Tag Archive | One Thing

Beautiful Models: Creating Space

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What one thing would you say most influences the quality of our lives?”


Attention is a process which happens automatically according to certain internal rules. Certain things draw our attention, other things do not.

Attention is also a process which we can control.”

“A bit like breathing?”

“In a way. However, unlike breathing, if we don’t control our attention, it controls us.

Directing attention is one of the fundamental (and most important) mechanisms of Thinking.

Not being in control of your attention is like a trance. While in the trance, you’re like a puppet to stimuli in the environment. Depending on the environment and the stimuli, that can be a good or a bad thing. 

Being in control means breaking the trance, gaining control of your attention. That’s also how you can enrich the quality of your experience.”

“How do you gain control?”

“I like to metaphorically think of it as ‘Creating Space‘. That is, Creating Space in the flow of experience for engaging Thinking in order to direct attention.

You can Create Space in two ways: by slowing down, or pausing.

Creating Space is a meta-practice, and an enabler for numerous other practices.”

On Thinking and Mastery

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What is the ONE Thing you want to master in this life?”


Josh Waitzkin once said in an interview:

I love Learning more than anything.

Similarly, I would say:

I love Thinking more than anything. Learning is a part of it.”

“What does mastering Thinking mean?”

“I’m learning that as I go. My map so far looks like this:

My Thinking Mastery map

I’m using Alan Watkins’s model of peak performance, which we’ve talked about [<link; medium length] a while back. Remember his peak performance pyramid:

Emotion (Energy in motion)

Mastering Thinking requires mastering both Physiology and Feeling.

Thinking Mastery = Physical Mastery + Emotional Mastery + Mental Mastery

Physiology is the basis for Energy generation. This is essential because Thinking is very energy intensive.

Feeling is also essential because it allows you to be able to actually use your Thinking in situations of stress.

We can think of these as metaphorical Obstacles to Thinking. Two more significant obstacles are Cognitive Biases, our natural tendency to make systematic errors of judgment, and Coping Mechanisms, dysfunctional ways of dealing with past traumas.

Another important aspect of it is Balance. Thinking for me has a tendency to displace Sensory Experience and Observation as it’s very inner focused.”

“So it’s a balancing of Attention.”


As concerns Thinking itself, we can think of it in terms of Input and Output.

The Input is the formation of persistent structures in the mind. This means the acquisition, creation, and mastery of a number of what I call ‘tools of the mind‘ that allow you to manage complexity and carry out increasingly complex operations.

In terms of Output, I’m focusing on three aspects: Value Creation, Transfer [<link; short], and Antifragility.

Everything that’s colored brown on the map are skills.

This is a lifelong project, and I’ll undoubtedly be refining the map over the years.”

On Love and Presence

Fragment from imaginary dialogues

“Meditation is a practice, so a means to an end. What is its end?”

The skill of Presence.

The skill determines the amount of time you spend in the present moment – how present you are in your own life –, which reflects the level of control over your own mental/emotional processes.”

“So Meditation is the practice of the skill of Presence.”


I also like to think of Meditation as the unit of practice.”

“Why do you keep redrawing the map of the practice?”

“I’m constantly trying to simplify it, to get to the essence of it.”

“What’s the newest insight?”

To practice Presence is to practice Love.

The map of the Presence practice

The practice has two components:

Maintaining your attention on one thing. It can be the breath, or anything else.

The response to your present experience, whatever it is. 

We might call them Loving Attention and Loving Acceptance.”

“What about Kindness and Compassion?”

I see Kindness, Compassion and Gratitude as expressions of Love.

On Gratitude and Templating

The soul becomes dyed with the color of your thoughts. (Marcus Aurelius)

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“If you were to choose only one thing to be grateful for, what would it be?”

My beautiful BodyMind.

This immensely intricate system of systems is the one that most influences the quality of our life. 

I think a deep appreciation and concern for our BodyMind is the highest expression of Self-Love, which has three components:

– Self-Awareness
– Self-Care
– Self-Mastery

“Then start every Gratitude practice by expressing Gratitude for your beautiful BodyMind.

You’re familiar with the idea of expressing Gratitude for three things. Turn it into a template [<link; medium read].

Fixed part: (Monad, One Thing)
Thank you for my beautiful BodyMind.

Variable part: (Triad)
Thank you for being Alive. [
Memento mori; Contrasting]
Thank you for my computer.
Thank you for the food.

The fixed part of the template you’ll be accessing most frequently, thus making it most present in your mind.
The variable part, less frequently.

And you can use the template with other things as well.”

Questions & Models

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What is your most important practice as a Thinker?”

“An essential question you can ask about any practice is:

What are the fundamentals of the practice?

Which is to say:

What are the most important subs-skills?

Each of those sub-skills is itself a practice.

For me, the most important Thinking practice is Questions & [Mental] Models.


“I see them as an interconnected unit – what I call a functional-monad. This is an instance of Integration. We’ll talk more about it some other time.

I call the individual components of the practice Questioning and Modelling.

I love questions, and I love models. I have a special notebook for each. I start every single day by playing with them.”

“How do you play with them?”

“The guidelines are:
thinking something different – which essentially means creating new connections
the Practical – one of the macro-filters of my life.”

“So it’s a creative endeavor.”


Whenever I come up with a useful question, I write it down.
As for models, it’s in the form of models-mapping [link; short length] – mind-mapping with models.”

Beautiful Models: 1/20/80

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What is 1/20/80?”

“It’s a practical tool I created for myself. A combination between two models: 80/20 (Pareto) and One Thing (Monad).”

“Can you give an example?”

