How to Train Your Brain to Think in New Ways by James Clear

You can train your brain to think better. One of the best ways to do this is to expand the set of mental models you use to think. Let me explain what I mean by sharing a story about a world-class thinker.

I first discovered what a mental model was and how useful the right one could be while I was reading a story about Richard Feynman, the famous physicist. Feynman received his undergraduate degree from MIT and his Ph.D. from Princeton. During that time, he developed a reputation for waltzing into the math department and solving problems that the brilliant Ph.D. students couldn’t solve.

When people asked how he did it, Feynman claimed that his secret weapon was not his intelligence, but rather a strategy he learned in high school. According to Feynman, his high school physics teacher asked him to stay after class one day and gave him a challenge.

“Feynman,” the teacher said, “you talk too much and you make too much noise. I know why. You’re bored. So I’m going to give you a book. You go up there in the back, in the corner, and study this book, and when you know everything that’s in this book, you can talk again.” [1]

So each day, Feynman would hide in the back of the classroom and study the book—Advanced Calculus by Woods—while the rest of the class continued with their regular lessons. And it was while studying this old calculus textbook that Feynman began to develop his own set of mental models.

“That book showed how to differentiate parameters under the integral sign,” Feynman wrote. “It turns out that’s not taught very much in the universities; they don’t emphasize it. But I caught on how to use that method, and I used that one damn tool again and again. So because I was self-taught using that book, I had peculiar methods of doing integrals.”

“The result was, when the guys at MIT or Princeton had trouble doing a certain integral, it was because they couldn’t do it with the standard methods they had learned in school. If it was a contour integration, they would have found it; if it was a simple series expansion, they would have found it. Then I come along and try differentiating under the integral sign, and often it worked. So I got a great reputation for doing integrals, only because my box of tools was different from everybody else’s, and they had tried all their tools on it before giving the problem to me.” [2]

What separated Feynman from his peers wasn’t necessarily raw intelligence. It was the way he saw the problem. He had a broader set of mental models.

Image

Richard Feynman teaching physics. (Image source: Unknown)

What is a Mental Model?

A mental model is an explanation of how something works. It is a concept, framework, or worldview that you carry around in your mind.

For example, supply and demand is a mental model that helps you understand how the economy works. Game theory is a mental model that helps you understand how relationships and trust work. Entropy is a mental model that helps you understand how disorder and decay work.

Mental models guide your perception and behavior. They are the thinking tools that you use to understand life, make decisions, and solve problems. Learning a new mental model gives you a new way to see the world—like Richard Feynman learning a new math technique.

Mental models are imperfect, but useful. There is no single mental model from physics or engineering, for example, that provides a flawless explanation of the entire universe, but the best mental models from those disciplines have allowed us to build bridges and roads, develop new technologies, and even travel to outer space. As historian Yuval Noah Harari puts it, “Scientists generally agree that no theory is 100 percent correct. Thus, the real test of knowledge is not truth, but utility.”

The best mental models are the ideas with the most utility. They are broadly useful in daily life. Understanding these concepts will help you make wiser choices and take better actions. This is why developing a broad base of mental models is critical for anyone interested in thinking clearly, rationally, and effectively.

The Secret to Great Thinking

Expanding your set of mental models is something experts need to work on just as much as novices. We all have our favorite mental models, the ones we naturally default to as an explanation for how or why something happened. As you grow older and develop expertise in a certain area, you tend to favor the mental models that are most familiar to you.

Here’s the problem: when a certain worldview dominates your thinking, you’ll try to explain every problem you face through that worldview. This pitfall is particularly easy to slip into when you’re smart or talented in a given area.

The more you master a single mental model, the more likely it becomes that this mental model will be your downfall because you’ll start applying it indiscriminately to every problem. What looks like expertise is often a limitation. As the common proverb says, “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” [3]

Consider this example from biologist Robert Sapolsky. He asks, “Why did the chicken cross the road?” Then, he provides answers from different experts.

  • If you ask an evolutionary biologist, they might say, “The chicken crossed the road because they saw a potential mate on the other side.”
  • If you ask a kinesiologist, they might say, “The chicken crossed the road because the muscles in the leg contracted and pulled the leg bone forward during each step.”
  • If you ask a neuroscientist, they might say, “The chicken crossed the road because the neurons in the chicken’s brain fired and triggered the movement.”

Technically speaking, none of these experts are wrong. But nobody is seeing the entire picture either. Each individual mental model is just one view of reality. The challenges and situations we face in life cannot be entirely explained by one field or industry.

All perspectives hold some truth. None of them contain the complete truth.

