April 12, 2022




6 Techniques to Learn Faster, 10 Rules of Thumb for Better Decisions, & More

At a glance

Welcome to the 832(!!!) new friends of the Mental Models, Concepts, and Frameworks newsletter who have joined us since last week!

Highlights of this newsletter:

  • 6 techniques to learn faster
  • 10 rules of thumb for better decisions
  • How to consistently think critically
  • 10 common logical fallacies
  • Active Reading
  • Ribot's Law
  • Elaborative Encoding
  • The Forgetting Curve
  • Imposter Syndrome
  • Baker/baker Paradox
  • Curse of Knowledge

6 techniques to learn faster

Deliberate Practice

Regular practice involves mindless repetitions and staying in your comfort zone.

Deliberate practice involves focused attention on the micro-components of a skill, specific goals, and feedback on performance from an expert.

H/T (image) - @nateliason

The ADEPT Method

A method to teach yourself a difficult idea, or explain one to others.

It's called making explanations ADEPT: Use an Analogy, Diagram, Example, Plain-English description, and then a Technical description.

Created by @betterexplained.

Spaced Repetition

Memories weaken over time.

If we learn something new, we remember less and less of it as the days and weeks go by: the forgetting curve.

The way to combat this curve is through spaced repetition: repeated exposure to the information to be learned over time.


The process of taking individual pieces of information and grouping them into larger units to make them easier to remember.

The most common example of chunking occurs in phone numbers.

Example: A sequence of 8-5-4-1-3-2-4-9-8-7 would be chunked into 854-1324-987.

Elaborative Interrogation

Involves generating an explanation for why an explicitly stated fact or concept is true.

It's asking yourself questions about how and why things work, and then producing the answers to these questions.

Learning the "Why" aids retention significantly.

The Textbook Method

Write your own textbook chapter on a topic.

It requires a deep understanding of the concepts and how they fit together.

You're forced to be consise and to create a clear mental structure of the topic.

There's no hiding behind knowledge gaps.

10 rules of thumb for better decisions

Taleb's Hiring Heuristic

If presented with two seemingly equal candidates for a role, pick the one with the least label-oriented education.

The one with the least label-oriented education has got there in spite of the higher 'credentialisation' of their competitors.

Growth Razor

The harder the activity, the more likely it will lead to growth.

The easier the activity, the more likely it will lead to stagnation.

1 uncomfortable hour > 10 comfortable hours.

Comfort and growth don't exist in the same room.

Checkhov's Gun

When telling a story, every element included should be essential.

If it's not, don't include it.

"One must never place a loaded rifle on the stage if it isn't going to go off. It's wrong to make promises you don't mean to keep."

Walt Disney's Imagery

The clarity you're seeking comes from a visual.

Complexity is made simple through drawing.

Human's understand and relate to imagery more so than words.

Here's Walt Disney's drawing that reveals the brilliant strategy behind Disney's lasting success.

Schwarzeneggers' Wisdom

If you're a creative, never be reliant on the job with the biggest payday.

This way, you retain your inner joy and pride.

Before acting, Arnold made millions from property and bodybuilding so he never had to say yes to acting gigs he didn't want.

Naval's Razor

Figure out how much an hour of your time is worth. Your 'aspirational hourly' rate.

When deciding whether or not to do a task, ask whether it's worth more or less than your rate.

If it's worth less than your rate, outsource it, automate it, or delete it.

Munger's Razor

Never allow yourself to have an opinion unless you can state the other side's argument better than they can.

This is the antiodote to confirmation bias.

Doing the work required to hold an opinion means you can argue against yourself better than others can.

Hitchen's Razor

What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.

The burden of proof regarding the truthfulness of a claim lies with who makes the claim; if it's not met, then the claim is unfounded.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

Newton’s Flaming Laser Sword

If a question can't be answered through experiment, it's not worth asking.

If something can't be settled by observation, then it's not worthy of debate.

Pick your battles.

Joe Rogan's Razor

If unsure what action to take, act like your life is a movie, and you are the superhero starring in it.

Do what your kids would one day look back at with pride.

How to consistently think critically

The following mental models are philosophical razors.

These are rules of thumb that help eliminate unlikely explanations for a phenomenon.

They're not right 100% of the time, but they are more often than not.

They're therefore useful mental shortcuts to make decisions quicker, avoid logical fallacies, and think critically.

Sagan Standard

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

If someone claims that their name is Bob, that's not an extraordinary claim.

If someone claims that they saw a UFO, that is extraordinary, and must be backed up by extraordinary evidence to prove it.

Hume’s Razor

Causes must be sufficiently able to produce the effect assigned to them.

A fallen power line isn’t enough to cause a national blackout.

If a cause isn’t able to produce the observed effect, we must eliminate it or show what needs to be added to create the effect.

Popper’s Falsifiability Principle

For a theory to be considered scientific, it must be possible to disprove or refute it.

Example: "All swans are white."

If you find one black swan, you would falsify this theory.

Claims that are unfalsifiable should usually be dismissed.

Grice’s Razor

Address what the speaker actually meant, instead of addressing the literal meaning of what they actually said.

