Tag Archive | Mental Models

Peak Performance Checklist

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“If you were to create a peak performance checklist, what would it look like?”

“There’s a lot more peak performance books I want to read, so this can only be a tentative checklist.

The checklist combines two models.

Alan Watkins’s model [<link, medium read]:


People’s brilliance comes from thinking. (Josh Waitzkin)
Feeling (emotions) profoundly influences thinking.
Physiology profoundly influences feeling.

Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz’s model of Full Engagement:

Full engagement requires drawing on 4 separate but related sources of energy: 

Physical – Physically energized
Emotional – Emotionally connected
Mental – Mentally focused
Spiritual – Spiritually aligned with a purpose beyond your immediate self-interest

Thinking in Alan Watkins’s model corresponds to the spiritual and mental energy sources in Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz’s model.
Feeling corresponds to the emotional energy source.
Physiology corresponds to the physical energy source.

If we were to think of this process as activation, the order matters. So it’s an ordered checklist.

Physical comes first. (Breathing, Posture, and Movement)
Emotional second. (state management, accessing the Beautiful State)
Spiritual third. (Purpose, your Why)
Mental last. (Deep Focus)

We can combine the first three into one ritual, so the final checklist looks like this:

– Movement
– Beautiful State
– Purpose
Deep Focus

The next step is detailing the specific actions at every stage of the process, stress testing it and, in time, gradually condensing the process.”


Beautiful Models: One Thing

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What is the One Thing model?”

“It’s essentially a filtering model.

Let’s say you have a number of items which you want to evaluate for usefulness. According to the Pareto Principle (80/20), 20% of those items are responsible for 80% of the output. By applying the principle multiple times – identifying the 20% of the 20% of the 20% etc. – you’re eventually left with one thing.

When it comes to your life, you can use the One Thing as a framework for gaining clarity on various aspects of your life, big and small.

You have a big One Thing – your Purpose, your Ikigai, your guiding star.
You have lots of smaller One Things, for every aspect of your life.

The framework is like a questionnaire you’re creating for yourself, each question corresponding to a small One Thing.

I like to do it using templates [<link; medium read].

MIx (Most Important x)

MIT (Most Important Thing)
MIQ (Most Important Question)

MIV (Most Important Value)
MIS (Most Important Skill)
MIP (Most Important Practice)
MIR (Most Important Relationship)

Most important life-system
Most important life-game
Most important possession

#1 x (Number One x)

#1 Identity-Block
#1 Soul Quest
#1 Self-Care Practice
#1 Hero

#1 Creative Ritual
#1 Energy Ritual
#1 Flow Trigger

Biggest x

Biggest Strength
Biggest Weakness
Biggest Obstacle

Favorite x

Favorite type of Flow
Favorite Book

Favorite Place

I have a special document with the questionnaire. Whenever I come up with a new question, I add it to the document.”

On Peak Performance 3

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“One of my favorite mental models was inspired by one of my favorite books: The One Thing, by Gary Keller.

I called the model One Thing.

I like to express the model as a template [<link; medium read]:

MIx (Most Important x)

MIT (Most Important Thing)
MIQ (Most Important Question)
MIP (Most Important Practice)
MIG (Most Important Goal)
MIR (Most Important Relationship)
MIV (Most Important Value)

MIT (Most Important Thing)

This is the main idea in Gary Keller’s book. For maximum efficiency, you need to focus your efforts on one thing at a time. This applies to both the macro and the micro level.

In Gary Keller’s words:

Time and energy are limited. For maximum output, it takes subtraction not addition. You need to be doing fewer things for more effect. 


Success is built sequentially, one thing at a time.

MIQ (Most Important Question)

The same thing applies to questions as well. For maximum efficiency, you need to focus on one major question at a time.”

“Reminds me of a quote by Karl Popper:

The best thing that can happen to a human being is to find a problem, to fall in love with that problem, and to live trying to solve that problem, unless another problem even more lovable appears.

“I love that quote.

MIP (Most Important Practice)

I also find it useful to gain clarity on what the most important practice is. The practice that impacts all other practices. The default practice I can automatically turn to whenever my skies are cloudy and I cannot think clearly.”

“What is the most important practice for you?”

“You may recall, we’ve spoken a while ago [<link; medium read] about Alan Watkins’s model of peak performance. 


The idea that, in order to be brilliant every single day, not just once in a while, you need to address all levels of the pyramid.

I’ve been playing a lot with the model, to integrate in my own practice. The latest iteration looks like this:

My Peak Performance Map

My most important practice is Presence.

