In the last blog post, we detailed how the mental models you hold about the world determine how you interact with it — and as a result, have a profound impact on what you can do in life.
This is such a far-reaching concept that it’s time for part 2.
And this time, we’re digging deeper into how you can “install” the mental models of the most successful people — those who have gotten the results you want — and tweak them so they apply exactly to YOUR success.
Oh the surface, this means you find someone who’s already getting the results you want in some area, learn what they did to get those results and basically just do the same thing.
It’s a lot like following a recipe to create a meal. Only it makes you rich, happy, and successful instead of full.
Here’s An Example:
(Never Forget Where You Park Again)
Years ago I knew a man who never, ever forgot where he parked. Ever. The guy was known for this strange, uncanny ability.
No matter the complexity of the parking situation. Whether it was an enormous stadium lot or a thousand-car parking garage… whenever he had to return to his car, he’d intuitively know where it was. He’d make a straight beeline to the car as if it were second-nature.
He never had to use a key fob to make his car beep or flicker either. And he was always the go-to guy to lead the group back after concerts and large festivals that had rows and rows of cars.
Most people considered this a unique gift of his that no one else could ever emulate. And he couldn’t even describe to you how he was doing it.
But the truth is, he was unconsciously using a mental model. Once I asked enough questions to get this mental model out of him, I, too, never forget where I park anymore. (And trust me, I was horrible before.)
Here’s what I discovered:
At first, upon asking him to describe what he does when returning to his car to remember where he parked… he said he didn’t know:
“I just remember!
I have no clue how…”
But he must be doing SOMETHING different. In these cases, if you want to dig the person’s mental model out of them, you keep probing on…
Maybe he does something before he enters the parking lot to recall the memory?
Maybe he draws a special map in his head that makes his car stick out among all the others?
It took a while before we discovered the secret. But I finally asked, “Is there anything specific you do after you park when you’re FIRST LEAVING the car?”
He pondered for a minute, then stopped as if something suddenly dawned on him. And said, “You know what? I never realized it, but after I first get out of the car and I’m walking away from it… I look back over my shoulder every 10 seconds or so.”
Looking back over his shoulder when leaving gives him “mental snapshots” of what it will look like when he’s returning.
This is the secret behind why none of us can remember where we parked:
The same path to and from your car looks different going one way than it does coming back the opposite way. Most people are trying to remember where they parked based on what they saw leaving the car looking straight ahead. The returning view actually looks nothing like it, UNLESS you keep looking back over your shoulder when you’re first leaving.
As long as you can remember to do that, you’ll never forget where you parked. I promise.
This probing revealed a valuable tool I’ve used for the rest of my life. And you can do it for pretty much anything.
Can You Use This
To Get Wealthier?
I once met a man who had gone from earning $40k per year to earning $400k a year – over a period of two years.
I asked him how he did it, and he told me.
One of his main ideas was to find out what has made you money in the past and do more of it. Then find out what has lost you money in the past, and do less of it.
That sounds obvious, doesn’t it? Almost to the point of being insultingly simple.
But it actually works really well when you look for ways to apply it:
Obviously, this works better for people who have their own businesses and are not on fixed incomes. But even if you’re on a fixed income, it will get you thinking out of the box about what you can do.
When I shared this tidbit with a friend of mine, he doubled his income in six months. He discovered that releasing products in his business made him money, but developing products didn’t generate any income at all.
So he found a way to bring on affiliates selling other people’s products so he didn’t have to develop his own — thus releasing more products faster and maximizing the income-producing activities.
Simple idea, but very effective. When you filter everything through that mental model, it will help you sort out what works.
The Reverse Concept
Works Extremely Well Too:
If you find someone who isn’t getting the results you want in a particular area, don’t take their advice!
This is an overgeneralization of course, but more often than not, it’s going to be accurate:
Why would anyone buy a diet book with a picture of an overweight doctor on the cover? Isn’t that sort of like signing up for a martial arts class taught by a white belt?
The autopsy done on Dr. Atkins (of the popular Atkins diet) revealed that he was obese and that his arteries were clogged with plaque.
Of course, you can’t determine health just by physical looks either. Brian Maxwell, founder of the Power Bar and a former world-class marathoner, died of a heart attack in 2004 at the age of 51. So maybe you don’t want to follow in his footsteps either.
