George MacGill: Mental Models 102 | The Decision Strikes Back – Modern Wisdom

Watch the interview here

Key Takeaways

  • Take extreme ownership of your life – view everything as your responsibility
    • “I always go back to the thought experiment of having two identical versions of yourself. The one that takes extreme ownership over everything will always outperform the one who doesn’t.”
  • No matter what happens in life and no matter what goes wrong, your response should always be – “GOOD”
    • View EVERYTHING as an opportunity
  • Become someone who thrives with disorder
  • The people you surround yourself with influence your output and way of thinking way more than you might imagine
  • “Whatever’s available to you, you have to instill willpower to avoid… Given enough time, given enough of a lack of sleep, you’re probably going to give in at some point.”
  • Mental Model: George McGill’s Razor
    • When presented with two options, choose the one that brings about the greater amount of luck
  • Remember – you don’t always have to have an opinion 
    • Charlie Munger refuses to have a position on anything unless he can state the other side of an argument better than the other side can 
  • George challenges everyone to answer this famous question from Peter Thiel:
    • “What do you believe to be true that the rest of the world disagrees with you on?”
  • There are MANY things we do today that people 50 years from now will look back on as being absolutely idiotic
    • On a personal note – there are things you’re doing now which you’ll cringe at just 5 years from now

Books & Resources Mentioned

  • Check out Paul Graham’s essay – Cities and Ambition
    • The takeaway – Whether the conversations you overhear, the people you’re around, or the cars that drive by… every city constantly whispers something to you
  • Super Thinking: The Big Book of Mental Models by Gabriel Weinberg is a must read for those looking to improve their decision-making skills
  • To learn more about the “Extreme Ownership” mental model, check out Jocko Willink’s Extreme Ownership
  • To learn more about the “Antifragility” mental model, give Nassim Taleb’s Antifragile a read
  • George highly recommends After On by Rob Reid
    • In the book, an AI chooses the perfect partner for you based on every one of your interests/preferences
  • A clip from clip from Rick and Morty everyone needs to watch
  • To learn more about the “Anchoring” mental model, check out Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely
  • Tim Urban’s legendary blog post on Elon Musk – The Cook and the Chef: Musk’s Secret Sauce
  • George’s favorite blog post of all time – 6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You a Better Person by David Wong
  • Chris highly recommends Chasing Excellence by Ben Bergeron
  • Chris released a podcast with Alex Hutchinson earlier this year, author of Endure
  • George has found the HabitShare app to be very helpful when it comes to picking up new habits
  • A great quote from James Clears’ Atomic Habits:
    • “Changing your habits often requires you to change your tribe. Each tribe has a set of shared expectations. Behaviors that conform to the shared expectations are attractive. Behaviors that conflict with the shared expectations are unattractive. It’s hard to go against the group.”
  • The Everything Store by Brad Stone – the book details the rise of Amazon and Jeff Bezos

Intro

  • Host – Chris Williamson (@ChrisWillx)
  • George McGill (@george_mack) is DEFINITELY someone you should follow on Twitter
  • Check out the Podcast Notes from Mental Models 101
    • It’s the most played Modern Wisdom episode to date 

Every City Has a Whisper

  • Check out Paul Graham’s essay – Cities and Ambition
    • George, who lives in London now (the Mayfair area), says the essay played a big part in convincing him to move to a big city
    • One takeaway: Every city whispers something to you
      • Whether the conversations you overhear, the people you’re around, the cars that drive by… you’re constantly getting whispered to
      • NY whispers “make more money”
      • LA whispers”be more famous”
      • SH whispers “be more powerful”
    • In Mayfair, George is constantly surrounded by wealth – he’s nothing but motivated to do well for himself

Mental Model – The Unforced Error

  • This mental model comes from Super Thinking: The Big Book of Mental Models by Gabriel Weinberg
    • The concept: do all you can to prepare to avoid bad outcomes
      • Ex. – Making a bad first impression
      • Ex. – Getting in a car crash because you were texting
    • “An unforced error is the most basic way you can be wrong. Independent of all other circumstances, you done fucked up.” – Chris