Relying on a narrow set of thinking tools is like wearing a mental straitjacket. Your cognitive range of motion is limited. When your set of mental models is limited, so is your potential for finding a solution. In order to unleash your full potential, you have to collect a range of mental models. You have to build out your toolbox. Thus, the secret to great thinking is to learn and employ a variety of mental models.

Expanding Your Set of Mental Models

The process of accumulating mental models is somewhat like improving your vision. Each eye can see something on its own. But if you cover one of them, you lose half of the scene. It’s impossible to see the full picture when you’re only looking through one eye.

Similarly, mental models provide an internal picture of how the world works. We should continuously upgrade and improve the quality of this picture. This means reading widely from good books, studying the fundamentals of seemingly unrelated fields, and learning from people with wildly different life experiences. [4]

The mind’s eye needs a variety of mental models to piece together a complete picture of how the world works. The more sources you have to draw upon, the clearer your thinking becomes. As the philosopher Alain de Botton notes, “The chief enemy of good decisions is a lack of sufficient perspectives on a problem.”

The Pursuit of Liquid Knowledge

In school, we tend to separate knowledge into different silos—biology, economics, history, physics, philosophy. In the real world, information is rarely divided into neatly defined categories. In the words of Charlie Munger, “All the wisdom of the world is not to be found in one little academic department.” [5]

World-class thinkers are often silo-free thinkers. They avoid looking at life through the lens of one subject. Instead, they develop “liquid knowledge” that flows easily from one topic to the next.

This is why it is important to not only learn new mental models, but to consider how they connect with one another. Creativity and innovation often arise at the intersection of ideas. By spotting the links between various mental models, you can identify solutions that most people overlook.

Tools for Thinking Better

Here’s the good news:

You don’t need to master every detail of every subject to become a world-class thinker. Of all the mental models humankind has generated throughout history, there are just a few dozen that you need to master to have a firm grasp of how the world works.

Each field has a few mental models that form the backbone of the topic. For example, the pillar mental models from economics include ideas like incentives and economies of scale. In chemistry, it might be the laws of thermodynamics. If you can master the fundamentals of each discipline, then you can develop a remarkably accurate and useful picture of life.

To quote Charlie Munger again, “80 or 90 important models will carry about 90% of the freight in making you a worldly-wise person. And, of those, only a mere handful really carry very heavy freight.” [6]

This article is one of the first in a series I’ll be doing on mental models. I’ve written previously about mental models like entropyinversion, and margin of safety and in the coming months I’ll be focusing particularly on the big models that carry the heavy freight in life.

My goal is to share the most important mental models from a wide range of disciplines in a way that is easy to understand as well as meaningful and practical to the daily life of the average person. More to come soon.

FOOTNOTES

  1. Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman! by Richard Feynman. Pages 86-87.
  2. Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman! by Richard Feynman. Pages 86-87.
  3. This idea is sometimes called The Law of the Instrument or Man With a Hammer Syndrome. The original phrase comes from Abraham Kaplan’s book, The Conduct of Inquiry: Methodology for Behavioral Science. On page 28 he writes, “Give a small boy a hammer, and he will find that everything he encounters needs pounding.”
  4. With regards to the importance of reading widely, a quote from the wonderful writer Haruki Murakami comes to mind, “If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.”
  5. “A Lesson on Elementary, Worldly Wisdom As It Relates To Investment Management & Business” by Charles Munger. Speech at USC Business School. 1994.
  6. “A Lesson on Elementary, Worldly Wisdom As It Relates To Investment Management & Business” by Charles Munger. Speech at USC Business School. 1994.

#goodaddictions

Addictions That Are Good For You Can addictions be good? The team at Radisson Blu Hotel GRT Chennai wants you to get addicted – to healthy and wonderful things! With our one-of-a-kind #GoodAddiction campaign, we have launched a whole range of initiatives and activities across dining, stays and events. Sunshine Breakfast Start your morning with a delightful Sunshine Breakfast, at a table next to the window streaming the glorious morning sun in. Dig into a nutritious breakfast as you bask in all that Vitamin D coming your way! EXP Meetings Head into your work meetings at the business spaces in the hotel, with Radisson’s EXP Meetings – a unique concept designed to upgrade your meetings to experiences. Say goodbye to conventional boring business sessions, and challenge your colleagues to a round of friendly boxing to warm up. Take breaks in between for express stress-relieving therapies at the Bodhi Spa, or play a round of table-tennis. It’s all about stimulating your mind to think out of the box!

Digital Detox For lunch, indulge in some Digital Detox at the SaltCo531. Leave your phones behind and soak in the dining experience. Follow it up with a complimentary Lunch Therapy – a 15 minute oil-free head or foot massage. No mess, all the rejuvenation! And when Sunday comes, join us at the Salt Sundaze Brunch – for some quality time with family.

