How To Tell If Someone Is Truly Smart Or Just Average

Photo credit: Heisenberg Media

How I Learned to Think Like the World’s Best and Brightest

Over the years, as I’ve studied all of the above entrepreneurs, I’ve also aggressively applied their teachings. Even if I didn’t understand what they were saying at first, I took their advice on faith.

The Difference Between Average and Brilliant: Effective Mental Models

“Mental models are to your brain as apps are to your smartphone.” -Jayme Hoffman

According to Model Theory, we all always use mental models in our thinking. “Mental models are psychological representations of real, hypothetical, or imaginary situations,” according to the formal definition. Less formally, a mental model is a simplified, scaled-down version of some aspect of the world: a schematic of a particular piece of reality. A model can be represented as a blueprint, a symbol, an idea, a formula, and in many other ways. We all unconsciously create models of how the world works, how the economy works, how politics works, how other people work, how we work, how our brains work, how our day is supposed to go, and so on.

Mental Models Are the New Alphabet

“You can’t do much carpentry with your bare hands and you can’t do much thinking with your bare brain.” — Bo Dahlbom, philosopher and computer scientist

Evolution is so slow that a child born today is — biologically — indistinguishable from a child born 30,000 years ago. Yet, here I am typing on a MacBook, while my ancestors spent most of their time collecting berries, throwing spears, and chipping rocks. So what’s the difference between someone born 30,000 years ago and me?

  • Mental models are also fundamental and critical mental tools.
  • Mental models represent large chunks of reality that can be combined together to create even more complex and useful “supermodels.” This is similar to how letters can be combined into words, which can be combined into sentences.
  • Mental models should be taught early in one’s life, because nearly everything else builds on them.
  • Mental models trigger higher-order thinking. This is similar to how becoming literate triggers a whole slew of higher-order thinking capabilities known as the Alphabet Effect.

Why We Should All Become Mental Model Collectors

“You may have noticed students who just try to remember and pound back what is remembered. Well, they fail in school and in life. You’ve got to hang experience on a latticework of models in your head.” — Charlie Munger (self-made billionaire entrepreneur and investor)

So how do you build complex, accurate mental models? Let’s me explain with a simple example: dogs. Let’s hypothetically imagine for a moment that we have no idea what a dog is. We’ve never seen or heard of one before.

Credit: AAA Lab At Stanford University
  • Black/white thinking (you’re either a good person or a bad person with no gray area in between)
  • Us/Them thinking (people outside your personal religion, nationality, or belief system are the enemy).
  • All manner of stereotypes — race, gender, politics, ethnicity, etc.

How To Get Started With Mental Models

“Education is not the learning of facts, but training the mind to think.” -Albert Einstein

Are you convinced of the power of Mental Models? I’ve learned from personal experience that it literally takes years to develop true mastery of these. Therefore, I created two resources for you:

Resource #1: Free Mental Model Course (For Newbies)

If you’re just learning about mental models for the first time, my free email course will help you get started. My team and I have spent dozens of hours creating it. It includes Ray Dalio’s and Charlie Munger’s top mental models, a guide on how to create a checklist based on the best practices from medicine and aviation so that you use your mental models throughout the day, and a guide that more deeply explains what a mental model is and how to get value from one.

Resource #2: Mental Model Of The Month Club (For Those Who Want Mastery)

If you’re already are convinced of the power of mental models and want to deliberately set about mastering them, then this resource is for you. It’s the program I wish I’d had when I was just getting started with mental models.

  • Every month, you’ll master one new mental model.
  • We’ll focus on the most powerful and universal models first.
  • We’ll provide you with a condensed and simple Mastery Manual (think: Cliff’s Notes) to help you deeply understand the model and integrate it into your life.
  • A 101 Overview of the mental model (why it’s important, how it works, its vocabulary, etc.)
  • An Advanced Overview that includes a more nuanced explanation.
  • Examples of hacks you can use immediately to apply that mental model to every area of your life and career. These hacks are based on my personal experience and are crowdsourced as well.
  • Exercises & templates that you can use on a daily basis to integrate the lessons in the manual and achieve maximum results in your life.
  • A Facebook community where you can meet other mental model collectors and learn from one another.

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