The point is this:
While it seems like just about anyone could potentially provide valuable advice on any subject, the problem is advice that often sounds good just doesn’t prove effective in the real world.
That’s why adopting the mental models of people who actually HAVE what you desire can save you a lot of time.
The person who is currently getting the results you want has probably already tried and discarded many strategies that don’t work. And they’ve obviously found at least one strategy that DOES work, at least for them, so their ideas have already passed the “reality” test.
On the other hand, be careful not to get trapped into the situation of continually seeking advice from people who aren’t getting the results you want.
For example, I often see single people who are looking to get married ask other single people for advice on how to attract a future spouse. These people get lots of well-meaning advice that simply won’t work.
If you’re single and want to get married, then the best people to ask about how to do it are happily married people. And most likely you’ll find their advice very different from that of perpetual singles.
This is a super simple concept, but…
It’s Amazing How
Few People Apply This
Is there some area in your life right now where you want to start getting better results?
Can you find one person who has already gotten those results and spend a few minutes asking that person how they did it?
Or maybe find a book written by an author who had achieved those results?
Then just by taking the same actions (almost blindly and brainlessly), you stand a good chance of getting those results for yourself.
But there’s also a “next-level” to adopting someone’s mental models that’s more effective just “doing what they do”… and that’s:
Discovering Their Core Principles
Just copying a successful person’s approach can work… but not always.
Does what’s working for another person ALWAYS work for you? The answer is no — everyone is in a different situation, has a different personality, and a number of other things that might affect your results from another person’s exact mental model.
What worked for someone else might work for you if it’s something simple, like following a recipe. But with bigger projects, like building a business, there are so many complexities that it’s tough to know which factors caused the successes.
Even when a CEO writes a new book about their success principles, it often comes with caveats and disclaimers.
For every rule or piece of advice shared as a golden success principle, it’s not difficult to find counter-examples. We find companies apparently succeeding with bad leadership, bad teamwork, no clarity of vision, and other rampant problems.
That’s why more than simply copying what they do, you should seek to understand the successful person’s core principles behind their mental models.
Then you can apply those principles to your own situations with more flexibility.
This Is What Elon Musk Does:
Instead of reasoning by analogy based on what works for others, Musk prefers to build his own models from the ground up, based on first-principles from physics.
There’s a similar approach with personal development challenges:
While I do find value in learning from others, you don’t always get good results just by copying their approaches.
And even if you try to do so, your creative instincts and intuition will tend to guide you down a different path anyway.
That’s why it’s helpful to think in terms of…
Three Basic Principles:
Truth, Love, and Power
Every growth challenge — whether it’s in health, wealth, relationships, or anything else — has a truth aspect (what is) a love aspect (what you want), and a power aspect (what you can create).
These serve as fundamental building blocks for how to solve a problem, achieve a goal, or maintain consistency when life is flowing well.
Maybe someone was successful, but their love aspect isn’t the same as yours. You can simply adopt their “power” model (their mindsets and perspectives that created success) but apply it to your love (what you want in life).
I’ve heard this referred to as…
Spend some time figuring out YOUR strengths and weaknesses (truth), your most compelling desires and interests (love), and your best modes of action (power).
This is a model you build of yourself that interacts with the mental models you adopt from other people to create results.
This is a different kind of modeling. Instead of modeling someone else’s patterns and trying to transplant them into you, you build mental models of your personal success patterns and build on those.
But this approach is also limiting if you only look at yourself in isolation.
Your external results aren’t entirely up to you. You need to do your part, but “reality” gets a say as well.
Sometimes when you go out into the world believing that you understand yourself better and being clear about what you need to do to improve your results — reality slams you back hard and sends you back to the drawing board.
Which is why, if you’re going to build a model of yourself, you also have to build a decent model of the world.
And not only that, you need to build a model of how you and the world relate to each other. So you’re going to need three models minimum here:
Modeling The World
The world also has a say in your results. And interacting with it can be tricky to say the least.
That’s why if you want to improve your results with mental models, one big tip would be to learn from people with a very similar environment to yours — physically, socially, culturally, educationally, and so on.
And after that, you want to think of your model of the “world” as your own personal model of subjective reality.
What does that mean?
Suppose the world is just your own personal simulation. Including your personal avatar, which is you.