Bento Boxes For days that are about deadlines and no-breaks, the hotel’s Bento Boxes will keep you going. Build your own bento lunch box from a range of cuisines, or let the chef bring you his absolute best. The food speaks for itself, while you carry on uninterrupted. Donwtime When you’re done for the day and need some downtime, head to our state-of-the-art Fitness Centre for a solid workout, or go on one of the curated GReaT Chennai Trails. Walk, explore, unlock the city’s stories. Learn about architecture, music, food, retail, literature or cinema – whatever catches your fancy! Oh and tell all your friends to weigh themselves before they check-in, for there are some fabulous discounts for people with a passion for fitness. Pay By Weight at the Radisson Blu Hotel GRT Chennai. Then join us on our No Bin drive – our initiative to reduce food waste. Find your #Good Addiction this December!

Stories from GRT Hotels

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Regency Madurai by GRT Hotels 

8th July 2017

Capt. Mayank Tomar from Spice jet was staying with us from 7th to 8th July 2017. As per the contract, we are supposed to provide them free airport transfers. Normally two captains travel in one vehicle and on 8th July2017, since there was a change in their schedule, they wanted to go separately to airport in two different vehicles as one at 5.30pm and another captain at 6.30pm.

First car has left at 5.30pm and immediately after 5 minutes, Mr. Mayank Tomar, came down and wanted a vehicle to go to airport immediately as he as to catch the same flight as his schedule is again changed. Unfortunately all the hotel vehicles were on trips and we did not have either a spare vehicle or time to call a taxi from outside. He realized that it is his mistake that he has not informed front desk on change of his schedule but he was restless and started requesting us to drop him at any cost.

Our General Manager Mr. Mohammed Sheriff N. was watching all these in CC TV in his office and immediately he came out to the lobby and inquired on the same. Then he contacted him and said that he shall drop him in airport in his vehicle and he also agreed for the same. Immediately Mr. Sheriff took his car and drove personally and dropped him in airport on time. Mr. Mayank Tomar was thrilled and very happy about the help he got from the hotel on time and he appreciated the attitude of our General Manager who drove down him to airport personally.

Sheriff you are a true leader !

 

Hotel stories from GRT Hotels

say yes

A few months earlier , a elderly couple Mr Abdullah and his wife checked in to Radisson Blu GRT Hotel Chennai . They were from Oman and were seeking medical assistance. They had come to visit the doctors in the Adyar Cancer Institute in Guindy. Mrs Abdullah was suffering from Cancer . The doctors advised her to undergo an operation in the leg which was done immediately. The doctors advised her rest ad to wear a special footwear. Unfortunately, the couple tried many sources but could not get the right footwear readymade.

Jay from the front desk was dealing with the couple and when he heard the predicament of the couple he made arrangements from a local shoe maker in Nanganallur in the neighborhood of the hotel to come in and take measurements in the hotel and delivered the shoes as per the doctor’s specification by the evening. The guests were ever grateful and thankful to Jay and the hotel in taking care of all their needs . The guest stayed for a couple of weeks and when they were leaving extended a invitation for Jay to visit Oman and stay at their home.

Jay truly demonstrated the service philosophy of GRT Hotels –“I say yes” and also the Carlson Hotel credo “ Yes I can”

 

Kenya Diary :Mumbai Transit 

18 June 2017, 

 Day 0 still 

All excited about the trip Sowmya and I checked into Jet Airways in Chennai and made our way to the lounge. Our flight was at 3.30pm and were joined by some of our friends , Siva and Usha. 

We floated through the cumulus clouds lit by the bright sun making them translucent most of the way and the bounced through the decent into Mumbai We were scheduled to spend the evening with our niece Sandhya and her husband Karthick watching the finals of the Champions trophy while India clashed with Pakistan in the finals. 

It was not meant to be ! India lost a couple of early wickets and the going was depressing. “Let’s go out” was the way out of this misery. 

We then planned to do the #terroristroute circuit 😂. Our first stop was at the iconic Leopold cafe from 1871 ,usually the hangout of ‘firangis’ This cafe became a tourist must visit after the 26/11 terrorists who landed at the India gate found the restaurant and opened fire killing many people here. 


We had a couple beers and booed the Indian team getting scuttled out on large screen TVs. Food was good to say the least but the ambience was vintage and quaint. 

We walked to the India gate and took some selfies against the beautiful facade of the Taj Mahal hotel which was the symbol of the country burning during the 26/11 attack on all TV channels. We also traced the infamous steps to the Oberoi Trident and the Marine drive what they refer to as the Queens necklace. The place was unusually quite because of the cricket match. We slept at 12 midnight to get up at 3.30 am to get to the airport to catch the Kenya airways flight at 6.30 am. 

