Mental Models I Used To Use

The rules (policies), and mental models that helped me succeed in one season or phase of life may not be the best for the next phase.

Here are a few mental models I remember being conscious of in previous years. I've probably already forgotten some.

  1. Always ask "why...". Be obsessive about this. It's going to make things harder for a while before things get easier. You'll find difficult answers that you otherwise wouldn't. If you're only concerned with the present then its true that ignorance is bliss, but otherwise it's a liability.

  2. "What if..." is another good question to ask a lot.

  3. Adapt to the situation, don't make it adapt to you if you have any choice. Be kind of like water, going around things and through the gaps. Look for the edges and the gaps, the parts that aren't well known.

  4. Let people talk as much as they want to. Shut up and listen. If they mean you harm or don't respect you then it'll become more obvious the more they keep talking. If they mean you well or they're saying something useful, you will benefit more from letting them talk more.

  5. Inversion - it can be hard to know if you should do something, but how would you feel if you didn't do it, or if it didn't happen?

  6. Regrets are inevitable, everyone has them. Same as making mistakes. Let your regrets be for things that you did do, and not what you didn't do.

  7. If you are willing to try something, fail at it, and still be glad that you tried, then you should almost definitely do it. Commit to it and enjoy the experience! Don't be scared, or at least, be scared and optimistic and happy1.

  8. There is beauty and luxury in being in such a bad spot that you are backed into a corner with seemingly no way out. Things become black and white, instead of shades of gray, and that will make priorities and options much clearer. You are likely to work very efficiently and effectively in this scenario, and you will learn important things about yourself.

    Now that I'm older and I have responsibilities, I can't ever let things become so bad that a situation becomes black and white. I have to navigate a world of grays. If they do become black and white, I'll already have a long list of failings.

    When I was younger, things were more fragile. My resources were smaller and things could quickly flip from good to bad. Enjoy the few benefits that a situation like that gives, because (hopefully) once its gone its gone for good.

  9. The best way to solve a problem is to prevent it from occurring in the first place. Succeeding at this will bring its own challenges.

  10. Take responsibility for things you are not responsible for, kind of. Do it deliberately and for your own benefit, but don't forget that you are only pretending that it's your responsibility.

    If you do this, you will force yourself to understand a situation more deeply and from other peoples perspectives. This will let you learn faster and help you in future. Keep this at arms length though - it's make-believe and you need to be able to switch it on and off. It's a toy for you to play with. This seems to be what "extreme responsibility" is.

I think its important to have mental models that you're comfortable with, because it lets you make decisions quickly and consistently. But understand that the map is not the territory, and these are just tools in a toolbox.


  1. Courage isn't the absence of fear. It's being scared and doing the right thing anyway.