The Great Mental Models

Shane Parrish

The Great Mental Models



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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.

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Analysis and key concepts


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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Many useful tips to:

  • Understand what mental models are for and why we should learn to master them.
  • Discover some of the most important and useful models to help you deal with a wide variety of situations.
  • Develop a deeper understanding of the world, and hone your ability to solve problems and make decisions.

Canadian born Shane Parrish is the founder and curator of Farnam Street (, an online space that aims to offer a deeper understanding of how the world works and help users live a better life. With his colleagues, Parrish explores concepts relating to mental models, decision making, learning and the art of living. Parrish also curates The Knowledge Project Podcast, has over 10 million downloads and, along with Farnam Street, is an important resource for dozens of athletes, entrepreneurs, professionals, and business leaders. Shane Parrish’s work has appeared in several publications, such as The New York Times, Forbes magazine and The Wall Street Journal.

Publishing house:

Latticework Publishing