Tag Archive | Deconstruction/Integration

Project Question-Templates

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“I LOVE questions.

I want to master Questioning (The Art of Asking Questions).”

“What’s your approach?”

“I practice it constantly. I have a special notebook only for questions. 

Another thing I like to do is deconstruct questions. One outcome of this is the creation of question-templates [<link; medium length], which are a practical tool for generating questions. 

One of my latest projects is gathering all the question-templates in one place.”

“How do you organize them?”

“I have a document for each of the question-kernels:


Their structure looks like this (x, y, z are variables):

What x ?

What x now?
What [do you want to focus on] now?

What x next?
What [do you want to focus on] next?

What x y ?
What [beautiful opportunities] [are there around you]?
What [problem] [are you trying to solve]?
What [book] [do you want to implement next]?

What are x ?

What are [the answers]?

What are the fundamentals of x ?
What are the fundamentals of [Learning]?

What are the [superlative] x ?
What are the [most powerful] [resources you have]?

What can x ?

What can you x ?
What can you [add]?
What can you [subtract]?
What can you [play with]?

What can you x y ?
What can you [play with] [in this context]?
What can you [practice] [now]?

What do x ?

What do you want to x ?
What do you want to [feel]?

What do you want to x y ?
What do you want to [master] [in the next ten years]?
What do you want to [master] [in this lifetime]?

What does x ?

What does x y ?
What does [a quality rep] [look like]?
What does [a quality rep] [feel like]?

What if x ?

What if you eliminated x from y?
What if you eliminated [activity z] from [your life]?

What is x ?

What is [the answer]? (One Thing)

What is [essential]?
What is [exciting]?
What is [the next step]?

What is your x ?
What is your [compass]?

What is [superlative] x ?
What is the [most powerful] [resource you have]?

What makes x ?

What makes [you come alive]?

What makes x y?
What makes x [fun]?
What makes x [funny]?

What might x ?

What might [this look like from their perspective]?

This is but a very small glimpse of it.

As a mind-map it looks like this:

Life Optimization

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“A not that long while ago I came up with an idea:

What if I used the pomodoro structure for reading as well? [30 minutes of deep-focus, 10 minutes of break]”

“So like a thematic pomodoro.”


I figured it would allow me to better track it. At the end of the day, I’d know exactly how much I’d read that day.

Also, I sometimes lose track of time while reading. The pomodoro having a built-in break, I figured, would solve this problem.

It did work in those two respects. However it created another problem. To count as a ‘reading pomodoro’, I’d have to only read during that time-frame. I’m very good at maintaining focus. Once I start reading, the world disappears. Depending on the context however, that may mean missing contextual-opportunities around me. 

Focusing on the content of the pomodoro leads to inflexibility.”

“What’s the lesson?”

“The experiment led me to ask myself:

What’s the scope of the pomodoro?

Deconstructing it, there are several principles behind it:
Time-Blocking: reserving a certain amount of time for something
Deep-Focus: maintaining your attention on one thing
Oscillation: alternating between engagement and disengagement

That’s what makes the pomodoro a great productivity and energymanagement tool. However it’s important to know the limits of any tool. 

The pomodoro creates structure. The goal of Artful Living is maintaining a beautiful balance between structure and flexibility. Knowing when to use the pomodoro is as important as knowing when not to use it.

I realized it’s more important to track what didn’t go well than what did. That’s where the gems[<link; medium read] are found.”

“Didn’t you know these things?”

“I thought I did.”

On Thinking and Systems

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“How can I optimize Thinking?”

“Deconstruct it. Think of it as a system, identify its subsystems, and optimize each of them one by one.”

“What are the subsystems of the Thinking system?”

“This is a work in progress. The model at this stage, looks like this.

Filtering system
Processing system
Retrieval system

Viewed through the Input/Output filter, it looks like this:

Filtering system
Integration system (Processing system)

Organization system (Processing system)
Retrieval system

Each of these has subsystems of its own.

Filtering system

With this system, you limit and prioritize information.

Viewed through the Quality/Quantity filter, it has two components:

Quantity-Filtering: reducing the amount of information to process, by having macro-filters in place. I, for instance, have the Practical as a macro-filter, which gives me a clear focus and eliminates a huge amount of information. 

Quality-Filtering: focusing only on quality information. The quality of the output is dependent on the quality of the input. I’m very selective about the information I absorb.

Integration system

With this system, you improve the efficiency of information absorption, by extracting the essence of the information, and connecting it to the existing information. 

Organization system

With this system, you make the information usable. You’re essentially structuring it, through modelling and categorization.”

“What do you mean by modelling?”

“The intentional construction and refinement of conceptual mental models. 

Retrieval system

With this system, you make the information accessible. Not being able to access the information is almost the same as not having it. 

Intuition is key in this process, as it can navigate a huge amount of information in a heartbeat. But to optimally make use of it, you need to tell it what to look for. 

That’s where an essential system comes in:

Querying System: The Art of Asking Questions”


Fragments from imaginary dialogues

What is templating?

Templating is the practical use of templates. You’re familiar with the template in computer-use.

You mean the preset formats for documents and such?

Yes. That’s but one application of it.

In essence, the template as a model is a structure with two components: one fixed and one variable.

Can you give some examples?


