Tag Archive | Big Thinking

Beautiful Models: Observer

Reactivity: a phenomenon that occurs when individuals alter their performance or behavior due to the awareness that they are being observed.

The Observer / Hawthorne Effect: a type of reactivity in which individuals modify an aspect of their behavior in response to their awareness of being observed.


Walter Mischel is one of the world’s leading willpower researchers. (He’s the guy who did the marshmallow studies with kids.)

Walter tells us that you can scan someone’s brain and ask them to think about themselves. You’ll see a distinctive pattern in their brain light up. Researchers call this the “self center.” Then, you ask them to think about about a stranger. You’ll see a different pattern light up. They call this the “stranger pattern.”

Then, you ask them to think about their future selves – ten years in the future.

For some people, thinking about their future selves lights up the “self center.”

But for other people, thinking about their future selves lights up the “stranger center.”

Isn’t that fascinating?

Get this: The people who’s future self looks more like a stranger have lower willpower than those whose future self looks more like their current self. They’re less likely to delay gratification and more likely to be impulsive and engage in unhealthy behaviors.

The trick?

We need to strengthen the connection between our future selves and our current selves.

Let’s appreciate the fact that the decisions we are making TODAY are laying the groundwork for the version of us who will show up tomorrow and next week and the year after that.

(Brian Johnson)

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“The Observer Effect has beautiful practical application, as the ancient Stoics realized.

Bringing to mind someone you look up to, someone who embodies the qualities of the person you want to be can help regulate your own behavior.

“Do you think bringing to mind God has the same effect in the case of believers?”

“Depends on one’s representation of God. For an anthropomorphized God, I think yes, it does.”

“Who is your Observer?”


“So you’re using the Observer Effect and strengthening the connection with your future self at the same time.”

“Yes. Another subtle application of the Stacking model.”

“Why did you call the model ‘Observer’ and not ‘The Observer’?”

“Because the former has a bigger design-space,
in terms of use – in the same way a word can have more than one meaning, a model can have more than one use –, and
in terms of modularity [<link; medium read] – the extent to which it can be combined with other models.”

Big Thinking

Thinking big is essential to extraordinary results. Success requires action, and action requires thought. But here’s the catch – the only actions that become springboards to succeeding big are those informed by big thinking to begin with. (Gary Keller, The ONE Thing)

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“Powerful ideas change you.”

“If you’re ready for them.”


Some change you on representational level, by altering your model of reality.

Some change you on perceptual level, by altering your perception of reality.

Some change you by expanding your horizon of possibility.

For me, the idea of thinking big from Gary Keller’s beautiful book The ONE Thing [<link] was one such idea.”

“In which of the three categories was it?”

“The last one.

When I read it, I immediately saw potential, and – implementation-focused as I am – set about exploring it.

I captured the essence of the idea with a mental model, which I called Big Thinking.

Big-Thinking is a very powerful tool.”

“What does it do?”

“Firstly, it primes your mind to operate on a higher-order level, by having the whole / big-picture / macro in view at all times.

Whole / Holistic, Big-picture, and Macro here are mental models, each offering a (subtly) different perspective.”

“So it’s a priming tool.”


This could mean, for instance, constantly bringing to mind your mortality, that there is an end, as a means to recalibrate, and – through a contrasting effect – to appreciate life more.

Secondly, it helps you to break through mental barriers, freeing you to dream big and allow yourself to explore the limits of the possible.

We all have implicit mental limits – some culturally conditioned, others self-imposed – which narrow our possibility horizon. By breaking through these limits, we allow ourselves to (creatively) mobilize more of our resources.

Applied to Questioning (The Art of Asking Questions), Big Thinking produces Big Questions.

A few examples:

How can I turn this obstacle upside down?
How can I turn EVERY obstacle upside down?

How can I achieve Creative Flow more consistently?
How can I achieve PERPETUAL Creative Flow?

How can I learn faster?
How can I EXPONENTIALLY speed up my learning?

How can I beautify this moment?
How can I beautify ANY moment?

How can I find a better job?
How can I TRANSCEND the job-system?

How can I master x?
How can I become WORLD-CLASS at x?

Or let’s take Meditation.

The normal practice is familiar: I’m going to meditate for x minutes, and call it a day.

With Big-Thinking, the practice becomes Macro-Meditation [<link; short read].

MY LIFE is my meditation. I NEVER stop meditating.

“What is the anchor point of your Macro-Meditation, the focal point you keep returning to?”


Turning obstacles upside down

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“I woke up in an unresourceful state which messed up my entire morning ritual.”

“What do you think triggered it?”

“I think it was a combination of factors. I didn’t sleep very well, woke up with an intense lower-back pain, and felt cold. Normally I’m resistant to cold, so when I am feeling cold, it’s a sign that something is wrong.

It made me realize that changing state is the most important thing, because only in the resourceful / beautiful state you are able to effectively / efficiently access your resources and find solutions.”

“But didn’t you already know that?”

“I did, but this time it was different. It made me really engage with the questions:

How can I access the beautiful state under any conditions?
How can I make the beautiful state my center, my baseline?

Changing state became my implementation focus, my ONE Thing for this month, and I mobilized all my resources towards solving this puzzle.”

“Would you have mobilized your resources in this direction had you not encountered this obstacle?”

“No, I wouldn’t have.

I guess I’d started taking the beautiful state for granted. Every morning I’d do my activation ritual, charge up, and get down to work.

