This Is Exactly How You Should Train Yourself To Be Smarter [Infographic]

Design inspired by the Cognitive Bias Codex

View the high resolution version of the infographic by clicking here.

Out of all the interventions we can do to make smarter decisions in our life and career, mastering the most useful and universal mental models is arguably the most important.

Over the last few months, I’ve written about how many of the most successful self-made billionaire entrepreneurs like Ray Dalio, Elon Musk, and Charlie Munger swear by mental models. I’ve collected the 650+ most useful mental models from the best mental model curators in the world. And I’ve launched a free mental model mini-course to help you understand what a mental model is and how to apply it to your life.

This infographic is the culmination of all these articles. It is my personal list of the 12 most useful & universal mental models that I believe everyone should master first. For each mental model, I share the sub mental models that make it up and one paragraph explaining its significance.

This infographic matters because it would take 6,500 hours to master each of the 650 mental models that others have recommended. That’s a lot of freaking time! You probably aren’t ready to commit that amount of time to mental models… yet. By creating this infographic, I hope to save you dozens of hours determining which models to learn first.

What is a mental model?

Defining “mental model” is a little tricky because it’s such an abstract concept with many different expressions.

Rather than say one definition is correct, I think each different definition of a mental model gives us a deeper understanding. Here are some of my favorite definitions:

  • “Representations in the mind of real or imaginary situations.” — Lesswrong
  • “Mental models are psychological representations of real, hypothetical, or imaginary situations.” — Princeton Mental Models And Reasoning Department
  • “Representation that describes how reality is (as it is known today) — a principle, an idea, basic concepts, something that works or not — that I have in my head that helps me know what to do or not. Something that has stood the test of time.” — Peter Bevelin
  • “A mental model is an explanation of how something works. It is a concept, framework, or worldview that you carry around in your mind to help you interpret the world and understand the relationship between things. Mental models are deeply held beliefs about how the world works.” — James Clear
  • “The image of the world around us, which we carry in our head, is just a model. Nobody in his head imagines all the world, government or country. He has only selected concepts, and relationships between them, and uses those to represent the real system.” — The American computer engineer J. W. Forrester

Finally, this video from Shane Parrish of Farnam Street is the best video explanation of mental models on the web:

What is an example of a mental model?

Perhaps the most common and valuable mental model is 80/20 Rule. It is easy to understand, widely applicable, and creates amazing results.

Source: Eben Pagan

The Rule (also known as Pareto’s Law, Zipf’s Principle of Least Effort, and Juran’s Law of The Vital Few) states that:

  • A minority of inputs leads to a majority of outputs.
  • A minority of causes create a majority of effects.
  • A minority of efforts lead to a majority of results.

This phenomena applies across many domains including productivity, happiness, business, health, etc. Here are a few examples:

  • 20% of relationships lead to 80% of happiness.
  • 20% of exercises lead to 80% of health benefit.
  • 20% of items on your to do list lead to 80% of productivity.

For example, by taking 30–60 minutes per day for prioritization, you can double your productivity. By auditing the relationships in your life, you can identify people you want to spend more time with and people you want to remove from your life. By looking at what experiences give you the most delight, you can begin to engineer your life differently.

The rule can also be inverted:

  • 20% of relationships cause 80% of drama.
  • 20% of clients cause 80% of the problems.
  • 20% of foods you eat cause 80% of your sickness.

This model is much more complex and it can be applied to infinitely more places, but this basic version allows you to quickly get value from it.

Take Action

I’ve learned from personal experience that it literally takes years to develop true mastery of the mental models. 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. Inside, you’ll learn the models that these billionaires use to make business and investing decisions — tools you can apply immediately to your life and business. You’ll also learn how to naturally use these models in your everyday life.

Sign up for the free mini-course here >>

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

If you’re already 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.

Here’s how it works:

  • 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.

Each master manual includes:

  • 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.
  • 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 and templates 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.

To learn more about the program or to sign up, visit the Mental Model Of The Month Overview page.