Kenya Diary

Day by day Kenya safari travelogue

Day 0 

#vikiskenyadiary

It started as a dream whenever I read Wilbur Smith and his vivid descriptions of Africa and the mystery of the rugged land. 

So it became an agenda in the #vikisbucketlist. 

Africa  is not an ordinary place to go. One has to deal with AIDS , yellow fever (whatever that is and why is it coloured ?) , polio drops ( yet again after childhood) and Zika virus and stories of Africans cutting off hands if you wear a good watch to “mind the currency exchange you will get blank paper in between” warnings. Braving all these it is the motivation to see the WILD which drove me to travel to Kenya. 

So one month back I had to go to Guindy with the help of google maps to find the center for infectious diesease and get the yellow fever poke and the oral polio drops. 


Then the advise on not wearing black or blue clothes in Masai Mara as the tse tse fly likes this color and will suck you blood out !! So I had to have a khakis and olive greens wardrobe makeover. Finally I made my checklists which did not look so much as my other travels. 

I think this well researched list will be a ready rekoner for people who want to go on a safari in Masai. 

– [x] Binocs 

– [x] Flash light 

– [x] Camera 

– [x] Batteries 

– [x] Camera chargers 

– [x] iPhone chargers

– [x] Battery pack 

– [x] Extra memory cards 

– [x] USB to Apple Mac air

– [x] Mac air 

– [x] iPhone

– [x] Cap 

– [x] Flip flops 

– [ ] Vibrams

– [ ] Trainers 

– [x] Earplugs 

– [x] Ziplock bags 

– [x] Earphones 2 pairs 

– [x] Sunglasses 2 pairs 

– [x] Reading glasses 

– [x] Multi pin plugs 

– [x] Swiss knife 

– [x] Selfie stick

Medicines 

Malaria tablets 

– [ ] Cortisone creams and antiseptic cream 

– [ ] Nasal spray 

– [x] Mosquito repellents spray n cream 

– [ ] Bug spray 

– [x] All out 

– [x] Sun block cream 70 spf 

– [ ] Band aids 

– [x] Dolo 650 

– [x] Zintac

– [x] Allergy tablets 

– [ ] Basic antibiotics 

– [x] Hand sanitiser

– [x] Body and hair gel 

– [x] Wet wipes

– [x] Lip balm 

Clothes 

No black or blue 

– [x] 3 pants cargos /khaki cotton /green cargo 

– [x] One jeans for travel

– [x] 6 shirts : khaki n green n brown 

– [x] 4 t shirts 

– [x] Underwear for 10 days 

– [x] jacket 

– [x] Sweater 

– [x] Cap 

– [x] Socks 

– [x] Shoes 

Documents 

– [x] Passport

– [x] Yellow fever certificate 

– [x] Insurance 

– [x] Passport photos 

– [x] Copy of passport 

– [ ] Notes books for village children 

So I am all set to fly to Mumbai


I feel sad I have to leave my darling behind😪 for the next couple of weeks !! @kippu All set to GO !  

Hotel Stories from GRT Hotels

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This endearing story happened in Radisson Blu Resort Templebay , Mahabalipuram

Shoubik Das Gupta, a Management Trainee at the Front Desk started his routine Night shift duty rom 20.00hrs .He took over a busy shift . The resort was full.

While he was very busy in handling check –ins and various guests’ requests at the front desk, Ms.Sheetal Mehra from room #146, approached him at 11:00 pm frantically and informed Shoubik that she had forgotten her contact lens solution at home and she would not be able to remove her lens without the lens solution and she was disappointed that this will ruin her holiday.

Shoubik pacified Ms Sheetal and assured her that he would try his level best to get the lens solution from the nearby pharmacy. But unfortunately when the bell boy wnet to the nearby pharmacy it was closed as it was 11.30 pm by then . Shoubik was in a dilemma as he had informed Sheetal that he would organize the lens solution with confidence and he has also asked her for 20 minutes to find out for possibilities if any . He did not want to let her down.

His training on ‘Yes I can’ service philosophy kicked in .

Frantically Shoubik , even though he was busy at the front desk remembered his room mate also used lens. He went out of his way and woke up his roommate to bring the lens solution from his room and then he has handed over the lens solution as he promised . The guest was very inquisitive and asked Shoubik how he managed to get the solution this late in the night and he narrated the entire incident to the guest , Ms.Sheetal was very happy for shoubik and she and exclaimed “THANK YOU SHOUBIK YOU HAVE BEEN A LIFE SAVER FOR ME TODAY”

She was so thrilled that she asked her daughter to give Shoubik a gift. This is the cute drawing.

 

horse