Archive | Mental Models RSS for this section


Fragments from imaginary dialogues

What are meta-sources?

“A meta-source is a source of information that is a compilation of multiple sources.”

What makes a quality meta-source?

I like to distinguish between two levels:

A level 1 meta-source curates and synthesizes multiple quality sources. (eg Shane Parrish)
A level 2 meta-source also integrates the sources. (eg Brain Johnson)

We largely form our beliefs based on the (perceived) credibility of the source. This implicit heuristic is a tendency we all have. Besides striving to be more discerning, one way to mitigate this tendency is by focusing on quality meta-sources.

What are your favorite meta-sources?

Shane Parrish’s Farnam Street [<link], Brian Johnson’s Optimize [<link], and a selection of newsletters.


Our goal should be to get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed. (Abraham Heschel)

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What is dehabituation?”

“It’s one of the most important life practices. A form of pattern-breaking

You know how when you get used to something, it tends to disappear. It can be anything: a song, a place, even a person. This phenomenon has been called hedonic adaptation. I call it habituation. In one of his wonderful Shots of Awe, Jason Silva expressively called it

the been theres, done thats of the adult mind.

We’re surrounded by miracles. But habituation makes them invisible.

Dehabituation is the practice of breaking the habituation patterns and seeing the world anew through the eyes of the child that you were… and are.”


‘Everything is Figureoutable’ is like the master-key belief.

You don’t have to play Sherlock Holmes and go searching in every corner of your consciousness for every limiting small belief you have. I’m sure I still have tons of limiting beliefs. But they don’t stop me because of that one master meta-belief that envelops my whole existence.

(Marie Forleo)

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“That is a huge idea. Instead of rooting out limiting beliefs, focusing on overriding them with a few powerful meta-beliefs.”

“How would you implement it?”

Think of beliefs as a system, and of meta-beliefs as a sub-system.
Think of your identity as a system, which is part of the meta-beliefs system.

Think of yourself as a Designer.

This is the (meta-)framework.

Become a creator and collector of meta-beliefs. 

Reflect on those meta-beliefs often until they become your reality.”

“Can you give some examples of meta-beliefs you’ve created or collected?”

“Here’s a few:

Every moment is a fresh beginning. (T. S. Eliot)

Happiness is your very nature. It lies at the heart of yourself, in all conditions and under all circumstances. It cannot be acquired; it can only be revealed. (Rupert Spira)

I am Love.
I am Play.

It can only ruin your life if it ruins your character, otherwise it cannot harm you, inside or out. (Marcus Aurelius)

Life happens for me, not to me. (Tony Robbins)

Everything is a Gift.
Everything is a Miracle.

Success is inevitable. (Thibaut Meurisse)

The best is yet to come.

The past lives within.

There is something inside you that’s never been lost: your childhood. (Fred Rogers)

There is no age.

I am renewing every day.
I am renewing with every breath.

Winter is on my head, but eternal spring is in my heart. (Victor Hugo)



Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What is Non-Doing?”

“I use it with a double meaning.

Non-Doing is Effortless Action.

The conscious and the unconscious mind complement one another. They form one process. The conscious mind has querying power; the unconscious mind has processing power. 

The more harmoniously the conscious and the unconscious mind work together, the better your outcome. If the conscious mind overextends, trying to overcontrol the process, it interferes with the unconscious mind, which produces an imbalance.

When you perform a precision jump in Parkour for instance, the role of the conscious mind is to set the intention, form a clear desired outcome, then get out of the way. The more conscious effort you put in, the less effective you are. Doing, in this case, is non-doing – letting happen. This requires trust.

What we call confidence is essentially a deep trust in your unconscious mind.

Non-Doing is Absence of Action.

Emotions come and go, outside our control. What we control is how we respond to them. 

Unpleasant emotions hold the key to inner peace. 

When unpleasant emotions occur, the default tendency is to resist them. We feel the impulse to do something about them – anything – to make them go away. This however has the opposite effect. The more effort we put into resisting them, the more we amplify them – and the more we deny ourselves the opportunity to learn from them.

What makes those emotions unpleasant are unpleasant body sensations (a big idea I know from Joan Rosenberg’s book 90 Seconds to a Life You Love). That’s what we want to get away from. The implications of this idea are profound. Most of our failings are the result of our incapacity to fully experience emotional body sensations.

What you resist persists. Non-doing, in this case, is non-resistance [<link; medium read]: lovingly, non-judgmentally, and curiously observing the emotional sensations without doing anything about them – they inevitably go away. This builds trust.

What we call confidence is essentially a deep trust in your capacity to deal with any emotional outcome.”


Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“Seek Clarity.”

“Can you clarify what you mean?”

Seek Clarity of Purpose.

What is it that you and only you can do? (Onlyness)
How can you use your unique gifts in greatest service to the world?

Seek Clarity of Identity.

Who are you? What is the essence of who you are?
Who do you want to be?

