Tag Archive | Connection(s)

On Magic and Models 6

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What are the most useful mental models you’ve learned from Magic the Gathering?”

“Two of them especially stand out: Modularity, and Synergy.”

“What is the essence of Modularity?”

“The basic elements that make up the game of Magic can be combined in a variety of ways. The fact that they can be combined can be thought of as an inherent property of those elements. I call this inherent property, Connectivity. I call the elements that have this property, modular-elements.

Some modular-elements can connect with more elements than others. We might say each modular-element has a certain connectivity-potential.

Now, imagine that you find some Magic cards without knowing the rules of the game. Would you be able to combine them?” 

“I guess not. The cards can be combined only within the context of the game.”

“Magic is a modular-system. The modular-elements that make up the system can be combined only within the system. I call these, contextual modular-elements.”

“Can you give some examples of modular systems?”

“One classic example is Lego. Another, less obvious example, is language. The most profound example is the Universe. Everything in the Universe is made up of combinations of the same basic building-blocks. The chemical elements are modular-elements. What we call “reality” is a modular-system.

“What is the essence of Synergy?”

“Modularity refers to a certain kind of elements – modular-elements.
Synergy refers to a certain kind of connections between those elements – I call these, synergistic-connections. In Magic terminology, a synergistic-connection is called a Combo.

The essence of synergistic-connections is Emergence. Two elements synergistically combined produce a higher-order structure or effect that is different than the sum of its parts. Viewed in terms of value, I call this, emergent-value.

We’ve talked a while ago about my love of playing with making connections between things – what I called the Connections Game [<link; short length]. We might say the essence of the Connections Game is the discovery of emergent-value.”

The Connections Game: Exploratory-Mapping

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What if mind-mapping had no center?”

“Doesn’t it make it unfocused?”

“Precisely the point. The purpose is to discover your focus.”

“A kind of exploratory mapping?”

“That’s a good name for it.”

The Connections Game: Multi-centered Mind-Mapping

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What if mind-maps had more than one center?”

“What do you have in mind?”

“I’m thinking about connecting mind-maps

For instance you can start with two centers on one page. From each, you start expanding in all directions. Whenever a branch from one mind-map relates to one or more branches from the other mind-map, you connect them.”

Paired mind-maps. I like it. You increase the likelihood of discovering interesting connections.”

“And it doesn’t have to be just two mind-maps. You can play around with more, experiment.”

Essential Connections

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What are essential connections?”

“One aspect of learning is the accumulation of information. There’s too much information out there, so we need to be selective. That is, focus only on the most important – essential – bits.” 

“So, using the 80/20 (Pareto) model, we need to focus on the 20 percent.”


I like to think of information by using the network model. A network is a structure made up of two components: nodes and connections. In the early stages of ‘learning literacy’, we tend to think of information only as the nodes. Learning how to learn brings about an important realization:

Both the nodes and the connections encode information. 

Moreover, the most important information is encoded in the connections. That’s what we call ‘understanding’.

Not all connections are created equal. Some are weaker, some are stronger. Some are more meaningful than others. We can look at connections too through the 80/20 filter. I call the 20 percent most meaningful ones essential connections.”

On Beauty and Templating 2

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

Last time [<link; medium read] we talked about your template for beautifying the moment. 


Can you simplify it? For instance, what would it look like as a triad?”

“Something like this:

Triad for beautifying the moment

The triad is:


Viewed through this lens-model, you can beautify the moment in several ways:

Doing meaningful things (Doing/Meaning)

Doing things meaningfully (Doing/Meaning) – imbuing what you’re doing with meaning, whatever it is, eg by connecting it with your purpose

Doing things mindfully (Doing/Being) – being present in what you’re doing

Doing things mindfully and meaningfully (Doing/Being/Meaning) – being present in what you’re doing, and imbuing it with meaning

Being – simply being, without doing anything

Being meaningfully (Being/Meaning) – simply being, and connecting with your purpose, and/or with some higher reality

We can think of imbuing something with meaning in the moment as Connection.”