Presence is an essential aspect of my most important goal, which is to have a Beautiful Body/Heart/Mind. This is my vision of Self-Mastery. Endlessly perfecting my capacity to move, feel, and think.

Expressed as archetypal identity-models, I strive to become a Warrior/Saint/Sage.”

The Essence of Meditation

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What is the essence of meditation?”

“Haven’t we gone through this already?”

“We’re going to keep going through this until I manage to implement it.”

“There’s five aspects to it:




Intention-Setting is essentially Priming. This is how you initiate the practice. You can set the intention ahead of time (eg I’m going to meditate immediately after I wake up), or in the moment (eg I’m going to perform this action as meditation).

Focus-Point refers to choosing one point of focus and trying to maintain your attention on it. I say ‘trying’ because your attention will INEVITABLY wander.

The last three combined form the core of the practice. Thinking in terms of rep(etition)s, like in physical training, combined they constitute one quality-rep – or beautiful-rep, as I like to call it.

Meta-Awareness refers to noticing that your attention has wandered.

Response refers to managing your reaction to it. The keys here are Non-Judgmental Acceptance, and Loving Kindness.

Return refers to gently bringing your attention back to your focus-point.

A beautiful focus-point is the breath. But it can be the sensations in your body, an emotion, or anything else. You can choose any item in your environment and focus on it.

These are the purely technical aspects of the practice. Consistently perform quality-reps of it and you can get great benefits. However you can upgrade [<link; short] it by turning it into a spiritual practice.”


Make every single meditation a Loving Meditation.

You’re thus imbuing the practice with Meaning.

Love is a meta-practice.

Using the macro/micro model, we might think of Love as the macro focus-point, and of your chosen point of focus as the micro focus-point.

Or, using the foreground/background model, we might think of Love as the background, and of your chosen point of focus as the foreground.”

On Thinking: Restructuring Patterns

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“Capitalism is evil.”

“One of the most important aspects of Thinking is restructuring patterns.”

“What do you mean?”

“A word is a linguistic label. That label points to something other than itself. That something is a mental model.

When you encounter a word you don’t know, for you that word doesn’t point to anything. Let’s say you ask someone what a word means, and they tell you their interpretation of it. That becomes your initial model. That’s what the word points to for you now. Unless you subsequently refine the model, it will remain frozen in its current state.

I call this kind of model, a meaning-model.

Different people can have different meaning-models of the same word.

Represented visually as networks, they can form vastly different patterns.

On one level, what a word points to – the meaning-model – is a pattern. Restructuring patterns in this case means being open to revising your meaning-models.

Every word has a history. This means, at some point, the word ‘capitalism’ did not exist. Someone created it based on their own personal interpretation, which was rooted in their historical and social context and their own subjective model of reality.

Once created and widely accepted, words create their own reality, and skew you towards a certain interpretation of reality.”

“Are you saying capitalism does not exist?”

“Capitalism is a fiction, a construct. A frozen linguistic pattern.

On another level, the word itself is a pattern. Restructuring patterns in this case means letting go of fossilized patterns and creating more useful ones.

I think the only useful discussion about capitalism is one that starts with each person describing their own model of it.”

Template-Models 2: Template Mind-Maps

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What is a template mind-map?”

“It’s a tool for visualizing template-models [<link; short length].

The basic structure of a template-model is:

model-prefix + model + model-suffix

model is the fixed part of the template.
model-prefix and model-suffix is the variable part.

Represented as a mind-map, it looks like this:

This is a template-model centered around Learning.”

“So Learning is the fixed part of the template.”


By combining it with other models, you get various useful conceptual-models, like:

optimal-learning (model-prefix + model)
learning-output (model + suffix-model)
optimal-learning-output (model-prefix + model + model-suffix)”

“Why did you choose to represent those particular models on the map?”

“I’m working on optimizing Learning. The models on the map have actual practical application. They are conceptual-tools.

Taken as a whole, I call them MIV – Most Important Variables.”

Dominant Questions

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“Whenever we ask a question, we’re ‘opening a mental process‘ [<link; short length], and our subconscious mind is working on it in the background. 

Using a different model, this is a kind priming – I call it question-priming. Asking a question mobilizes the Reticular Activation System (RAS) – which is essentially our pattern-recognition system.

We can open multiple processes at the same time.

Some are meaningful signal, others are useless noise.

Some give a more powerful signal than others – Jim Kwik calls these, dominant questions.

Some operate on short time-frames, others on very long time-frames. Some can even last a lifetime.”

“What are your current dominant questions?”

“They are three:

How can you master Thinking? How can you become a Super Thinker?

