Hitting The Wall of Incompetence

We can’t be the best at everything we try. We can be good, or even great at many things. But, we can never be the best, infallible and constant in that perfection. Eventually we’ll find a balance. We rise to the level of incompetence.

This was explored in the 1969 book called “The Peter Principle” by Laurence J. Peter. In this Peter explored the idea in management that if we do a good job, we get a promotion. If we do a good job in the new position, we get another promotion. This continues until we get promoted to the point where we don’t do a good job. We stagnate at that phase.

We stagnate because no one wants to be demoted to back to where they are great. Instead, we protect the ego, giving up greatness in exchange for a status symbol and the money that goes with it. We’d rather be miserable at that level than request to be demoted back to the level where we excelled.

I say “we” because this happens to everyone at some point in time.

We all hit walls in our careers and lives. We all run into our limitations at some time. There is absolutely no shame in it. We all have them, which is what makes us unique. It’s beauty through imperfection. Each time we hit these walls we know that it is not just imperfect, but also impermanent as well as part of our individual, incomplete story.

The first time I hit the wall of incompetence it was sales. I was 16, it was my first “real” job. I was a telemarketer. The script sucked. I found that if I deviated from the script, it was a little easier to engage people. They stopped hanging up, but I also didn’t land any appointments for the closers to head to. I was fired after my 90 day probationary period for not meeting quotas… ever.

So what can we do about it? It starts with humility.

When we realise we suck at something, there are a few different options we could take.

  • Request a demotion for a time
  • Request a demotion to last
  • Request training
  • Self-study
  • Run away (change jobs)
  • Be satisfied with mediocrity and imperfection

Your choice of how you embrace your transitory periods of life depends on your priorities at the time. If your world is in a state of chaos with your family – maybe there is a new baby on the way – you could ask for a demotion in order to do your job with confidence and fewer distractions. Maybe you’re in a space where you could welcome the challenges and training, so that’s the route you should go.

And, remember to stay humble. There is no shame in finding an obstacle in life. There is no shame in asking for help or seeking out a better path that fits with your particular season in life.