What are mental models?
Mental models are problem solving techniques extracted from various disciplines to apply in any setting, whether it is life, career or school. They are big ideas from big disciplines. You don't want to be a man with the hammer to whom every problem looks like a nail.
A mental model is a technique that helps you look for an answer.
Why should you care to learn mental models?
Mental Models will broaden your thinking so you can make wise decisions. Modern schools prevent students from making wise decisions and think rationally. Mental Models will help you gain that rational thinking.
Does it even matter if I don't learn mental models?
Then we feel sorry for you...
If you ask your grandma for advice she would tell you to always eat carrots before the dessert. Many of us today want dessert first. Become a great thinker today and it will serve better tomorrow.
Alright, can you explain more in detail?
A mental model is more like a searchlight than a road map. It doesn’t tell you where to find the answer; it tells you how to look for it. A mental model serves more as a heuristic than it does as an algorithm.
An algorithm is a set of well-defined instructions for carrying out a particular task. An algorithm is predictable, deterministic, and not subject to chance.
A mental model is a technique that helps you look for an answer. Its results are subject to chance because a mental model tells you only how to look, not what to find. It doesn’t tell you how to get directly from point A to point B; it might not even know where point A and point B are. In effect, a mental model is an algorithm in a clown suit. It’s less predictable, it’s more fun, and it comes without a 30-day, money-back guarantee.
Here is an algorithm for driving to your grandma's house. Take Highway 290 West to Rosemont. Take the State Street exit and drive 2.5 miles up the Congress Parkway. Turn right at the light by the gas station, and then take the first left. Turn into the driveway of the large white house on the left, at 111 Clear City.
Here’s a mental model for getting to your grandma's house. Find the last letter we mailed you. Drive to the town in the return address. When you get to town, ask someone where our house is. Everyone knows us -- someone will be glad to help you. If you can’t find anyone, call us from a public phone, and we’ll come get you.
An algorithm gives you the instructions directly. A mental model tells you how to discover the instructions for yourself, or at least where to look for them.
So, are you going to be a great thinker or just follow computer generated directions? Whatver you decide, let Charlie know.
Who the hell even uses mental models?
Do you even read history? The history of science is full of discoveries based on exploiting the power of mental models.
Consider the example of a heavy stone swinging back and forth on a string. Before Galileo, an Aristotelian looking at the swinging stone thought that a heavy object moved naturally from a higher position to a state of rest at a lower one. The Aristotelian would think that what the stone was really doing was falling with difficulty. When Galileo saw the swinging stone, he saw a pendulum. He thought that what the stone was really doing was repeating the same motion again and again, almost perfectly.
The suggestive powers of the two models are quite different. The Aristotelian who saw the swinging stone as an object falling would observe the stone’s weight, the height to which it had been raised, and the time it took to come to rest. For Galileo’s pendulum model, the prominent factors were different. Galileo observed the stone’s weight, the radius of the pendulum’s swing, the angular displacement, and the time per swing. Galileo discovered laws the Aristotelians could not discover because their model led them to look at different phenomena and ask different questions.
So, how does Charlie help me become wise?
Charlie has compiled 100 models from various disciplines with a concise definition supplemented with a humorous example.
Imagine an army of 100 models on a battlefield. In order to win, you would want these models to march in the same direction. If you can somehow make these models march in a favorable/positive state of direction, you would gain a phenomenon called Lollapallooza Effect.
When several of these mental models act in concert to drive us toward a particular action, you have a Lollapalooza effect. The Lollapalooza effect can create large-scale drivers of human behavior -- and often error. It can have both positive and negative outcomes.
In order to best utilize these mental models, gain Lollapalooza Effect by having them march towards a positive territory and you will be guranteed to become wise. However, do prevent Lollapalooza Effect marching into a negative terrritory.
Can you give an example on how to apply a mental model?
Take “Margin of Safety” from Engineering as an example. Engineers use the concept to calculate the load a system can bear, beyond its actual capability. This detailed analysis can be used in Finance when investing. If you invest in Stock A, invest in at a price where your portfolio can bear 15% downside. There are numerous mental models that can be used outside of its primary discipline.
Why only 100 mental models?
As Warren Buffett says, "80 or 90 important models will carry about 90% of the freight in making you a worldly‑wise person." We've sourced models from each discipline that are important and will help you carry 90% of your frieght. Don't be lazy, figure the rest 10% out yourself.
How do I contact you?
Reach out to us via snail mail, pigeon or Twitter.However, we suggest you don't go down that path. So, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
I want to suggest a mental model.
Are you Charlie Munger? If not, then don't tweet at us, just email us at email@example.com.