How can you optimize Learning? How can you maximize Learning efficiency?

How can you beautify this moment?

You can metaphorically think of them as ‘levels of magnification‘. This is an instance of hierarchization [<link; medium].”


Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What is hierarchization?”

“It means creating a hierarchical structure for practical ends.

It can be a visual hierarchy, where you visually communicate levels of importance.
It can be a meaning hierarchy, where you distinguish between levels of significance.
It can be a priority hierarchy, where you communicate levels of priority.

Let’s say we have four elements: A, B, C, and D.


By default, it’s just a sequence represented vertically. By viewing it hierarchically however, it takes on a different meaning. Each element becomes a distinct level, and their vertical order communicates a certain relationship between them.

So hierarchization is a mental operation. It’s not how something is, but how you look at it.”

“Can you give a practical example?”


It’s important in life to be clear on what the most important things are for you, and to have a clear focus. I found it useful to write it down so that I can constantly see it.

It looks like this:


Loving Play






I actually have them written down on two small pieces of paper, and on two (digital) sticky notes on the desktop of my computer.

At both the Macro and the Micro level, there’s a hierarchical relationship between the elements.

At the Macro level, it’s a meaning hierarchy.

Loving Play is the central value of my life, which forms a triad with Beauty and Gratitude. It’s like the center of my values map – all other values flow from these. This is the highest-order level.

Thinking and EPresence (Embodied Presence) are the two most important Soul Quests of my life. The Quests for Thinking Mastery and Awareness Mastery.

At the Micro Level, it’s a priority hierarchy.

Meta-Learning (learning how to learn) is the highest priority, because it’s the highest-leverage skill.

EConnection (Embodied Connection) comes second because it’s the area of my life where I’m weakest at.

EMovement (Embodied Movement) comes third.”

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.”

Experience Design 2

The ultimate goal of the Designer is to deliver an Experience.

The game is not the experience. The game enables the experience, but it is not the experience. The experience rises out of the game. Ultimately, a game designer does not care about games. Games are merely a means to an end.

(Jesse Schell, The Art of Game Design)

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What do you mean by experience design?”

“I see my life as a beautiful modular Game, which is made up of a myriad of smaller life-games. I call it The Beautiful Game [<link; medium length]. 

The Beautiful Game is both a Game and a Meta-Game. I am both the Player and the Game Designer [<link; short].
As the Player, I’m playing the Game.
As the Designer, I’m playing the Meta-Game. 

Experience design is part of the Meta-Game. It’s a meaningful framework for creating experiences.”

“What is the essence of experience design?”

“There are two essential aspects to it:
Selecting Experiences
Beautifying Experiences

Selecting has to do with being selective, choosing the 20% most meaningful and enriching experiences you could possibly have – I call them the precious 20, in contrast with the lackluster 80 – and designing your life around them. 

By default, we do the lackluster 80 most of the time and the precious 20 from time to time. I say we reverse that, do the precious 20 most of the time and the lackluster 80 from time to time.”

“That’s very hard to do.”

“It’s not easy, but it’s something worth striving for.

Beautifying has to do with making the most of and enriching ANY experience you have.

You might think of the former as the Macro, and the latter as the Micro.

Fundamentally, experience design is the process of creating and (efficiently) using specific mental tools for achieving those ends.”

“How do you beautify an experience?”

“There are two aspects to the process:
Attention-directing [<link; medium]

In practical terms, you can beautify an experience in two ways:
(1) By viewing it through a filter of Meaning.
(2) By increasing its Richness through making it Embodied and involving all senses: Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic, Olfactory, Gustatory (VAKOG).

As concerns (1), I’m referring to two lenses [<link; medium] in particular:
– a model I call Foreground/Background [<link; medium]

Values refers to a synergistic selection / stack of what I call instrumental Values, Values which, through directing Attention, have a practical effect in the moment. For me, those are:

Loving Play [<link; short]
Beauty [<link; short]

All these combined have an expansive emotional flooding effect.

Foreground/Background refers to metaphorically viewing the Micro experience – the foreground – against the Macro background-story of your life. For instance, I see my life as the Beautiful Game, which means every single experience is part of the Game. I actually say to myself:

This too is the Beautiful Game.

As concerns (2), you can metaphorically think of it as savoring.”

“A bit like how wine tasters savor their chosen experience?”

“Yes. However, unlike wine tasters, not limited to a very narrow range of experience. Developing the capacity to savor and find the Beauty in ANY experience.”

“Even highly unpleasant ones?”

“That’s that highest end of it.”