Drawing Mental Models from Jocko Willink

  • Mental Model – Extreme Ownership
    • Everything is your responsibility 
      • Even if it’s not, it’s sometimes very helpful to think it is
    • Check out Jocko’s book – Extreme Ownership
    • “I always go back to the thought experiment of having two identical versions of yourself. The one that takes extreme ownership over everything will always outperform the one who doesn’t.
  • Mental Model – GOOD
    • No matter what happens in life, no matter what goes wrong, your response should be – “GOOD”
      • View EVERYTHING as an opportunity
        • Car won’t start? – Good. You can walk to the gym.
        • Girlfriend break up with you? – Good. Time to improve yourself.
        • Feeling like crap? – Good. It’s an opportunity for you to train in a sub-optimal state.

Mental Model – Antifragility

  • This one originates from Nassim Taleb, author of Antifragileand a few other classics – The Black Swan, Fooled by Randomness, and Skin in the Game
  • The main idea – Become someone who thrives and improves from disorder
    • Think of a glass cup: if you drop it on the floor (disorder), it breaks (AKA it’s fragile)
  • How can you do this? – There are quite a few ways:
    • Have multiple sources of income – this way, if you lose your job (disorder), you’ll be fine
    • Exercise and build strength – if you stumble and lose your balance, you’re more likely not to hurt yourself
    • Look for business opportunities where no matter what happens, you’ll experience an upside

Mental Model – Finding Good in the Bad

  • This one originates from Josh Waitzkin in his first appearance on The Tim Ferriss Show
    • It’s very easy to get bummed out when it rains and let it affect your mood
      • Josh realized parents instill this in their kids by encouraging them to stay inside when it’s raining rather going out to actually enjoy the “bad” weather
        • So, he flipped it. Josh taught his son to look at rain and think: “Oh, look at how beautiful it is! Let’s go outside and enjoy it!”
  • This one ties into Jocko’s “Good” mental model (described above)
  • George adds – “When everything’s going bad, I say ‘good.’ When everything’s going good, I say ‘bad.'”
    • When times are good, it’s quite easy to take your foot off the gas
    • When times are bad, it’s an opportunity to thrive

Mental Model – Surround Yourself With People You Admire

  • “I definitely find the biggest influence in my output and the way I think is who I’m around”
  • Think of two versions of yourself:
    • In one world, you spend most of your time around a positive and motivational person (like David Goggins)
    • In another world, you spend most of your time around a sloth (the type of person who always has negative blinders on)
    • After a year, imagine these two people meet – they’ll be completely different!
  • High agency people actively seek out those they admire and want to emulate
    • Chris thinks David Perell largely fits this bill – “He’s always the dumbest person in the room in one of multiple domains and he keeps changing the domain””

Mental Model – Directional Arrows of Progress

  • This one comes from Josh Wolfe (as discussed in these Podcast Notes). Here’s how Josh explains it:
    • “The half-life of technology intimacy” is a trend related to how we interact with our computers:
      • 50 years ago, you had a giant computer the size of multiple refrigerators sitting in the corner of a room
        • The way you would interact would be to flip it’s switches, and pull plugs etc.
      • 25 years ago – we first got personal computers
        • How did we interact with them? – Mainly through a keyboard and a computer mouse
      • 12.5 years ago – the dominant form of computers became laptops
        • Now it’s physically on your lap, so the computer has gotten closer to you
      • 6.5 years ago – the iPhone
        • It’s the last thing we touch at night, as well as the first thing we touch in the morning
        • You “swipe” it and “tap” it
        • The only physical barrier with the human body is a thin film of fabric in your pants
      • 3.5 years ago – the smartwatch
        • This is constant physical contact with the skin, with no barrier
      • 1.5 years ago – AirPods 
        • People actually forget they’re wearing these
  • George adds to the above – “You can’t predict the future, but you can assume computing as we know it, or hardware as we know it, will continue to get smaller, more powerful, cheaper, and nearer to our bodies”
  • Apply the above to relationships:
    • Way back, you might marry whoever was assigned to you in the tribe
    • In our grandparents time, people tended to only marry those who lived in close proximity 
    • Nowadays, with online dating, you can meet people from all over the world
    • Related: George highly recommends After On by Rob Reid (also check out the After On podcast)
      • In the book, an AI chooses the perfect partner for you based on every one of your interests/preferences
      • “There are probably 1,000 people out there who would give you the best relationship you could ever imagine… It’s an awful thing to say, but 99.999% of relationships aren’t the best relationship for a certain individual based on the numbers.”
        • But we’re getting better – imagine a scenario in the future where you’re able to select among the 1,000 people who are truly a perfect match

