Tag Archive | Inversion

Question Combos

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What are question combos?”

“Combo is a term from Magic the Gathering. In the context of the game, a combo is a combination of cards that work well together. They’re synergistic. Combined, they amplify each other, producing an emergent effect.

Similarly, a question combo is a synergistic combination of questions.”

“Can you give an example?”


Question + Opposite Question (Inversion)

What is the best decision?
What is the worst decision?

How to succeed at x ?
How to fail at x ?

How to x ?
How to not-x ?

Operationalizing Models

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What do you mean by operationalizing models?”

“Many models are instrumental. They have practical application.

By operationalizing I mean converting models into questions.

Model => Questions

Let’s take Inversion for instance, one of the highest-leverage models. 

It’s not enough to think ‘Inversion’. Only in question form does it activate the puzzle-solving mode.

What is the opposite?
How can you fail?
What do you want to avoid?
How can you make no progress?

“How can you find the best questions to ask?”

QuestionStorm [<link; medium read] on it. Generate as many questions as you can, and keep only the gems.

Supplement it with collecting questions.”

The Inversion Game 2

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“How can I turn every loss into a win?”

“Realize that every loss, every mis-take is a beautiful opportunity.

It’s an opportunity to practice Equanimity, regaining Balance.

It’s an opportunity to practice Centering, finding your way back to your Center, coming home to yourself.

It’s an opportunity to practice Loving Kindness, and Loving Compassion.

It’s an opportunity to practice Letting Go. A mis-take is a sunken cost. By clinging to it, you increase the likelihood of making another one, and then another one, in a downward spiral pattern. By letting go, you can break the pattern.

It’s an opportunity to practice changing state, returning to the Beautiful State. Remember Tony Robbins’s triad of human emotions [<link; medium read]:

Physiology (Breathing, Posture, Movement)
Language (Meaning)
Focus (Attention-directing)”

“Which is the most powerful?”

“The first one. The last two involve thinking, which is hard to do clearly when in an unresourceful state.

It’s an opportunity to practice Humor

What’s funny about it?

Our default frame of mind is a serious pattern. We tend to take it all so seriously, as if our continued existence depended on it. By taking it unseriously, by seeing the absurd of it, you can break the pattern.

It’s an opportunity to practice Learning. Once back to the Beautiful State, immediately reflect on it.

Do a PMI (Plus Minus Interesting) on it.

What’s positive about it? What did you do well?
What’s negative about it? What needs work?
What’s interesting about it?

Find the gem [<link; medium read] hidden within and express Gratitude for it.”

On Attention and Focus

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“How can I improve the quality of my experiences?”

The quality of your experience is the quality of your Attention. This makes attention management one of the most important life-skills.”

“What is the difference between Attention and Focus?”

“Focus is a functional-model for Attention. It is useful because it reveals some important properties of Attention.

Attention properties:

Each property has a corresponding skill. In isolating them, you can focus on and train them individually.

Attention sub-skills:
Deep-Focus (Depth)
Selective-Focus (Direction)
Wide-Focus (Width)

Deep-Focus is the capacity to maintain Attention on one thing (One-pointed Attention). This is what you’re essentially training with Meditation.

Selective-Focus is the capacity to choose the optimal direction for Attention in any given moment.

We have a tendency to collapse Attention to a point. Wide-Focus is the capacity to expand Attention to the entire field of experience.”

“What is the optimal direction for Attention?”

“I’ve identified five dimensions (so far):

Focus on what you can control (not on what you can’t).
Focus on what you have (not on what you don’t).
Focus on the process (not the outcome).
Focus on the solution (not the problem).
Focus on the positive (not the negative).

You can think of them as a moment-to-moment checklist.

What are you focusing on now?

Selective-Focus checklist:
Control / Not control
Have / Not have
Process / Outcome
Solution / Problem
Positive / Negative”

“Why are you emphasizing the opposite in each case?”

“This makes it easier to invert [<link; medium length] them.”

The Inversion Game

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“I lost balance yesterday. I went to bed very late, woke up late, and now today is lost.”

“Why do you say that?”

“It messed up my entire morning schedule.”

“No day is lost. On the contrary, those hold the greatest opportunities.

The structure of your day changed?


This is a stress test of how flexible your organizational structure is. 

There’s a quote I love: 

Your worst day can be your best day.

Ask yourself:

How can I make my worst day my best day?

How can I turn this obstacle upside down?

What can I practice?

What can I optimize?

How can I use this to EVOLVE?

That’s your life-puzzle for the day. Revel in it.”

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.”

Turning obstacles upside down 2

Flow with whatever may happen, and let your mind be free: Stay centered by accepting whatever you are doing. This is the ultimate. (Chuang Tzu)

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“I woke up in an unresourceful state again.”

“How does that make you feel?”



“It messes with my morning practice.”

“So it messes with an expectation for things to be in a certain way.”

“I guess it does.”

“What’s in your control?”

How I RESPOND to it.

“NEVER forget that.

What’s the best response?”

Inversion[<link; medium read].

The Obstacle is the Way.

“That’s the spirit.

Let go of expectations.

Whenever you encounter an obstacle, that BECOMES your practice.

Embrace it. 
Give it your full attention.

Turn every obstacle into MEDITATION.

Every obstacle is ALL obstacles.