“Any insights?”

“I realize it’s important to maintain a balance between being and doing. I have a (maybe slightly compulsive) tendency towards the latter.

I now realize how important it is to create more space throughout the day to simply be.

On Presence and Specificity 2

Whenever you start a practice always spend a moment connecting with yourself. (Aadil Palkhivala)

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“We’ve talked before [<link; short read] about creating an actionable map for the practice. 

The next step is to simplify it and create an actionable step-by-step structure. This is an iterative process. The goal is to condense it as much as possible.

You can use questions to guide you in this process. Such as:

What’s the most powerful representation of the practice? (One Thing model)”


I see Presence as beautifying the Moment.

“What’s the essence of the practice? (One Thing)”


“What’s the step-by-step structure of the practice? I like to express them as verbs.”


On inhalation:

Center, focusing on your Heart.

Connect with yourself. 
Feel the Connection.
Feel your beautiful body.

I love you Danutzu.
I love you Dani-who-I-was.
I love you Dani-who-I-will-be.

On exhalation:



Send love to three people who have touched your life in some way, the first ones who come to mind. (Improv)

I love you x.
I love you y.
I love you z.

Thank you.

Feel the (Inter-)Connection.

Picture yourself as the Sun. Gradually expand with each exhalation, sending love to more and more people, until you reach all humanity.”

“It’s a good idea to also create a minified version of the practice for when time is limited.”

Applied Inversion

Fragment from imaginary dialogues

“I used to hate commercials.

In a period of my life not that long ago, which I like to call my ‘second adolescence’, when I’d not yet taken responsibility for my own life, I was very interested in propaganda and manipulation. I saw it everywhere, which fueled the anger and revolt seething inside of me at the time. 

I used to look at commercials and deconstruct them, identifying the techniques used: appeal to nationalism, appeal to fear, classical conditioning, ambiguity, etc.

Now that I’ve gotten a little bit wiser, I realize it was just a means to justify the lack of control I felt over my own life, and a radical case of observational selection bias. But back then, that was my reality.

The next stage was to tune them out completely, by not giving them any attention.”

“Were you successful? They’re quite ubiquitous.”

Very successful. Think that it is possible to not notice something right in front of your nose if you’re used to it, or focused on something else. The fact that I was lost in thought most of the time also helped.”

“What about now?”

“In an instance of Inversion [<link], of turning obstacles upside down, I’ve turned commercials into reminders [<link], of my Values, and my Purpose, and who I want to be.

I’ve also turned commercials into gateways for inner exploration. I notice how they make me feel, and ask myself why.”

Beginnings: Goodbye London

Fragment from imaginary dialogues

“My London Adventure is over. I’ve decided to go back home at the beginning of March. On my birthday, in fact, as a little symbolic act.”

“What went well?”

“These 4 years have been the densest [<link; medium read] of my life, in terms of growth and experiences. I’ve developed skills that will stay with me for a lifetime. I’m going back home an entirely different person. It’s given me a glimpse of what’s possible. 

I’ve built a very strong foundation while in London. I’m going to keep building on it and pushing myself in the years and decades to come, on my artful quest to discover the limits of my potential, and I’ll keep sharing insights from my journey in my daily writings.”

“What didn’t go well?”

“The social aspect. 

And not for lack of trying. I gravitated towards jobs involving a lot of interaction, which were far outside my comfort zone (maybe too far), I attended Parkour classes for almost three years, as well as numerous events. Despite all this, it feels like I’ve made very little progress. 

I’m an introvert. I can function best in 1-on-1 interactions, or involving a very small number of people. When there’s more people around, my brain shuts down. To be able to function among people, I’ve perfected some dysfunctional coping mechanisms: avoidance of eye contact, and excessive task focus. 