You can use templating to create an optimal structure for the day (day template). The fixed part of the template is the part of the day you have most control over: the beginning and end of the day. Someone called them the AM and PM Bookends. And you can go granular. You can have templates for the bookends themselves (AM/PM templates) and for your working hours as well (deep-work template).

You can use templating with movement (movement templates). You can have a fixed part of a few selected movements, and play with building on and around them.

To optimize any activity, you can turn it into a template.

You can also use templating with language (linguistic templates).

My favorite linguistic template has to do with questions (question templates).

For instance let’s take the question,

How can you optimize Optimization ?

We can transform it into a template by identifying the variable part:

How can you optimize z ? (Template)

z‘ here is a variable. You could replace it with… well, anything.

How can you optimize Learning ?
How can you optimize Conversation ?
How can you optimize Questioning ?

And we can further deconstruct the question:

How can you y ? (Template)

‘y’ here is another variable.

How can you beautify z ? (Template)
How can you play with z ? (Template)
How can you turn z into creative inspiration ? (Template)

The furthest deconstruction level is:

How x ? (Fundamental Template)

This is the most basic question template. I call it a question kernel.

I presume the other question kernels are:

Why x ?
What x
Where x ?
When x ?”

Indeed. These are the fundamental seeds from which the Art of Asking Questions (Questioning) grows.

The Beauty of Ambiguity

The “human spirit” is like a campfire. You need to re-light it every single day. (Brian Johnson)

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What’s your process for making sense of this quote?”

“I employ a model which I call Deconstruction/Disambiguation.

I first break it down into relevant units of meaning. I scan it for concepts, metaphors, models, and metaphoric models, through the filter of the practical.

The main metaphoric model here is Fire, which is also a representational-model [<link; medium read].

The second metaphoric model is Spirit.

Then I disambiguate. ‘Human spirit’ here is ambiguous.”

“What do you think Brian is referring to?”

You don’t need to know.

As we’ve talked before [<link; short read], you don’t decode the meaning; you project a meaning.

Ambiguity is beautiful.

“What’s beautiful about it?”

“It’s an instance of Functional Beauty [<link; short read].

You’re undoubtedly familiar with the Rorschach test.”


Ambiguity is like a Rorschach blot.

A Rorschach blot

Or, to use a different model,

Ambiguity is like an Oracle [<link; medium read].

Ambiguity can be used as a creativity and problem-solving tool.

“Does this make disambiguation a creative process?”

“It does.”

On design and assumptions

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“As a designer, I like to look at (and deconstruct) other people’s designs in order to learn from them. One of the questions I like to ask is:

What implicit assumptions is this design based on?

When it comes to social media, based on the design of their interface, one implicit assumption for ALL of them seems to be: information only has value in the present.”

“How can you tell?”

“For any social media platform, see how easily you can find and access past information.

Take Facebook for instance. Facebook is a black hole. If I want to find my own past information, I need to scroll and scroll and scroll. The more information I have, the more daunting the task becomes.

My reasoning is, if the design premise had been different, the interface would have been different.”

“How would you design them?”

“This is a long discussion (and one of my favorite topics).

Imagine being able to organize all your information into meaningful categories, and having a robust search option. This way, if you visited someone else’s profile, you wouldn’t have to endlessly scroll through their content (which, I imagine, no one ever does). You’d see all their categories at a glance, which, besides being a glimpse into their mind and organizational style, would allow you to easily explore those categories that are most relevant to you.

This is what my CommonBook [<link; long read] project is based on (among many other things).”

Models Thinker

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“You can think of the Process in many ways.”

“Like what?”

“The Process as…
– (Self-)Actualization
– Adapting
– Becoming
– Change
– (Self-)Creation
– Development
– Evolution
– Growth
– Optimizing
– Sculpting

All of these are mental/metaphoric models.

Each of them expresses different nuances of the Process.

Some are simple ideas, others are compound ideas, that is, aggregates of simpler ideas. I call the simplest ideas, those that cannot be broken down into simpler ones, fundamental ideas (or foundational ideas).

This is also a model.

“Among the ones you listed, there seems to be only one fundamental idea: Change. All the other ones can be expressed in terms of it.”

“Even Change can be deconstructed into simpler ideas.”


“We can think of types of change:
– Active/Passive Change
– Creative Change
– Dependent/Independent Change
– Directed Change
  – Teleologic Change
– Effortful/Effortless Change
– Gradual Change
  – Cumulative Change
  – Incremental Change
– Intentional Change
– Micro/Macro Change
– Qualitative/Quantitative Change
– Spontaneous Change

All of these are also mental models.

This has practical application. To illustrate, let’s think of the difference between Growth and Development expressed in terms of types of change.

Growth (natural)
– Directed Change
  – Teleologic Change (towards an innate potential, in the same way the acorn has the ‘innate potential’ to become the oak tree)
– Gradual Change
– Qualitative Change (increased complexity)
Spontaneous Change (‘that which happens of itself’)
  – Effortless Change (the acorn exerts no effort to become the oak)

Creative Change
– Directed Change
– Effortful Change 
– Gradual Change
Intentional Change
– Qualitative Change (making better, improvement; increased complexity)

When we say ‘personal growth’, we mean metaphoric growth, model which can include all the models I listed initially. This is a method of enriching mental models.”