Unconscious Incompetence

Let us get back to the ‘Counting the Squares’ exercise; how many squares are there; how many squares were you able to make out in total?

Scroll down towards the bottom of the page till you see a button labelled ‘Squares’ then click on that button and follow the instructions there.

Done that already? If you did then you already have seen all the squares. If you have not, then please do it now, and see all the possible squares, and the lesson we should be learning from that.

By the way, this exercise is most helpful if it is your first time at it but if you’ve seen it before, then just cast your mind back to how you fared the first time you tried it.

Where were the additional squares hiding? In your mind! You see, it is not difficult to make out all the squares after all. But what happens is that what you already know often as a result of the mainstream education, immediately occupies your mind and prevents you from proceeding further. Well, it is more as a result of lack of zing for life!

Truly, “When you know the right things, the boundaries around your life suddenly disappear.

As I earlier indicated, one of the most shocking discoveries during my research was Harvard University’s sad finding about Education that points to the fact that Formal Education is able to harness only up to 22 percent of people’s true effectiveness and greatness in life. So there is big void in the existing educational system.

The resultant effect is that many people graduate from our tertiary institutions and enter the world of work with a lot less of the requisite soft skills, but without knowing so. In addition to that, most people come out of school with a very warped mindset. So, most of such people operate from a position of unconscious incompetence; they do not know ‘what they do not know’ so they are ineffective but unaware, and thus not interested in adding on complementary knowledge; especially the soft skills.

So essentially our formal education system is such that you get to know more and more about less and less, and if you do not at the same time make some effort to improve your knowledge in the foundational soft skills, such as Leadership, Communication, etc., you will graduate with impressive certificate but may find it so difficult working with people while at the same time people will find you strange and wonder what you truly learnt in all your long schooling.

Unconscious incompetence puts restrictive boundaries around people, and limit their ability to get pleasing results; so the good book says that, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge;” to quote Prophet Hosea.

In the words of Daniel Boorstin: “The great obstacle to progress is not ignorance, but the illusion of knowledge.” Illusion of knowledge is… ‘Thinking that you know much, just because you have experience, certificates and titles, and thus despising complementary knowledge.’ You should rather develop the attitude of Moses as recounted in Acts 7:22. Brian Sher says, “When you know the right things, the boundaries around your life suddenly disappear.” The picture below illustrates that point so well.

Thankfully, we are not in 1644; 99.9 percent of the directions or guidance you need in order to become Exceptionally Brilliant, Exceptionally Creative / Innovative, Exceptionally Productive / Wealthy, Exceptionally Healthy, Exceptionally Free / Happy, and so much more and thus live a truly fulfilling life are known, and already documented across various disciplines. And with the abundance of bookshops and life-coaching seminars, and the power of the internet, it is easy to have access to such knowledge if you so desire.

You have probably heard the story about Houdini; he was a fabulous locksmith and a magician who boasted that he could escape from any jail cell in less than an hour, provided he could be allowed into the cell dressed in his street clothes. A small town threw a challenge to Houdini with a new jail they had built; one that was obviously more secured than previous ones. Excitement was all over town when Houdini arrived. He entered the jail cell; the door was closed, and he quickly started work on the lock with a tough and durable piece of metal (the master key he uses to open locks) which he had secretly carried along. 30 minutes passed; then an hour and he began sweating. Houdini had not been successful. After 2 long hours, the door somehow opened, with a visible shock on Houdini’s face. The funny thing was that, the door had never been locked in the first place; but in Houdini’s mind, the door was as firmly locked as if several locksmiths had put their best locks on it. One little push and Houdini could have easily opened the door within seconds upon entering the cell.

The moral of this story is that, often in life, a little extra vigilance is all you need to open your door of opportunity.

You have already seen the horse that was tied to a chair. A chair that was not fixed or restrained in anyway, for which reason the horse could have moved freely without restraint whatsoever. But the horse stood still, thinking that it had been restrained, and therefore could not escape. Truly, more often than not, the chains that prevent us from being free are more mental than physical. Often, the thing that is holding you back is all in your head!

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Unconscious Incompetence

About the Author

David K Egyir

David K Egyir

Author of Purpose Compass, the exceptional life-coaching book that reveals 4 habits that are currently making your life difficult, or otherwise may soon make your life difficult, but which your parent, teacher, or pastor would dare not talk about; how to escape them and get to live a stress-free life of purpose faster! And 13 other equally amazing books that constitute the Zing4Life! Series. Lead promoter of the electronic, trendy and amazing Smart Business Card, the only business card you’ll ever need, for the executive in you! Passionate about helping serious people like you to escape the most dangerous — common but avoidable — problem most people (rich, poor, educated, non-educated, religious, and non-religious alike) face in life.Also, he designs and builds beautiful, cost-effective and functional buildings, and graphics. And he helps executives, marketers, and business owners to make effective presentations; what you may call winning presentations. Especially as a life-coach, he's been popularly adjudged the best coach for excelling in education, increasing wealth, eliminating stress, and enjoying true fulfillment in life! Egyir has a firm conviction that, “The greatest tragedy in life is that majority of people have accepted to be less than they were born to be and are thus accomplishing far less than their true capabilities.” To that end, he authored (wrote) PURPOSE COMPASS and other amazing books, and more than 100 articles; on how to live a highly productive and a truly fulfilling life. And he organises training seminars and workshops for the benefit of individuals, groups and organisations. Dave (as affectionately called by many) understands life thoroughly and shares amazingly liberating insights from a uniquely empowering perspective. He is the Lead Founder of Seers, Associate of Arthro Synergeio, Lay Preacher of The Methodist Church Ghana, Global Lead Advocate of Zing4Life! and Volunteer Mentor with iMentor Ghana. Egyir is married, and is a father of two. To see more about him you may click here. To get in touch with Dave or to follow him on social media you may click here. #DaveGuidesDaily | To support Dave's writing & life-coaching social ministry you may click here. #SeersFoundation | To be part of Egyir's live sessions online at 20.30 GMT on Sundays you may click here. #TimeWithSeers |

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In the diagram shown immediately above (with lines in orange colour) how many squares are there; how many squares can you make out in total?

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So in the diagram, how many squares did you make out in total; how many squares are there?

Well, most people get or give 16 as their answer. Some get 17 and a few get 21; and that’s at least better than the ‘16’ answer majority of people give. Just about 1 percent of people surveyed get the best answer; which is…

Well, get a full illustration of all the more than 21 possible ‘hidden’ squares…


One: Sometimes you need someone to show you the obvious, and oftentimes… the not so obvious! Credit to ZigZiglar

Two: Education and schooling are not the same thing. What goes on inside the schools is often not education. And the results may well be that it reduces productive capacity rather than to increase it. Credit to Prof Sir William Arthur Lewis

Three: My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Credit to Prophet Hosea

Four: The illiterates of the future are not those who cannot read or write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn! Credit to Alvin Toffler

Five: The greatest obstacle to progress is not ignorance, but the illusion of knowledge. Credit to Daniel Boorstin

Six: When you know the right things, the boundaries around your life suddenly disappear. Credit to Brian Sher