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December 4, 2019

“Mental Models” by Emily Taylor

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How different your life would be if you were capable of choosing the best solution, regardless of the problem you were presented with?

How different it would be if you had made different decisions along the way completely sure that you were doing the right thing?

Every person faces critical decisions every day as they choose what to do with their lives. So, how do you build on these decisions to become wildly successful like people like Warren Buffett, Charlie Munger, Elon Musk, and Jeff Bezos? These men are not geniuses, and while they do have an incredible work ethic, what lies at the heart of their success is the unique way in which they think. Consider this information is useless unless you can apply it. For example, if a person can list all the counties within a state, it can be cool to show off to friends and a good ice breaker in dating situations. However, it isn’t necessarily something that is useful in most situations. It is just a list of facts that doesn’t have a true purpose.

Knowledge becomes useful when you can apply it to a framework. That is what mental models essentially are a framework for thinking.

When making decisions or solving problems, people are limited to the information that they have available to them.

Mental models let information be organized, visualized, and conceptualized. They represent all the possible outcomes in problem-solving and decision making and let you organize them in a way that makes it possible to choose the most desirable outcome.

Even though mental models are incredible tools, they can also be limiting. A person who specializes in something, as people often do in their careers, is limited to the mental models they are familiar with. This means that unless they work to broaden their mental models, they might only see a problem a specific way.

For example, before starting Amazon, Jeff Bezos had an idea about an online bookstore. Even though the idea was promising, the Internet was rather new at the time. He also already had a great job, and there was a risk of failure. Instead of doing what many people would when trying to make a big decision like starting a company and thinking about what could go wrong, he decided to frame his decision a different way. Bezos used what is known as the regret minimization framework by visualizing himself looking back at his life from decades in the future. He had this idea, and there was a risk of failure, as there always with great ideas – but would he regret it at 80 years old if he didn’t try?

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