Mental Model – Availability Bias

  • “Whatever’s available to you, you have to instill willpower to avoid… Given enough time, given enough of a lack of sleep, you’re probably going to give in at some point.”
  • Design your environment to the best of your availability
    • In a moment of weakness, make the worst thing you could eat be a piece of dark chocolate

Fixing the Social media Addiction

  • Instead of trying to fix social media addiction by attacking the platforms, let’s look at the smartphones (AKA – instead of trying to prevent people from using heroin, fix the needle)
    • Apple has begun showing us screen times, but perhaps they could take it a step further? – How about a leaderboard system where you’re able to see, of your friends, who’s spent the least about of time on X social network during the past week.
      • “Being on Instagram for 5 hours a day is quite a sad thing… If others knew you did this, you’d actually look like a bit of a loser.”
  • OR – if it’s been decided that social media addiction is indeed bad for mental health, run an XPRIZE-like contest for entrepreneurs
    • Tax the social media sites and whoever comes up the the best method/solution, in terms of fixing the problem, gets the funding
  • “There needs to be some real innovation when it comes to the problem of social media” – Chris
    • People have iPads at just 2 years of age – who knows what the long-term effects are of this?
    • It’s obvious that it’s extremely harmful to use MDMA twice a week – is spiking your dopamine levels hundreds of times a day all that different?
  • But what about the benefits of tech?
    • ~70% of relationships now begin online
    • The age of those coming out of the closet has dropped significantly due to the fact that people have access to various online communities to make the process easier

Mental Model – Zeitheimer’s

  • The name is a combo of “zeitgest” and “Alzheimer’s”
  • Every generation tends to assume their problems are the absolute worst – we forget about the daily struggles of our ancestors
    • Our generation is complaining about social media addiction – people less than a hundred years ago were dying on battlefields during world wars
  • Chris argues: “As a society progresses the fidelity and resolution with which we look at our well-being has to advance as well. It’s no good saying, ‘100 years ago we would have been in the trenches,’ because it isn’t 100 years ago…. Just because it’s not as bad as it was doesn’t mean it’s as good as it can be.”

A Few Interesting Thoughts

  • As society flourishes and we’ve gained access to a world of positive experiences at our fingertips, people have begun to pay for negative experiences
    • Ex: Meditation retreats, running marathons, float tanks
    • A future example: Imagine, with VR, being able to pay to experience a war battle the past
      • Related – check out the famous Roy clip from Rick and Morty
  • “Realistically, life is just a video game”

Mental Models – The Razors

  • As background – The reason it’s called a razor is because you lean into it
  • Occam’s Razor – When in doubt, when presented with two similar solutions, go with the simpler one
    • (AKA – assume the simplest solution is the answer and then look for counter-evidence against it)
  • Hanlon’s Razor – Don’t attribute to malice what can be attributed to stupidity
    • Don’t assume someone did something because they’re a bad person, assume they did it out of stupidity
  • George MacGill’s Razor – When presented with two options, choose the one that brings about the greater amount of luck. Examples:
    • Choosing to network or spend time with someone who DMd you on Twitter rather than sitting home alone
    • Complimenting a stranger rather than staying quiet
    • DMing someone on Twitter vs. not
    • Going up to a girl at a bar vs. not