Seek Clarity of Values.

What qualities does the highest version of yourself possess?
What are the things you choose to never compromise on?

These form your Compass of Meaning, which helps you find your way back to the Path when you (inevitably) get lost. They’re also a reality filter. In directing Attention, they shape your reality.

Seek Clarity of Practice.

To consistently be who you want to be, you need to consistently practice it. You can practice something in every waking moment.

What can you practice in this context?
What can you practice now?

Seek Clarity of Focus.

To do your best work, you need to focus your Attention on one thing at a time.

What is the highest-leverage thing you can focus on?
What is the highest-leverage thing you can focus on now?”

“What if you have multiple valuable things you can focus on?”

Seek Clarity of Priorities.

Employ what I call the value razor [<link; short read].

Which value is more important/impactful now, x or y?”

Writing Cycles

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

I see writing as an oscillation. 

On/Off. Engagement/Disengagement.

Does it not take you out of Flow to interrupt your writing?

Think of it. When do you usually have most insights?

When I’m taking a shower, and when I’m walking.

So when you’re not focused on writing – during the Off. 

Based on this insight, I’ve integrated the Off into the writing process. (Integral Thinking)

I see writing as both the On and the Off. 

The On and the Off form an integral unit – like Yin/Yang. 

The On without the Off is fruitless.
The Off without the On is aimless.

I call the sequence of On followed by Off, writing cycle.

Writing Cycle = On + Off

Thinker 9

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“I love ideas. Playing with ideas is one of my favorite pastimes.”

“What are the most valuable ideas?”

“It’s important to realize how huge the universe of ideas is. It’s far beyond the scope of any one individual.

It’s also important to realize that engaging with ideas is a collective process. Humanity is enriched by the compounded effect of a myriad little individual contributions.

The chief task of the Thinker is to discover their area of contribution – the area they can contribute most in.

Within the realm of ideas, I’m mainly interested in practical ideas, by which I mean ideas that have practical application for the Art of Living. The Practical is my macro-filter, which narrows the universe of ideas considerably.

Within the realm of practical ideas, 20% are big ideas (Pareto Principle) – the most insightful kind.

Within the realm of practical big ideas, 20% are highest-leverage – the most impactful kind.” 

“So highest-leverage big ideas are 20% of the 20%.”

“Yes. Those are the most valuable.

Viewed as a hierarchy, it looks like this:

Highest-Leverage Practical Big Ideas
Practical Big Ideas
Practical Ideas

Modular Writing

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

What is modular writing?

Let’s take this article on modular writing as an example.

When I start writing, I have a vague idea of where I want to get to. As I’m writing, I’m clarifying it to myself.

So you’re discovering what you want to write about as you’re writing.


I develop the idea through exploration. I don’t try to force the process. I let ideas emerge organically.

For instance, the idea about writing about the piece I’m writing was unplanned, it emerged spontaneously.

What if no ideas emerge?

Then I take a break. Breaks are an essential aspect of the creative process. Expressed as a principle, I call it creative oscillation. I call the off part of the oscillation, the creative pause.

Structurally, I use short sentences, like this one.

A bit like tweet writing?


The goal is to create more or less self-contained units – modules – which, through an iterative process, I develop and eventually assemble into the final piece.

Top of Your Mind as Resource

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What do you mean by ‘top of mind’?”

“As you know, certain things you see or hear linger in the background of your mind, sometimes long after the initial event. We can metaphorically think of the mental space that contains all these items, top of your mind.

All recurring thoughts are on top of your mind.”

“Is this a priming effect?”

“It is.

The top of your mind can be used as a creative resource. It’s a design space [<link; very short read]. We might think of it as strategic priming.

Ask yourself often:

What are the most powerful resources I can have on top of my mind?

Think mental tools.” 

“Like questions and (mental) models [<link; medium read]?”


Intentional Biasing

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What is intentional biasing?”

“You’re familiar with the notion of action bias.”

“Yes. Our default tendency to favor action over inaction. We seem to operate under the implicit belief that doing something is better than doing nothing. This can lead us astray. Sometimes doing nothing is the better option.”

“It can also be used in a constructive sense. 

Action bias is a corrective habit meant to combat our tendency toward inaction – our tendency to passively stuff ourselves with information without acting on it.

This is what I call intentional biasing.

Similarly, we could think of something like elimination bias.

Elimination bias is a corrective habit meant to combat our tendency toward addition – our tendency to hoard things, and of our systems to needlessly increase in complexity.

There’s a compounding [<link; short read] effect at work here. Every little addition taken individually seems insignificant. In time, however, little by insignificant little, adds up to a significant lot.”

“Reminds me of the clean as you go principle I learned while working in a kitchen in London. By cleaning as you go, the effort is constant but minimal. There’s a beautiful rhythm to it. Absent this insight – the default –, adds up to an overwhelming mess at the end of the day which requires a significant effort to fix.”