Mental Models

3 min read

notes from

General Thinking Concepts

  1. The Map is not the Territory

  2. Circle of Competence, undertand what you know and what you don’t know

  3. First Principles Thinking, understand the fundemantals

  4. Thought Experiment

  5. Second-Order Thinking, long term thinking, unintended consequences

  6. Probabilistic Thinking, probability runs the world

  7. Inversion, turn it upside down

  8. Occam’s Razor, Simpler explanations are more likely to be true than complicated ones.

  9. Hanlon’s Razor, we should not attribute to malice that which is more easily explained by stupidity.

Physics and Chemistry

  1. Reciprocity, humans beings act with intense reciprocity demonstrated as well.

  2. Thermodynamics, energy is constant and entropy is ever increasing

  3. Inertia, objects and people display the same effect. The first move is harder

  4. Friction and Viscosity

  5. Velocity

  6. Leverage, almost every great work includes leverage

  7. Activation Energy, the minimum to start

  8. Catalysts

  9. Alloying, alloy can be better than its parts

  10. Relativity, an observer cannot truly understand a system of which he himself is a part.


  1. Evolution, adaptation

    arms race among competing species is called the Red Queen Effect for the character in Alice in Wonderland who said, “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.

  2. Ecosystems

  3. Niches

    Usually, a species will select a niche for which it is best adapted

  4. Self-Preservation

  5. Replication

  6. Cooperation

  7. Hierarchical Organization

  8. Incentives

  9. Tendency to Minimize Energy Output (Mental & Physical)


  1. Feedback Loops

  2. Bottlenecks and Constraints

  3. Homeostasis and Equilibrium

  4. Scale

  5. Law of Diminishing Returns

  6. Churn

  7. Preferential Attachment (Cumulative Advantage)

  8. Irreducibility

  9. Margin of Safety and Backup Systems

  10. Algorithms

  11. Criticality

  12. Emergence


  1. Distributions

  2. Compounding

  3. Law of Large Numbers

  4. Multiplying by Zero

  5. Algebraic Equivalence, Seemingly two different things can be the same

  6. Randomness

  7. Regression to the Mean

  8. Surface Area

  9. Global and Local Maxima


  1. Opportunity Costs

  2. Creative Destruction

  3. Comparative Advantage

  4. Specialization (Pin Factory)

  5. Seizing the Middle

  6. Utility (Marginal, Diminishing, Increasing)

  7. Trademarks, Patents, and Copyrights

  8. Double-Entry Bookkeeping

  9. Scarcity

  10. Supply and Demand

  11. Mr. Market


  1. Seeing the Front

  2. Asymmetric Warfare

  3. Two-Front War

  4. Counterinsurgency

  5. Mutually Assured Destruction

Human Nature and Judgment

  1. Trust

  2. Bias from Incentives

  3. Pavlovian Association

  4. Tendency to Feel Envy & Jealousy

  5. Tendency to Distort Due to Liking Loving or Disliking/Hating

  6. Denial

  7. Sunk Cost

  8. Anchoring

  9. Availability Heuristic

  10. Tendency to Stereotype

  11. Failure to learn from the past

  12. Social Proof (Safety in Numbers)

  13. Narrative Instinct -> Stories run the world

  14. Curiosity

  15. First-Conclusion Bias

  16. Tendency to Overgeneralize from Small Samples

  17. Relative Satisfaction/Misery Tendencies

  18. Commitment & Consistency Bias

  19. Hindsight Bias

  20. Sensitivity to Fairness

  21. Tendency to Overestimate Consistency of Behavior (Fundamental Attribution Error)

  22. Survivorship Bias

  23. Influence of Stress (Including Breaking Points)

  24. Tendency to Want to Do Something (Fight/Flight, Intervention, Demonstration of Value, etc.)

  25. Falsification / Confirmation Bias

February 9, 2020