As you can imagine, people don’t take well to being ignored, so they ignored me in return, which would trigger in me feelings of guilt and insufficiency, which would cause me to close down even more.”

“So you’ve been sabotaging your own efforts.”

“And very effectively I might add. I suspect it might have something to do with some unresolved trauma from the distant past. 

For instance, I worked during night-time for a year as a glass collector in a bar. Every night we’d remove the tables and chairs from a certain area of the place and turn it into a dance floor. During weekends they brought in a DJ, and the place got very busy.

To mitigate my discomfort, besides my usual coping mechanisms, I moved. And, man, did I move. I did not know I could move like that. I cut through the crowd like a fish through water, as a female admirer put it (amusingly, my zodiac sign is Pisces). When there was music, I moved with the rhythm of the music. In a beautiful instance of serendipity, in running away from social interactions, I discovered my Physical Genius. 

Some people called me the Dancer. I had admirers, people came to see me move… but I didn’t see them. It took me a long time to notice that people were smiling at me, even longer to start engaging with them in small conversations. I’ve had so many opportunities in that place, but I didn’t know how to take advantage of them.

One of the many girls I liked there was a colleague. I never spoke with her. One night, I think she had drunk a bit too much. She was outside, I was inside. Our eyes met, and she shouted ‘Dani!’, like she was really happy to see me, and came towards me, her arms extended. We hugged through the open window for what to me seemed like an eternity… And that was it. One of the most beautiful experiences of my life.

I’ve had many such small experiences in that place, and since then, every one a promise of possibilities, but I didn’t take advantage of any of them.”

“Do you feel any regret?”

“None. Regret is useless. I’m deeply grateful for each and every one of them.”

“What will you do better going forward?”

“I like to think of my London Adventure as the foundational stage. It set the stage for what’s to come. 

The theme of the next stage of my life is CONNECTION. This is the area I’m weakest at, and my biggest obstacle, which I realize holds immense potential. 

For the next 5 years, my macro-focus will be Connection. During my stay in London, it was secondary to my other pursuits. Now it’s become central. I want to develop my social and emotional intelligence, which are very underdeveloped. I want to (re)learn how to make friends, how to create and maintain relationships. In 5 years’ time, I want to become an ambivert.” 

“How do you feel about going back home?”



Models-Mapping illustrated with Models-Mapping

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What is models-mapping?”

“This is my own little innovation.

As you know, I love mind-mapping [<link; short length]. And I love mental models [<link; medium].

At some point, an idea struck me:

What if I combined mind-mapping with mental models?

Thus models-mapping was born.

Models-mapping is essentially mind-mapping with models.

A beautiful way to practice Models-Thinking.”

Systems Optimization

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“How can I optimize this (life-)system?”

“First, identify the components of the system. Make a list of them.

Second, identify the interconnections between the components. For instance you can actually draw lines between them, thus creating a network. This helps with evaluation.

The goal is to identify the 20% of components responsible for 80% of the output.

“How would you practically do that?”

“One way to think of it is by using the top-down/bottom-up model.

The top-down approach means removing components until you’re left with only the desired ones. This is highly inefficient, because you have to remove 80% of components. The more components the system has, the more work it entails. Moreover, removing things is psychologically difficult.

The bottom-up approach means removing all components, and adding them back in one by one. This prompts a fresh reevaluation of each component, and often results in the serendipitous creation of new essential connections, thus creating a new emergent pattern.

I like to do it by using two lists. One with the components of the system; the other a ‘blank slate‘ which I populate by adding items from the other list.”

“Do you do this with pencil and paper?”

“You can, but I prefer to do it digitally. I use Google Keep for this process.

The Optimization System

I have a section called ‘Optimization‘, in which there are two lists: one called ‘80‘, the other ‘20‘. I start by copying the contents of the system I’m working on in the 80-list. Then I start copying / moving items from the 80-list to the 20-list.”