Mental Model – Third Story

  • In a situation consisting of two individuals, there are 3 points of view
    • Person A’s POV
    • Person B’s POV
    • And the POV from an outside, impartial observer
      • Most of the time, the impartial observer’s POV is correct
  • This is similar to how Charlie Munger refuses to have a position on anything unless he can state the other side of an argument better than the other side can 
    • You don’t always have to have an opinion 

Mental Model – The Self-Serving Bias

  • People have self-serving reasons for their own actions and behavior, but when they’re observing the behavior of others, they excuse it as part of their intrinsic nature
    • Ex: If you cut someone off in traffic, you excuse yourself because you’re in a rush
      • But if someone else cuts you off, you think negatively of them

Mental Model – Public Proclamation

  • Whatever you proclaim, you’re more likely to be
    • If you identify as a happy person to your friends, well… it’s that much easier to look on the bright side
    • Naval Ravikant famously did this prior to starting his first company – he went around to everyone at his job proclaiming to be an entrepreneur who would eventually be working for himself

Mental Model – Anchoring

  • This is discussed more in Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely in the following example:
    • One study presented people with 3 purchase options:
      • Web-only for $59 (16% of people chose this option)
      • Print-only for $125 (0% of people chose this option)
      • Print and web for $125 (84% of people chose this option)
    • When the third option was removed:
      • 68% chose to purchase the “web-only” option
      • 32% chose to purchase the “print-only” option
    • Conclusion: Humans tend to “anchor” off of stated prices, making our future opinions/decisions relative to them
  • More broadly, we tend anchor the quality of an experience off the end-point
    • This is why woman tend to remember the process of child birth more positively than it actually is (because the end point – the birth – is very positive)
    • People also tend to remember vacations more positively if the ending is joyful/fun

Mental Model – Orthogonal Fort

  • This is the idea of coming at a problem from a completely different angle – a few examples:
    • The first guy one put soft padding on a ping pong paddle
    • The guy who reinvented the Olympic high jump by going over backwards instead or forwards
    • Putting a suitcase on wheels
  • Funny enough, these innovative ideas, if they work out well, then become the norm
  • This ties into the famous Peter Thiel question: “What do you believe to be true that the rest of the world disagrees with you on?”
    • Really try to answer this question for yourself
  • Related – there are MANY things we do today that people 50 years from now will look back on as being absolutely idiotic
    • Think of it on a personal level – there are things which you’re doing now you’ll cringe at just 5 years from now

Mental Model – Be a Chef, Not a Cook

  • Check out Tim Urban’s legendary blog post on Elon Musk – The Cook and the Chef: Musk’s Secret Sauce
    • A cook follows the recipe, a chef creates his own
  • Ask yourself- “How many areas of life am I doing things a certain way because that’s the way it’s always been done? Where am I following the status quo?”

George’s Favorite Blog Post of All Time

  • 6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You a Better Person by David Wong
  • One of these truths – you are what you can present to society and society is only bothered by what it can get from you
    • All that society cares about is what you can produce
    • Related: Paul Graham has famously said – “Make something people want”
  • Another – What you’ve done is a real reflection of who you are
    • What you produce is a reflection of your thoughts
    • George adds: “We can all edit our Instagram photos to look like successful entrepreneurs, but your P&L sheet is what actually matters”

Additional Notes

  • Whenever you assign a label to yourself, it’s that much more difficult to change your mind
    • “I admire people so much more once they’ve been gung-ho on something and then they decide to go the other way”
  • Chris highly recommends Chasing Excellence by Ben Bergeron
  • Chris released a podcast with Alex Hutchinson earlier this year, the author of Endure
  • George has found the HabitShare app to be very helpful for picking up new habits
    • The app allows friends to compete against one another in regards to picking up new habits
  • Chris brings up a quote from James Clears’ Atomic Habits:
    • “Changing your habits often requires you to change your tribe. Each tribe has a set of shared expectations. Behaviors that conform to the shared expectations are attractive. Behaviors that conflict with the shared expectations are unattractive. It’s hard to go against the group.”
  • Check out The Everything Store by Brad Stone which details the rise of Amazon and Jeff Bezos
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