about business ideologies. 

But, here’s the confusion!

If Tim already found his element, why did he feel unsure, inadequate, unrest, and confusion about his life, calling, and destiny?

That’s simple.

Empty Gift Capacity + Desire – Quest/Effort = Unrest, lack of clarity, & Stagnation

Empty Gift Capacity + Desire + Quest/Effort = Growth (Gift Ability)

Or in English –

Tim, was not responding to the curiosity ignited in him by – Desire – to fill the empty well (empty gift capacity). His lack of response represented –

His lack of adventure (quest) and effort to acquire (learn) the “brand of knowledge (water)” he needed to fill the empty well (empty gift capacity).

If Tim was learning, then the pace was slow. If he was making an effort, his pace was slow. If you have the capability to learn something much faster and it is taught to you (or you learn) slowly, you become bored and extremely – frustrated.

The bigger your gifts capacity and ability to learn and understand, the greater the Need for Speed to learn.

So, its not that Tim was unsure of his core competence. His feeling of uncertainty was only a reflection of a deeper problem which was anxiety resulting from NOT knowing what he wanted/needed to know in order to fill his gift capacity quicker and use his gifts abilities to serve those coming to him, with insight learned from his quest to know.

Because Tim didn’t learn quick enough as he grew and as people perceived the gift (capability to know more & ability to understand easily), he felt unable to help. Thus, anxiety and frustration rose as he dealt with the ultimate pain – lack of fulfillment.

With this revelation, Tim could now focus more time and energy on gaining the knowledge necessary to answer questions – with a little flare of Tim – which folks brought to him. He could find effective ways to now develop further.

If you asked King Solomon what people came to him for, He would have said, –

To learn proverbs, songs, my thoughts on life and death, counsel on living, what I wrote in Ecclesiastes, Songs of Songs, Poetry, Botanic stuff, my relationship with God, and the biblical wisdom I use to rule my people. Yeah, that’s about it.”

Categorize that and we have – Philosophy, Anthropology, Biblical Studies, History, Sociology…etc. In short – wisdom.

I end with this counsel adapted from the Sage of Omaha, Warren Buffet. It had useful elements. But, I have re-crafted the words to make it relevant to this post. That said –

You don’t have to be an expert on everything. You only have to be able to evaluate those opportunities found in related fields within your God-given gifts, skills, and abilities – Your Circle of Competence.


The size of that circle and the breath of your gifts, skills, and abilities, is not very important. However, knowing where you are on the life-cycle (evolution of your gifts) and knowing your boundaries is vital!

If you are interested, let’s talk knowing the boundaries of your circle of competence soon. Let me know.

Until then,

May the blessings which you missed this week, catch up to you as you rest this weekend.

One Love, One Spirit

Ish’mael A. Ngu

PS: Click here to watch another inspiring story for your personal growth and enjoyment.

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