Don’t take everything someone says literally and get into silly arguments over semantics or minor details, whilst completely missing the main point.

Duck Test

If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.

If something seems a certain way, it probably is that way.

Appearances can deceive, but there's generally no need to deny reality.

Usually, what you see is what you get.

Tarzwell's Razor

High emotion leads to high bias.

Both science and the justice system hold that dispassion is at the core of their intentions.

”Where there is passion the truth cannot be trusted.”

—James Tarzwell

10 common logical fallacies

Appeal to Authority

Claiming that because an authority or someone of status thinks something, it therefore must be true.

Authority or status holds no bearing upon whether claims are true or not.

Assess the argument, not the origin of the argument.

Composition or Division Fallacy

Arguing that because something is true of individual components, it is also true of the whole (or vice versa).

You believe that you can save more by spending less, and then assume that the economy as a whole can save more by spending less.

Circular Argument

Restating a claim instead of giving any back-up or factual evidence.

Ignoring any question being asked by answering it in multiple different ways.

Example: "You should invite your uncle to the wedding because it would be mean not to invite him."

Appeal To Nature

Claiming that because something is 'natural' it must be valid or good.


1/ “Antibiotics are unnatural, so they're bad for you.”

2/ “Herbal medicine is natural, so it's good for you.”

'Naturalness' alone doesn't make something good or bad.

Black or White Thinking (Either/or Thinking)

Claiming that only two alternative states can be true, when in fact more possibilities exist.

Example: Putting someone in a 'good' or 'bad' category, without accounting for nuance or situational factors that influence behaviour.

Plain Folks Fallacy

When someone attempts to convince an audience that they, and their ideas, are “of the people” and that they are an Average Joe.

They try to convince the audience that they share common goals and should therefore agree with them.

Poisoning the Well

Presenting negative information that is irrelevant before presenting an argument, which makes that argument, or person, seem untrustworthy.

"Before you listen to what he has to say, may I remind you that he has been in jail."

Also called a smear tactic.

Appeal to Consequences

A type of appeal to emotion.

It's an argument that attempts to prove a premise true or false because the consequences of it being true or false are desirable or undesirable.

The desirability of a premise's consequence does not make it true or false.

Loki’s Wager

The unreasonable insistence that a concept cannot be defined, and therefore cannot be discussed.

Can be used to avoid contentious arguments entirely and 'kick' the can down the road.

Avoiding it is critical to making decisions rather than twisting in semantics.

Hasty Generalisation

Closely related to stereotyping, it involves generalising based on general rules from a sample set of data.

It's when someone makes a claim based on evidence that is too small to be conclusive.

You can't make a claim based on only one or two examples.

Active Reading

Involves reading with the purpose of understanding the material deeply and retaining the information.

It's the difference between building real knowledge and chaffeur knowledge.

Don't read for vanity metrics, read to understand deeply.

Ribot's Law

Newer memories are more susceptible to aging than older memories.

Each time we think about a memory, we integrate it more deeply into our existing web of memories and make it less likely to be dislodged.

Lesson: Attach new memories to old memories for retention.

Elaborative Encoding

A method to make new information more memorable.

Involves making new information elaborate and complex by relating it to existing knowledge.

This activates more parts of the brain and interlinks the information, making it less likely to be forgotten.

Example: You're meeting a person for the first time and need to remember their name.

You want to remember the last name Fisher.

You envision the person wearing a silly fish hat and holding a reel as you repeat their name internally.

This is elaborative encoding.

The Forgetting Curve

Memories weaken over time.

If we learn something new, but then make no attempt to relearn that information, we remember less and less of it as the hours, days and weeks go by.

The way to combat this curve is through spaced repetition.

Imposter Syndrome

Occurs when you feel you don't deserve all you've achieved, or that you're going to be exposed as less talented than your surroundings suggest about you.

Surveys indicate 70% of people experience it in their careers.

Baker/baker Paradox

A researcher shows two groups the same photo of a face and tells one that the guy is a baker and the other that his last name is Baker.

Days later, the researcher shows the same groups the same photo and asks for the accompanying word.

What happens next?

The group who was told the man's profession, baker, is much more likely to remember it than the person who was given his surname.

Why should that be?

Same photo.

Same word.

Different retention of the memory.

When you hear that the man in the photo is a baker, that fact gets embedded in a whole network of ideas about what it means to be a baker.

He cooks bread.

He wears a big white hat.

He smells good when he comes home from work.

On the other hand, the name Baker is only connected to a memory of the person's face.

There are less links or strings attached, making it harder to 'reel' the memory back in.

Remembering more is about figuring out how to turn capital "B" Bakers into lowercase "b" bakers.

How can we do this?

1/ Attach new memories to old memories

2/ Make information vivid and exciting

3/ Engage as many senses as possible

4/ We don't remember all types of information equally—visual and spatial are best—so aim to activate these senses when possible

Curse of Knowledge

Once we know something, we assume everyone else knows it, too.

It's why some experts can't explain their field simply.

And why people don't share knowledge that could benefit others.

Remember: There are always people to teach and people to learn from.

That's it! I hope you enjoyed reading :)

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