Mental Models For Lifelong Learning

Mental Models For Lifelong Learning

This month I started reading through, “Personal MBA,” by Josh Kaufman. My goals for reading this book are too have a basic understanding of the major processes involved in running a business as well as familiarize myself with common business terms.

Kaufman begins his book by providing a few reasons for why someone might be reading such as, “business angst” and “imposter syndrome,” and goes on to offer reassurance that these principles are easy to learn and incredibly beneficial. He makes the point that one doesn’t need to know everything about business in order to be a successful business owner or employee, and that the principles in this book can be used to “make things happen” and “accomplish even the most challenging business goals with surprising ease.” In my reading so far, I agree that this books gives the reader enough essential information to begin asking the right questions to solve problems and make better decisions. I love this aspect of the book. It’s more of a supplement to your natural creativity and unique skill set as opposed to simply a manual of how to do this or that.

This leads into his section on “mental models.” He defines mental models as concepts that represent your understanding of how things work. Kaufman states that we form these models naturally as we recognize patterns in our lives. The example he cites is driving a car. When you press on the right pedal you expect the car to accelerate, and that expectation is based on some kind of previous information. These models, Kaufman explains, can sometimes be based on inaccurate information, and correcting some of the common misconception about starting and operating a business is one of the goals of the book.

This idea of mental models reminds me of the book, “The Last Safe Investment,” by Bryan Franklin and Michael Ellsberg. They define mental models as, “a simplified functional representation of something larger and more complex.” This is very similar to what Kaufman is referring to, but Franklin and Ellsberg present this idea through simple graphical models that help you visualize how a particular system or process works. The example they provide is eating a sandwich. How do you get from a hungry belly to a face full of ham on rye?

While Kaufman provides a brief overview of mental models, Franklin and Ellsberg go a bit deeper, explaining and demonstrating how these tools can be used to help learn new concepts. What I think is great about these models is that it allows me to effectively organize and make use of new information. I’ve been trying to learn more about marketing strategies that don’t involve social media advertisements for my tobacco business, and building a mental model has helped me to organize these processes and prioritize my efforts. 
Mental models are great tools for learning, and it seems as if they are pretty common among successful people. I’m having a lot of fun with this book, and Josh Kaufman’s writing so far has been engaging and witty. I’m also enjoying his contrarian perspective toward the motives, incentives and outcomes of traditional business management programs. I can safely say that I’m learning a lot from “Personal MBA,” and I’m excited to continue documenting it all.