Only when my state impaired my capacity to get my soul work done – combined with an implementation mindset – that it finally became my work.”


Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“You have a lot of Soul Quests. What are you focusing on right now?”


More specifically:

Live life on your own terms. (Darius Foroux)

Earn with your mind, not your time. (Naval Ravikant)

I turned both life-puzzles into Big Questions:

How to live life on your own terms?

How to earn with your mind, not your time?

Asking questions is a kind of Priming – your mind is working on them in the background. I call it question-priming.

Asking Big Questions is a kind of macro-priming – priming at the Macro level.”

On Models and Operationalizing Wisdom

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What’s the relationship between models and systems?”

“Systems are a kind of model. To use a model, models are a higher-order concept.”

“Do all models have a metaphoric kernel?”

“To use another model, that’s what gives them transferrability, that is, what makes them usable in a different context.”

“Why are you so interested in models?”

“One of my big-picture projects is that of operationalizing knowledge. 

The linguistic structure was inspired by Brian Johnson:

OPERATIONALIZE all that wisdom into consistent virtue.
Go from theory to PRACTICE to MASTERY.

That has become a life-mantra for me. My project focuses on knowledge.

How do you make knowledge USABLE?
How do you turn passive-knowledge into active-knowledge?

Models are a beautiful piece of the puzzle.”

Thinker 2

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

I want to be a World-class Thinker.

“What does that mean? Are you thinking in competitive terms?”

“Not at all. I’m thinking in ‘so good they can’t ignore you’ terms.

The beautiful thing about asking a question is that your mind starts working on it in the background. You’re initiating a creative process. I call this question-priming.

The bigger the question (big-questions), the longer and wider the process. I call this macro-priming.”

“By ‘longer’ I presume you mean temporally.”

“Yes. If the question is big enough, it can be a lifetime process. This can be used strategically and artfully to give your life direction. It’s akin to setting goals you can’t achieve. They’re not a destination, but a compass, a guide to action and thought. That’s what my Soul Quests [<link; long] are.”

“But what do you mean by ‘wider’?”

“I mean wider in scope. Exploring a wider possibility range. Notice the difference between these two statements:

I want to be a better Thinker.
I want to be a World-class Thinker.

The former aims for simply good enough.
The latter aims for nothing short of peak performance, exploring the limits of human potential.

The latter leads you to ask very different questions than the former.”

“Why do you want to become a World-class Thinker?”

I LOVE thinking.

For me it’s an exquisite delight. Why that is has to do with my past.

Most of my life I lived in my own head. I was disembodied, and largely disconnected from reality. I’d jokingly written a while ago that, if I were to visually represent what the world looked like for me back then, it would be mostly empty space, and attractive women. This is something I’m still recovering from. By focusing too much on one system of my life, I’ve neglected other important life systems.

In hindsight however, despite the imbalance, and because of it, without realizing it, I was honing my thinking skills.

I’ve gotten good it.

Aimless and inefficient though it was, it was my Path, which led me to where I am today, and I’m grateful for it.”

Collective Creativity

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

There’s so many books. You need several lifetimes to read them all. What’s the point of it all?

You need to widen your perspective. By reading, you are part of a larger collective endeavor.

What do you mean?

Creativity, in essence, means making connections. By reading different books, people make different connections. From a macro perspective, we are taking part in a collective creative process – what I like to call collective creativity.

So you don’t need to read them all. Just follow your interests, make your own unique connections, and return the gift by sharing your ideas with the world.


Chronological age: Starts the moment you were born and continues to progress with every second of every day.
Biological age: Refers to how old you feel / how healthy you are. It’s influenced by all the (micro!) lifestyle choices you make. Those little things add up and they’re either making us “younger” or older.
(Brian Johnson)

Numbers and dwelling on age is a trap. There is no age, it’s living each moment to its fullest.

I am an ageless spirit. I grow more alive every day and every year. (Alan Cohen, A Daily Dose of Sanity)

We turn not older with years, but newer every day. (Emily Dickinson)

I am renewing every day. (Yann Hnautra)

Every successful man or great genius has three particular qualities in common.
Their minds grow more brilliant as they grow older, instead of less brilliant. Great men’s lives begin at forty, where the mediocre man’s life ends.
The genius remains an ever-flowing fountain of creative achievement until the very last breath he draws.
The thinking of creative and successful men is never exerted in any direction other than that intended. That is why great men produce a prodigious amount of work, seemingly without effort and without fatigue. (Walter Russel)

The best is yet to come.

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“How does life feel at 40?”

“I like people’s incredulous expression when I tell them I’m 40. There’s something I wrote a long time ago:

Imagination is limited by experience.

To me it’s fascinating how different life looks like at this age than I could possibly have imagined. I would never ever have imagined that I’d be in London, engaged on a deep Path of Mastery, and that the name of this Path would be… Parkour!!

The quotes at the beginning express how I feel about life at this moment in my life. Some people consider themselves ‘old’ at this age. I think that’s a self-limiting belief.

I feel like my life has just BEGUN.

I consider chronological age meaningless, and in terms of biological age, I’m approaching the energy level of the child that I was (and am).

I am a Parkour Athlete / Artist, and that’s something I intend to be… FOREVER.

And, most importantly, those are not just ideas… I’m LIVING them.”

Creative Destiny 2

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

Why are you doing x?

I’m expressing myself.

You’re thinking small.

Express yourself through your living.
Make your whole life a Creative Act,
Make your whole life a Work of Art.