To be smart is so hard, Acquiring knowledge may seem like a daunting task. There is so much to know and time is precious. Luckily, we don’t have to master everything.
To get the biggest bang for our buck we can study the big ideas from the big disciplines: physics, biology, psychology, philosophy, literature, sociology, history, and a few others. We call these big ideas mental models.
Our aim is not to remember facts and try to repeat them when asked, the way you studied for your high school history exams. We’re going to try and hang these ideas on a latticework of mental models, with vivid examples in our head to help us remember and apply them.
When you first start to study a field, it seems like you have to memorize a zillion things. You don’t. What you need is to identify the core principles – generally three to twelve of them – that govern the field. The million things you thought you had to memorize are simply various combinations of the core principles (John T. Reed)
Mental Model: The central principle of the mental model approach is that you must have many of them. Ideally, all the ones you need to solve the problem at hand.
The best antidote to this sort of overreaching is to add more colors to your mental palette; to expand your repertoire of ideas, make them vivid and available, and watch your mind grow.
Inverting the problem won’t always solve it, but it will help you avoid trouble. Call it the avoiding stupidity filter.
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