Every obstacle is a potential Evolution-Point.

Whenever you encounter an obstacle, EVOLVE.

Beautiful Models: Inversion

Inversion is a powerful tool to improve your thinking because it helps you identify and remove obstacles to success. The root of inversion is “invert,” which means to upend or turn upside down. As a thinking tool it means approaching a situation from the opposite end of the natural starting point. Most of us tend to think one way about a problem: forward. Inversion allows us to flip the problem around and think backward. Sometimes it’s good to start at the beginning, but it can be more useful to start at the end. (Shane Parrish)

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“Inversion is one of my favorite mental models. As it’s commonly thought of, it means ‘thinking backwards’, focusing on the opposite of what you want.

For instance, instead of asking ‘How can I succeed?’, asking, ‘How can I fail?‘”

“So focusing on the obstacles to success.”

“Yes. That however is but one application of the model. Inversion is a multi-purpose tool.”

“What’s the essence of the model?”

Metaphorically changing something into its opposite.

The change can be directional.

One example of this is wonderfully expressed by Ryan Holiday:

The Obstacle is the Way
The Art of Turning Obstacles Upside Down

Turning obstacles upside down is an instance of Inversion.

Upside down‘ here is what I call a directional metaphoric model.

Expressed as directional metaphoric models, the examples so far look like this:

Forward/Backward: Thinking backwards, rather than forwards.
Towards/Away-from: Moving towards obstacles, rather than away from them.

The latter can also be expressed using a different model:

Confront/Avoid: Confronting/Facing obstacles, rather than avoiding them.

The change can be substantive.

Changing one thing into another. The metaphoric model I like to use to describe it is Transmutation.

For instance:
Turning a negative into a positive.
Turning weakness into strength.

Another example is Nassim Taleb’s Antifragility model: thriving not in spite of obstacles, but because of them. Turning obstacles into fuel for your growth.

The change can be instrumental.

Changing between the two poles of a dichotomy. I like to call this Perspective Shifting. And the dichotomy can be artificially created for practical ends. When you see me use the pattern

model3 = model1/model2

that’s often a practical dichotomy.

Here Inversion is used as a meta-model.”

“What’s a meta-model?”

“In this context, a meta-model is a higher-order model that allows you to perform operations on other models, thus expanding their use.

For instance, joining two models to create a dichotomy – model which we could call Dichotomization – is a meta-model.

Similarly, switching back and forth between the two poles of a dichotomy – Inversion – is also a meta-model.”

Beautiful Models: Meta-Decisions

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“I don’t masturbate, nor will I masturbate EVER again.”


“Because I CHOOSE not to.”

“Is the desire still there?”

“Yes, but much fainter, like a muffled sound in the background.”

“How did you do it?”

“The essential thing to realize is that the desire to masturbate is a HABIT.

Like those ‘hitchhiker weeds’, it stuck to you at some point along the way. And it is in your power to rid yourself of it.

With the right strategy, ANY habit can be undone.

The process starts with a singular decision. That’s what I call a meta-decision, a decision that eliminates a thousand other decisions.

A meta-decision is a profound CHOICE.

A meta-decision is a 100% COMMITMENT.

Not 99.99%.

100%. NOTHING less.”

“The difference doesn’t seem like much.”

“The difference, while apparently insignificant, is HUGE.

Whenever the desire arises is a decision-point.

With anything less than 100% commitment, the decision is between whether to give in to the impulse or not. Sometimes it’s easy, other times – especially when in an unresourceful state – it’s not, and it takes a lot of effort to talk yourself out of it.

It’s a struggle.

Successfully keeping the impulse in check may seem like a victory in the moment. But the impulse will appear again and again and again. This can be during the course of a single day. But day follows day, week follows week, month follows month, year follows year… it adds up.

A useful exercise to realize the sheer magnitude of it is to project it far into the future.

You have to realize at a visceral level that, over the years of your life, you’ll have to fight it a THOUSAND times again.

You’re undoubtedly familiar with chunking-down.”

“Breaking down a problem into smaller pieces to make it more manageable?”

“Yes. The exercise is an inversion of chunking-down. Focusing on the sheer size of the problem. We could call it chunking-up.

With a 100% commitment, on the other hand, whenever the desire arises, you simply and serenely say to yourself ‘I don’t masturbate‘… End of story.

It’s effortless.

You won’t get there instantly. You build up to it. But it starts with a DESIRE to get there, and a BELIEF that you CAN.


This is a mantra worth repeating a thousand times, until it sticks. Because when it does, it will stay with you FOREVER.

The masturbation habit will also stay with you forever, unless you do something about it.

Contrast these two against one another. Which one would you rather have?”

“Isn’t it restrictive framing?”

“It’s strategic framing.

The choice is symbolic.

One choice symbolizes the extraordinary life you know you want. 
One choice symbolizes the small life you’ve been living until now.

Make your pick.”

“Another meta-decision?”

“Good eye.”

Reversal of Desire

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

Love that which grows and strengthens you.

“Even the pain?”

Especially the pain.

“Isn’t that a bit masochistic?”

“Not at all. It’s a matter of intention and perception. Masochism is love of pain for the sake of it. What I’m referring to is love of pain only in so far as (and because) it helps you grow.”

“Easier said than done.”

“Everything worth doing takes effort.”