"Letter to Your Future Self | The Curiosity Chronicle" - How to Make Smart Decisions Without Getting Lucky

Tara H

Hatched by Tara H

Jan 23, 2024

4 min read


"Letter to Your Future Self | The Curiosity Chronicle" - How to Make Smart Decisions Without Getting Lucky

Why 5 years? Anecdotally, I have found that 5 years is the amount of time in which meaningful life change happens. When I thought about my own life, there were significant differences in my situation, mental state, and ambitions from age 15 to 20 to 25, so it struck me as an appropriate interval for the letters. The four areas I am sure to address in each letter: Reflections on the Present, Changes to Make, Goals for the Future, Fun & Crazy Predictions.

Mental models shape how you think, how you approach problems, and how you identify the information that matters and ignore what doesn’t. The mental models in your head are your cognitive skillset. Not all decisions matter. Most decisions, like where to grab a sandwich, are unimportant. The consequences of these decisions don’t matter. Yet some decisions are critical — they change our lives. Whether it's who to trust, where to live, or whom to marry, these decisions reverberate for years.

"I regard it as a criminal waste of time to go through the slow and painful ordeal of ascertaining things for one’s self if these same things have already been ascertained and made available by others." — Thomas Edison

There are, however, many easily recognizable situations that increase the odds we’re about to do something stupid. Whether we’re tired, overly focused on a goal, rushing, distracted, operating in a group, or under the influence of a group, we’re more prone to stupidity. We have the wrong information. Making decisions with the wrong assumptions or facts is likely to lead to disaster.

We use mental models to make decisions. The quality of those models determines the quality of our thinking. There are a variety of reasons that we use false, incomplete, or incorrect models. We unconsciously make choices based on optics, politics, and defendability. We hate criticism and seek the validation of our peers and superiors. We often want to feel good about ourselves first and have the outcome we desire second.

In the early 1980s, Charlie Munger and his partner Warren Buffett realized that a Savings & Loan operation they owned, as with the rest of the industry, was doomed to fail miserably due to forces outside of their control. This realization prompted them to develop a set of mental models and decision-making techniques that would help them avoid making similar disastrous decisions in the future.

Inversion is a problem-solving technique that involves thinking something through in reverse or thinking "backwards." By considering the opposite of what we want to achieve or the negative consequences of our decisions, we can uncover blind spots and potential pitfalls.

Second-Order Thinking is a powerful mental model that involves asking ourselves, "And then what?" instead of just considering the immediate consequences of our decisions. By thinking through the potential second and third-order effects, we can better evaluate the long-term implications of our choices.

"The map of reality is not reality itself." This mental model reminds us that our perceptions and understanding of the world are limited and subjective. The map we create in our minds to navigate through life is not a perfect representation of the actual territory. We must constantly challenge our assumptions and seek new information to ensure our mental models align with reality.

To make smart decisions without relying on luck, it is essential to incorporate these mental models into our decision-making process. By practicing inversion, engaging in second-order thinking, and recognizing the limitations of our mental models, we can improve the quality of our decisions and avoid unnecessary mistakes.

In conclusion, making smart decisions requires a combination of self-awareness, critical thinking, and a willingness to challenge our own assumptions. By incorporating mental models such as inversion, second-order thinking, and recognizing the limitations of our mental maps, we can navigate through life with greater clarity and make choices that align with our long-term goals. So, take the time to reflect on your present, make the necessary changes, set goals for the future, and don't forget to have fun along the way. Your future self will thank you.

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