The Great Mental Models Volume 1: General Thinking Concepts

Shane Parrish
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  • You only think you know, as a matter of fact. And most of your actions are based on incomplete knowledge and you really don’t know what it is all about, or what the purpose of the world is, or know a great deal of other things. It is possible to live and not know. - Richard Feynman
  • I believe in the discipline of mastering the best of what other people have figured out. - Charlie Munger
  • thinking better isn’t about being a genius. It is about the processes we use to uncover reality and the choices we make once we do.
  • While pontificating with friends over a bottle of wine at dinner is fun, it won’t help you improve. The only way you’ll know the extent to which you understand reality is to put your ideas and understanding into action.
  • Our [[Failure]]s to update from interacting with reality spring primarily from three things: not having the right perspective or vantage point, ego-induced denial, and distance from the consequences of our decisions.
  • As Confucius said, “A man who has committed a mistake and doesn’t correct it, is committing another mistake.”
  • Most geniuses—especially those who lead others—prosper not by deconstructing intricate complexities but by exploiting unrecognized simplicities. - Andy Benoit
  • Wrapping ego up in outcomes instead of in ourselves makes it easier to update our views.
  • The chief enemy of good decisions is a lack of sufficient perspectives on a problem. - Alain de Botton
  • If a map were to represent the territory with perfect fidelity, it would no longer be a reduction and thus would no longer be useful to us.
  • Remember that all models are wrong; the practical question is how wrong do they have to be to not be useful. - George Box
  • In order to use a map or model as accurately as possible, we should take three important considerations into account: Reality is the ultimate update. Consider the cartographer. Maps can influence territories.
  • I’m no genius. I’m smart in spots—but I stay around those spots. Thomas Watson
  • How do you know when you have a circle of competence? Within our circles of competence, we know exactly what we don’t know. We are able to make decisions quickly and relatively accurately. We possess detailed knowledge of additional information we might need to make a decision with full understanding, or even what information is unobtainable. We know what is knowable and what is unknowable and can distinguish between the two.
  • There are three key practices needed in order to build and maintain a circle of competence: curiosity and a desire to learn, monitoring, and feedback.
  • Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself. - Anonymous
  • Keeping a journal of your own performance is the easiest and most private way to give self-feedback. Journals allow you to step out of your automatic thinking and ask yourself: What went wrong? How could I do better? Monitoring your own performance allows you to see patterns that you simply couldn’t see before.LOCATION: 648
  • Ignorance more often begets confidence than knowledge. - Charles Darwin
  • Applying the filter of falsifiability helps us sort through which theories are more robust. If they can’t ever be proven false because we have no way of testing them, then the best we can do is try to determine their probability of being true.
  • don’t know what’s the matter with people: they don’t learn by understanding; they learn by some other way—by rote or something. Their knowledge is so fragile! - Richard Feynman
  • Socratic questioning generally follows this process: Clarifying your thinking and explaining the origins of your ideas. (Why do I think this? What exactly do I think?) Challenging assumptions. (How do I know this is true? What if I thought the opposite?) Looking for evidence. (How can I back this up? What are the sources?) Considering alternative perspectives. (What might others think? How do I know I am correct?) Examining consequences and implications. (What if I am wrong? What are the consequences if I am?) Questioning the original questions. (Why did I think that? Was I correct? What conclusions can I draw from the reasoning process?)
  • Thought experiments can be defined as “devices of the imagination used to investigate the nature of things.”
  • a thought experiment generally has the following steps: Ask a question Conduct background research Construct hypothesis Test with (thought) experiments Analyze outcomes and draw conclusions Compare to hypothesis and adjust accordingly (new question, etc.)
  • When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe. John Muir
  • Second-Order Problem Warren Buffett used a very apt metaphor once to describe how the second-order problem is best described by a crowd at a parade: Once a few people decide to stand on their tip-toes, everyone has to stand on their tip-toes. No one can see any better, but they’re all worse off.
  • A word of caution Second-order thinking, as valuable as it is, must be tempered in one important way: You can’t let it lead to the paralysis of the Slippery Slope Effect, the idea that if we start with action A, everything after is a slippery slope down to hell, with a chain of consequences B, C, D, E, and F. Garrett Hardin smartly addresses this in Filters Against Folly: Those who take the wedge (Slippery Slope) argument with the utmost seriousness act as though they think human beings are completely devoid of practical judgment. Countless examples from everyday life show the pessimists are wrong…If we took the wedge argument seriously, we would pass a law forbidding all vehicles to travel at any speed greater than zero. That would be an easy way out of the moral problem. But we pass no such law.
  • The Antifragile mindset is a unique one. Whenever possible, try to create scenarios where randomness and uncertainty are your friends, not your enemies.
  • The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless yet be determined to make them otherwise. F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Anybody can make the simple complicated. Creativity is making the complicated simple. Charles Mingus
  • Simpler explanations are more likely to be true than complicated ones. This is the essence of Occam’s Razor, a classic principle of logic and problem-solving. Instead of wasting your time trying to disprove complex scenarios, you can make decisions more confidently by basing them on the explanation that has the fewest moving parts.
  • Ockham wrote that “a plurality is not to be posited without necessity”—essentially that we should prefer the simplest explanation with the fewest moving parts.2,3 They are easier to falsify, easier to understand, and generally more likely to be correct.
  • seeks to validate its assumptions. Sagan wrote that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.”
  • A few caveats One important counter to Occam’s Razor is the difficult truth that some things are simply not that simple.
  • I need to listen well so that I hear what is not said. - Thuli Madonsela
  • Hard to trace in its origin, Hanlon’s Razor states that we should not attribute to malice that which is more easily explained by stupidity.
  • When we see something we don’t like happen and which seems wrong, we assume it’s intentional.
  • Always assuming malice puts you at the center of everyone else’s world.

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