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The Great Mental Models
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Learn the key ideas of the book by Shane Parrish

The Great Mental Models

Fine-tuning the thinking process to help us make better decisions

We can successfully deal with any situation when we are equipped with the most suitable tools to do so. The same applies to our thinking: the more mental models we have available in our "toolbox", the more frequently we are able to determine what the right mental process is to solve a problem or make a decision. In The Great Mental Models: Volume 1, Shane Parrish shares some of the most important and versatile mental models, meaning those most likely to be useful in a great variety of situations. Reading this book will help you fine-tune the way you think about concepts such as probability, simplicity and competence; it will help you train your thinking to make better decisions, consider the consequences of your actions, and better understand the world around you.

The Great Mental Models
Read in 16 min.
Listen in 20 min.

Using mental models helps us develop a deeper understanding of the world, make better decisions and live better

Mental models are simple processes that help us look at problems from various points of view, so we can choose solutions that are consistent with what we consider important. Only when we make the most of these models are we able to think better.

Thinking better means understanding how reality works, and adapting our actions accordingly. It is not about being geniuses but, rather, about better understanding the things that happen around us, so that we can make more effective choices.

Even if we are not aware of it, mental models shape the way we think, understand things, and develop ideas. There are many mental models, but the ones we see here are the nine most versatile, that is, they can be implemented in a great variety of situations. When we find ourselves having to make a decision in an uncertain situation, making conscious use of our mental models helps us to act more rationally, minimising risks and living a life of greater freedom and less stress.

There are several reasons why we often fail to make the most of our mental models. One of them is that we are looking at things from the wrong perspective: just like a fish that can't see the sea, we are incapable of assessing a situation well when we're in it. We are often too focused on our ego, on the opinion we have of ourselves, and we refuse to update our beliefs based on the reality we see before us, which gets in the way of seeing a situation as it really is.

We are also afraid to admit that there are plenty of things we still don’t know, and that leads us to make decisions that don’t make much sense. We think that things simply happen to us, and that we are passive spectators in our lives: this passivity causes us not to reflect on our actions, and without reflection we do not learn or improve. We must therefore wake up to the fact that we are active participants in our world and in our decisions.

Applying mental models with cognition and determination, can help us to gradually get rid of all these shortcomings. We begin to see the world for what it is, and not for what we would like it to be. We will then be able to identify opportunities that we failed to see, avoid mistakes that could be costly, and start making significant progress in our lives. Mental models can help us develop a deep understanding of how the world works, and we can use this new knowledge to keep ourselves out of trouble, approach problems with greater confidence, and live a more fulfilling life.


The key ideas of "The Great Mental Models"

Using mental models helps us develop a deeper understanding of the world, make better decisions and live better
The best approach is multidisciplinary: reality is varied and complex
The map is not the territory: never lose sight of reality
Strengthening your circle of competence to make better decisions
First principles thinking: research the first principles of everything to understand it better and help clarify complex problems
Thought experiment: theorising and reaching conclusions in your mind, not in real life
Second-order thinking: considering results of results for a long-term perspective
Probabilistic thinking is at the heart of every logical decision we make about the future
The principle of inversion: approaching a situation from the opposite end of the natural starting point
Occam’s Razor: don’t complicate the simple things
Hanlon’s Razor: do not attribute to malice that which is more easily explained by stupidity
Take-home message
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