The Great Mental Models Project

The Great Mental Models is a project by FS to help equalize opportunity in the world by making a high-quality multidisciplinary, interconnected, education free and available to everyone.

That’s a big ambition. To get there, we’re starting with 5 reference books that cover the core, timeless, individual mental models you should have learned in school with a broad education. After we have the individual models, we’ll connect them a dedicated website and add more examples. Then we’ll create a set of META MODELS we can use to hone our thinking and understanding.

Support our effort by buying the books, making a donation, joining the learning community, or any combination of those. Or, sit back and wait. We’re going to make it all free at some point.

“I’m really glad this exists in the world and I can see that I will be recommending it often.”

— Matt Mullenweg, founder and CEO of Automattic

The old saying goes, “To the man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” But anyone who has done any kind of project knows a hammer often isn’t enough.

The more tools you have at your disposal, the more likely you’ll use the right tool for the job — and get it done right.

The same is true when it comes to your thinking. The quality of your outcomes depends on the mental models in your head. And most people are going through life with little more than a hammer.

Until now.

What’s Inside Volume 1

General Thinking Concepts covers the first 9 mental models that we refer to as the General Thinking Concepts. A thorough understanding of these 9 models will, without a doubt, improve the way you approach problems, consider opportunities, and make difficult decisions.

A chapter is dedicated to each model (see a sample chapter on Probabilistic Thinking), dissecting it in three ways. First, we define it. Second, we provide real world examples where this model has been used, (or in some cases, show the consequences of where it was ignored.) And last, we offer suggestions for how these models can be applied in your own life — where they really matter.

It was important to us from the beginning that this be more than an encyclopedia of mental models. It needed to be useful — help change behaviors, thought patterns, and how we interpret what we see. At first we will explain the models in isolation and then we will connect them and build meta models.

Real Readers

“A fascinating listen. This book is an excellent introduction to some better ways of thinking about the world. The voice work is very relaxing, and really helps you sink into the prose. I would certainly recommend this to anyone because the utility of this book is incredibly broad. ”

— Will Bowers

“Broadly informative. This book contains a wealth of information which is elegantly sourced from a broad array of knowledge bases and studies. This information is presented in a way that is elegant and easy to digest. ”

— Benjamin Krotin

“If you’ve read Charlie Munger’s Almanack this is the book you deeply crave in its wake. … Learn the big ideas from the big disciplines and you’ll be able to twist and turn problems in interesting ways at unprecedented speeds. His blog already documents a subset of models, but in this book Shane goes in even more depth with rich examples of each under the umbrella of ‘General Thinking Concepts’, e.g. Occam’s Razor. This is the first in a 5-part series: the encyclopedia of the big ideas from the big disciplines. One that I hope to be recognizable on bookshelves around the world. You owe yourself this book.”

— Simon Eskildsen

“This book is a natural complement to Shane’s blog. It teaches the reader about important mental models in an easy to learn manner. Shane has a wonderful ability to discern what models are most important to decision makers and to teach the reader the key principles behind these models. This book is a great thing for any active decision maker to have – in any industry where you make frequent decisions with no “right answer.” I highly recommend it!”

— Paul Ciampa

How to Order

Volume 1 Audio is out! Kindle comes out Oct 9, 2019 but you can pre-order now. Find details on the physical book below.

How do I get a Physical Book?

We spent a lot of money and time creating 3,000 copies of the physical book that we gave away to members of the Learning Community. But then we were out of books and people sent me emails. A lot of emails. Too many emails.

For those of you who missed out on volume one, my friend and fellow LC member Matt Mullenweg got a copy and reached out telling me he wanted to make it more available in the world. We’re going to partner with Automattic and WordPress, to print more copies of v1, v2, and hopefully v3-5 as well. The books will be co-branded and more widely available. As for timing … stay tuned.

Why Is the Kindle Copy Later

Audible wanted a 6 month exclusive and we gave them one.

Spread the Word

Here are some cool images you can use on social media if you want to spread the word.

  • Avoiding stupidity is easier than seeking brilliance. (Image for twitter/instagram)
  • Understanding is only useful when we adjust our behavior and actions accordingly. (Image for twitter/instagram)

Volume Two: Physics, Chemistry, and Biology

Building on the idea that learning worldly wisdom improves our decisions and our outcomes, and leads to a more meaningful life, volume 2 of The Great Mental Models series explains the foundational concepts of physics, chemistry, and biology, demonstrating the value of having these models in your toolkit. These fundamental concepts are everywhere, and if you want to make decisions based on how the world really works, thereby improving your chances of success, then these are critical models to understand. Each chapter explains the key concepts of the science, and then explores how to use them as a model through examining historical examples.

When will Volume Two be Available?

No idea. Hopefully this year in kindle/audio. The physical book might be delayed.

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Volume 1: General Thinking Concepts [Bonus Material]