“Let’s say you want to organize your values.

First you make a list of your values, then you pass them through the 80/20 filter. 

What 20% of your values are most meaningful for you?

That’s what I call the meta-values [link; medium length].

Among the 20%, you select one that is central. That is the access-point [<link; medium]. Whenever you mentally access your values, you start with the access-point. You can think of 1/20/80 as filters on top of one another. You first look through the 1 filter, then the 20, then the 80.

In case of my values, it looks like this:

1-filter: Presence
20-filter: Beauty, Play, Love, Gratitude, Simplicity, Balance
80-filter: the rest of my values”

Beautiful Systems: Defaults

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What is the Defaults Life-System?”

“Think what a default is in computer use. Let’s say you have a menu with several options. Whenever you open the menu, one of them is always initially selected. That’s the default option.

Now, let’s say you use one of those options much more than the others. Ideally, you’d be able to change the default option, to turn the option you use most into the default option.

The same in life. We have a default option for all kinds of things, which serves as a cognitive shortcut.

I call all the default options in our life combined, the Defaults System.

One function of the system is to conserve energy and save time. This can work for or against us, depending on the nature of the default option and the context. By taking control of the system, you increase the likelihood that the system works in your favor.

There’s two aspects to it:
– examining and optimizing the existing defaults
– creating new defaults

As concerns the former, this means taking inventory of your defaults and eliminating those that do not serve you, or serve you too little. This requires self-examination and discipline.

As concerns the latter, you’re turning the system into a compass such that, in any moment, you know what you have to do.

For instance, you can ask yourself:

What’s the default macro-practice?

For me, it’s Loving Presence.

What’s the default micro-practice?
What are the details of the practice?

What is the mental component?
What do you want to think?

What is the behavioral component?
What do you want to do?

What is the representational component?
How do you want to think about it, to mentally represent it?”

Life Optimization 2

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“Should I keep or eliminate x from my life?”

“Brian Johnson identifies the most important areas of one’s life as three in number. He calls them the ‘Big Three‘:


I love the elegance and simplicity of this model. I’ve played with quite a few variations of it, but I always tend to over-complicate it and end up coming back to the original.

Returning to your question, the way I approach questions is by asking more questions.

I like to start by getting perspective. [Mental Models: Macro, Big-Picture, Perspectives]

What’s the Most Important Thing (MIT)? [Model: One Thing]

An even better question is:

What’s the MIT in the most important areas of your life?

This is where Brian’s model comes into the scene. You can answer this question (and many others) through the lens of the Big Three model:

Energy: …
Work: …

How is x in relation to those things? [Models: Alignment, Relativity, Contrasting]
Does it add, subtract, or neither add nor subtract? [Model: Addition/Subtraction]

Another question you can ask is:

What’s your highest aspiration? [Model: Direction]

Energy: …
Work: …
Love: …

How is x in relation to those things?
Does it move you toward, away from, or neither toward nor away from them? [Model: Toward/Away from]

ELIMINATE everything that subtracts from your MIT, and that moves you away from your highest aspiration.

Heroic Level: Also eliminate everything that neither adds nor subtracts from your MIT, and neither moves you toward nor away from your highest aspiration.

You can also think of x in terms of what you’re gaining from it and what you’re losing. [Models: Opportunity Cost, Cost/Benefit]

There’s an opportunity cost to anything we do. Time and energy are limited. By choosing to do something, you’re choosing not to do something else. 

How much time does x take? Projected into the future, that time can add up to quite a lot. [Models: Time, Compounding, Marginal gains, Projection]

Is x energizing or draining? How energy-intensive is it? [Model: Energy]

How does x interfere with your thinking? By thinking about less important things you’re not thinking about the truly important ones. [Models: Interference, Mental-Space, Distraction]

How does x interfere with other systems of your life? [Model: Ecology]

For instance, one of the most important life-systems is what Brian Johnson calls the Fundamentals



Energy is the most important thing in one’s life, because it allows the full expression of EVERYTHING else. The first three Fundamentals are the essential pillars of Energy, especially the first one. Hence, they should be prioritized over anything else and non-negotiable.

To live an extraordinary life, eliminate anything that interferes with the Fundamentals.

80/20 Organizing

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“You use a lot of categories (tags) to organize your notes. If you were to pick just ONE, what would it be?”

80/20 – the Pareto Principle.

20% of the inputs are responsible for 80% of the outputs.

This is a principle worth deeply internalizing and applying in all areas of your life.”

Beautiful Systems: Simplicity

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“Simplicity as a system?”

“It’s a deconstruction and systematization of the simplification process. A practical blueprint.

The system visually looks like this: 

All the components of the system are mental models.”

“Can you give a few details on how it works?”

“Let’s say you have a set of data-points you want to simplify. How can you do it optimally?

One way is through filtering. That’s essentially asking two questions:

What 20% of the inputs are responsible for 80% of the outputs?
What’s the most important / impactful thing? (from within the 20%)”

“What if there’s more than one most important / impactful thing?”

“Think of it as your focus-point. Isolating them individually allows you to explore each of them in depth.

Another way to simplify them is through elimination of data-points. 

What can you eliminate?

“Would you eliminate the 80%?”

“Depends on what you’re after. In some cases, yes, that’s the optimal approach. But in other cases, you just want to refine the data set. You can metaphorically think of it as editing, or pruning. You’re cutting away some branches to allow the rest to grow.

Another elimination approach is paraphrasing, eliminating data-points by rephrasing the language.

What can you express with fewer words?

The final way to simplify them is through integration. Joining data-points together to form a new emergent whole.”