Latticework of mental models

Indra Budi

HR Manager, Entrepreneur, Read 1 book a week

29 Apr 2016

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.

The latticework of mental models puts them in a useable form to analyze a wide variety of situations and enables us to make better decisions. And when big ideas from multiple disciplines all point towards the same conclusion, we can begin to conclude that we’ve hit on an important truth.


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

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.

Despite our intentions, learning in this way fails to account for cumulative knowledge. Instead we consume all of our time keeping up to date. If we are prioritize learning, we should focus on things that change slowly (buy book basic knowledge, change slowly knowledge book). 



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