The Great Mental Models

General Thinking Concepts

by Shane Parrish

I've been aware of the Farnam Street blog for a number of years now but always found it fairly impenetrable.

This was a fairly good intro to the general concept of mental models, but felt fairly light if you've ever read anything vaguely approaching this subject.

The book can be roughly broken down into the following concepts:

  1. The Map is not the Territory - The description of the thing is not the thing itself.
  2. Circle of Competence - The subject area that matches your skills or expertise.
  3. Inversion - Approaching a situation from the opposite end.
  4. Occam’s Razor - Something simple is more likely to be true than something complex.
  5. Hanlon’s Razor - Don't attribute to malice that which is more easily explained by stupidity.

There's a few more but those are what stood out to me.

Successfully thinking in shades of probability means roughly identifying what matters, coming up with a sense of the odds, doing a check on our assumptions, and then making a decision. We can act with a higher level of certainty in complex, unpredictable situations.

Nothing earthshakingly revelatory here, but an enjoyable read nevertheless.