Tag Archive | Templating

The Templating Game

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

What do you mean by the templating [<link; medium read] game?

I mean playing with linguistic templates

One way to play is by creating templates. Whenever you notice a meaningful, recurring linguistic pattern, you turn it into a template. That is, you take the variable part of the pattern and turn it into a variable.

‘Variables’ as in those used in math?


For instance, here’s a familiar linguistic pattern: 

The art of living
The art of design
The art of donkey riding

‘The art of’ doesn’t change, but what comes after, does. So we can turn it into a template: 

The art of x

Another way to play is by taking a (general) template and generating (specific) instances.

For instance: 

Every x is an opportunity.

Every obstacle is an opportunity.
Every unwanted thought is an opportunity.
Every Monday is an opportunity.

And another way to play is by coming up with new ways to play with templates. I call this the game-making game.

Pattern-Breaking Questions

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

I lost balance.

“How is this beautiful?

I call this type of question, pattern-breaking questions.

Expressed as a template:

How is this x?

How is this fun?
How is this funny?
How is this a gift?


Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What is a macro-template?”

“It’s a template [<link; medium read] that gives a big-picture overview of who you are and what you stand for. It’s a central access-point for retrieving everything else.”

“What does yours look like?”

“Like this:

My macro-template

It has three main systems:

– Identity
– Values
– Soul Quests”

“What are Soul Quests?”

“Meaningful things you’re moving toward but can’t possibly reach. They give your life direction. Another metaphor for them is Guiding Stars

My central identity-block (modular-identity [<link; medium read]) is Life-Artist [<link; medium read].

My central value is Loving Play [<link; short read].

I have two central Soul Quests:
– my Ikigai, my reason for getting up in the morning, which I express in one word as Beautify [<link; short read]

Each of them is itself a deep mind-map.

As a side note, in actuality, they’re all deeply interconnected.

The hierarchical structure helps with retrieval, with combating our tendency to forget.

I use the macro-template as a journaling template every morning. I actually write it down.”

“Can’t you simply read it?”

“In writing something down, you engage in active recall, you’re actively retrieving it from memory.”


Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What is constraint-setting?”

“We’ve talked a while ago about the creative limitations principle [<link; short read] of creativity. The idea that

Restrictions breed creativity. (Mark Rosewater)

Constraint-setting means making the process intentional.”

“A kind of intention-setting?”


In practical terms, this means getting clear at the beginning of the creative process on what your constraints are.

What are your constraints?

Let’s take these imaginary dialogues as an example.

‘Fragments from imaginary dialogues’ is the primary constraint – my idiosyncratic style. 

I write in the form of dialogue.

I write fragments, which means they do not follow the traditional story structure of beginning, middle, and end. [pattern-breaking]

I write short-form, which means I strive to keep them short. [brevity, condensed meaning]

I write in simple language, which means that, given a choice between two similar words, I go for the more common one. [clarity

Viewed as a template [<link; medium read], this is the fixed part of the template. The content of the dialogues is the variable part of the template. 

Let’s take this particular imaginary dialogue as an example.

The dialogue has a creative focus. [one thing]
It has a general creative focus, a theme – which in this case is mental models. 
It has a specific creative focus – which is usually the title of the piece.

The first stage of my writing process is exploratory mind-mapping.”

“So you’re essentially discovering your constraints.”


I discover my creative focus for the piece, and I discover the main components of the piece. We might think of the former as the hard constraint, and of the latter as soft constraints

Then I continue the exploration by starting to write, using the mind-map as a guide.

The beauty of the process is that I never know where I’m going to get.”

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.”

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.”

On Learning 2

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“I think it’s important to have a visual map that acts as a guiding star for your Learning at a macro level and constantly reminds you of where you’re going.”

“What does yours look like?”

“Like this:

My Learning-Map

They’re much more interconnected, but that would make the map less legible.

My One Thing I want to master in this life is Thinking. I want to become a Super Thinker, to discover the limits of my potential. The way I like to describe it is as developing a ‘Beautiful Mind’.

The four main areas of development form a tetrad:


What you see in pink on the map is the One Thing I’m focusing on in each area:

Presence: Embodiment
Thinking: Learning/Teaching (Meta-Learning – learning how to learn)
Feeling: Empathy (Emotions)
Moving: Breathing

Learning/Teaching is my macro-focus, as this is the highest-leverage thinking skill one can learn.

I’m not focusing exclusively on these. I’m just dedicating them most time.”

“How come Writing is not on the map?”

“I consider Writing an integral part of Thinking. To a large extent, I think in writing.”

“How do you structure your learning day?”

“Structurally, my daily Deep-Work has two parts: one fixed, and one variable.

The fixed part has several ‘slots’.

The first is a writing-slot. This is what I start every single day with.
The second is a learning-slot dedicated to Meta-Learning.
The third is a learning-slot dedicated to Connection. This is the area of my life I struggle with most.
The fourth is for something important that I need to get done. I’m currently looking for a job, so I dedicate this slot to jobbing.

This marks the end of the fixed part of the day.

The variable part changes every day. I select what to learn next at random, from a variety of topics of interest to me. This is exciting because I never know what I’m going to be learning that day. One day I may be learning about NLP, another about Design, another about History, or Movement, or Mental Models, or whatnot.”

On Movement: The Unit of Practice

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What is the fundamental unit of the Movement practice?”

I think not in terms of exercises, but movement-patterns.

Movement-patterns are modular-elements [<link; medium length] which form the basic building-blocks of Movement. 

Take the burpee for instance. 

The burpee, in essence, is a compound movement-pattern combining two basic movement-patterns: a push-up, and a vertical jump. By identifying the structural components, you can turn it into a template [<link; medium]:

Burpee Pattern = Push-Up + x

You can combine the push-up pattern with any other movement-pattern. This opens up creative possibilities.

And we can take this further:

2-Move Pattern = x + y

You can combine any movement-pattern with any other movement-pattern. This opens up a universe of possibilities.

The essence of the 2-move pattern is not in the movement-patterns themselves, but in the transition between them. We might even call the 2-move pattern, the transition-pattern

2-Move Pattern = Transition-Pattern

As you start learning a movement-pattern, the unit of practice is the exercise-pattern.

Exercise-Pattern = x + x

The focus is on doing quality repetitions (reps) of the same movement-pattern until you internalize it.

Once you’ve built a vocabulary of movement-patterns, the unit of practice becomes the transition-pattern.

Transition-Pattern = x + y

The focus is on doing quality transitional-reps. The essential quality of transitional-reps is fluidity.”

“What movement-patterns do you focus on.”

“I use Variety [<link; medium], Utility and Fun as my guides.”

Spiritual Templating

We become what we think about all day long.

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“We talked a little while ago about the twin value of Loving Play [<link; short read], inspired by the Buddhist value of Loving Kindness.

I realized this can be expanded even more through Templating [<link; medium read].

Loving x

Loving Play
Loving Kindness

Loving Beauty
Loving Gratitude

Loving Awareness
Loving Connection

Loving Care (Self-Care, Other-Care)
Loving Scan (Body-Scan)

“Reminds me of Tony Robbins’s transformational vocabulary [<link].”

“Tony’s transformational vocabulary concept has a very specific meaning. Replacing the words you habitually use to describe your emotions in order to increase or decrease the intensity of your emotional states.”

“You could think of it as an expansion of the concept.”

“You’re right. The concept has a much larger design space. It can be expanded beyond word selection, into concept creation and representational models [<link; medium read].”