Here are a couple points you can use to get started with your mental model of “the world”:
- You are a conscious being in development mode, being sculpted by your experiences in this reality, which is a temporary experience. When you’re done here, maybe you’ll progress to exploring other dimensions of learning and experience. Or maybe you won’t. (That’s for you to decide).
- Your relationship with this reality (the world) is that you are the trainee, and reality is the trainer. The simulation will attempt to train you with or without your cooperation, but it’s easier if you cooperate. You can go faster and enjoy the process with good cooperation as well.
- Resisting the training aspect or failing to acknowledge it just creates “stuckness” in life and slows everything down until you get a clue.
The main way you can apply this model of the world is by noticing what your reality rewards you for and what it doesn’t reward (or punishes).
The money-making advice from earlier — to “find out what has made you money in the past and do more of it, then find out what has lost you money and do less of it” fits the bill here quite nicely. It’s simply responding to the rewards you get.
So a reward from “the simulation” can be an external result like money…
But if you do this enough, over time you’ll learn to put more weight on your own energy and emotional reactions as the form of reward that you appreciate most.
Same goes for what you might consider a lack of reward or a punishment.
There Are Wacky Laws Of Physics
In Your Model Of The World
We’d assume that the laws of physics work the same today as they did a year ago. But in a “simulated" world, the rules can change, sometimes abruptly.
So what worked for you yesterday may not work today.
Have you ever tried to extract your own ‘success process’ from a past accomplishment to remember what worked — but when you tried to apply that process again, it either fell flat or gave you a terrible result?
What worked for me in the past doesn’t always work in the future.
Reality might change the rules on you sometimes, probably to ensure that you keep progressing. It doesn’t allow you to stop growing and coast for too long, and it doesn’t let you remain stuck in repetitive loops.
At first I found this immensely frustrating, but now it makes sense to me. And I actually appreciate it. It’s good to know that I live in a world that doesn't allow me to remain stuck forever.
Personally, my simulation seems to have a sensible algorithm for gradually degrading situations until I get a clue that it’s time for me to change my approach.
If I stubbornly resist, then my simulation will eventually start breaking aspects of my life that were previously working, as a way of jolting me out of my comfort zone.
I’ve learned that I can largely prevent this by consciously staying on a path of growth and cooperating instead of resisting so much.
The training mindset works wonders because it keeps you in the flow of growth, and it doesn’t let you settle in life. But it also allows sufficient time for rest and recreation — and time for human connection and intimacy as well.
Pay attention to the relationship between you and your simulator. This is what Bruce Lee (and the Buddha) described as a…
Finger Pointing To The Moon.
Your moon represents a rewarding and co-creative relationship with your reality, and strengthening this relationship is what you’re really after.
Life is a lot more enjoyable when you’re in the flow of a strong and healthy relationship with your moon.
Pay close attention to when you feel rewarded by life and when you don’t. What would you consider a reward in a simulated reality? What’s the internal side, and what external results would you like to see?
If it feels like the rewards of life aren’t flowing for you, perhaps your simulation is telling you that your approach needs work.
So dialog aloud with your reality and ask what it wants of you. Ask it for signs. Ask it to bonk you over the head with hints and clues. Pay attention to when you feel twinges of positive feelings nudging you in new directions.
For me there are feelings of excitement, stretching, and usually some element of risk when I point my thoughts in the proper direction.
How do you think your reality works? Is it training you too? Or do you have a different way of modeling it? Trust your own best thinking.
The last piece of all this is…
I have found that my ‘simulation’ loves challenging me to trust it more than I have before, and it also rewards self-trust. Some good questions to ask are:
- What would I do if I trusted myself more?
- What would I do if I trusted my reality more?
- Can I trust reality to give me what I need?
- If I stretch myself here, do I trust that reality will support me?
Your relationship with reality may be different, but you'll likely find that trust will be an enormous part of succeeding in your personal simulation.
As you work on healing trust wounds from childhood and deepening your trust in reality more and more – you’ll come to see just how important it is in all relationships. Including the relationships with the people you work with, serve, or interact with on a daily basis.
You want to work with people who trust you, trust themselves, and trust reality. When there’s high trust, we can all go so much further together.
We can communicate authentically and support each other over many years, which is just so refreshingly beautiful.
Your reality won’t give up on you when you’re in low-trust mode, either — it will keep inviting you to sculpt yourself into a high-trust person. Which, when you become that person, will be immensely rewarding in every way you can imagine.