When we are on our growth journeys, we are constantly looking for gems of knowledge that will help us level up, wherever we can. After reading an article, listening to a podcast, or watching that video - we tend to feel motivated, and ready to change the world. But more often than not, after digesting the material our life doesn't end up changing much for the better. But why is that?
Today, I want to teach you how you can exponentially increase the efficiency of your learning with systems. You'll learn about mental models, and how you can break down complex ideas into actionable steps to follow. Let's get right into it!
If you prefer a video format, click below! 👇
First, I want to help you understand the important concept of mental models. Mental models are how we understand the world, and make decisions. The world is full of stimuli, and we cannot keep all of the details in our brains, so we often use models to simplify complex ideas into understandable and actionable first principles. An easy way to think about it is that we all have programs inside our brains that help us make decisions automatically based on our past experiences.
When we learn something new, we are adding new information to our model. The quality of our thinking is dependent to the models in our heads and their usefulness in the situation at hand. For example, because we have the mental model of gravity, we know that when we drop a ball, it will fall to the ground.
We learn our mental models from our life experiences and our professional training - and it is often apparent when we see an engineer thinking in systems, a psychologist in incentives, and a biologist in terms of evolution. Training new models is extremely difficult because our brain tries to reject new information that challenges our understanding of the world. This is why we tend to favour information that agrees with our way of thinking, which is a phenomenon called confirmation bias.
This is a survival instinct because if we act on the wrong information and change what is currently working, we may get into trouble - so we usually don't upgrade our mental models unless in life or death situations. This is one of the main reasons why we end up reverting back to old routines soon after we decide to change. So what can we do to break down this resistance and learn as fast as we can?
One of my favorite growth hacks is to apply business concepts to personal life. We already have so many proven models on how to grow companies sustainably, and I've found great success in using these models in personal development. So let's use a professional example to illustrate my point. The best leaders are able to break down complex processes into actionable steps so that others can follow in their footsteps. They do this so that their team can perform complex tasks without requiring a full understanding and memorization of the fundamentals behind the entire workflow - and output similar levels of work.
For example, instead of having to teach a new employee from scratch how to write a blog, they can simply share a checklist that details out the steps and best practices to fleshing out an outline, defining the audience, writing the content, publishing on social media, and so on. Eventually, the new team member will remember the steps through immersion and enhance the process through experience.
Example: Fear Setting
Building a system can be as simple as making a checklist, or as complex as creating a whole life management system. It really is whatever works best for you. But when you create a system, here are the best practices that you should follow.
Break It Down
First, break down the new learning you've absorbed into the why, what, and how. Ask why the concept works for the creator, what does the concept do, and then finally, how is it achieved.
Let's go through a personal example. Last year, I listened to an amazing Ted talk by Tim Ferris about fear-setting, where he shared an exercise from his book, the 4 hours workweek, on how he tackled fears that were holding him back on big decisions in his life. In the talk, Tim shared that he used to have a lot of fears that were holding him back in life, and thus he wanted to use fears to his advantage, instead of letting them take advantage. The outcome he was looking for was a way to take action on his worst fears that were paralyzing him.
How he did it, was to clearly define the fear (instead of keeping it vague and scary), exploring actions that would prevent the situation from happening, and then making a plan on what he would do to repair the situation. He considered the costs of inaction.
Take What is Useful
Next, take what is useful for the current situation you are in, because if you're not able to apply your knowledge immediately, you will most likely not remember it.
When I was watching the talk, I didn't have any big fears that I was running away from, but rather many micro fears that I knew motivated a lot of my decisions and actions. I knew that my fears, while keeping me productive, made me anxious and uncertain for the future. Thus, I knew I had to also define my fears, and connect them to my goals - so I can feel at ease knowing that I am taking steps to tackle the fear, and even if my goals don't prevent the situation, it would be okay.
Knowing that this eureka moment was realistically going to only last me a few days at most, I built in a step of defining and relating fears in my workflow when creating new goals.
Sharing Is Caring
Lastly, make it sharable! Systems built on first principles should be applicable across a wide audience of people who face similar challenges to you. This offers you the opportunity to help others who would also benefit from your learning and can immediately make that learning actionable.
It was also very helpful to apply this concept for my friends and family that were plagued by thoughts of the worst case scenarios 24/7. This template helped them write all their fears down, and rid their anxiety by setting a clear success plan flow to tackle each and every one of their perceived fears.
Then, they could concentrate on a singular fear at a time, and know that they are making positive progress towards the things that are keeping them up at night. And finally, they know that even if they are not able to prevent the fear from actualizing, it might not actually be that bad - because they've defined what they can do to repair the situation.
Why We Build Systems
Systems are an accumulation of mental models, designed to help you think in new ways by following a workflow or checklist; which makes it easier for you to train the new model and see the results for yourself. What we've done inside the Co-x3 Family is to take the best of the world's knowledge and integrate their first principles into systems. We're doing this because we know it's extremely difficult to take action on your learning. Knowledge today is ubiquitous but there is not enough education on how to make the things you learn useful in your life.
I like creating templates in Notion because it makes building and sharing systems easy. We can simply invite other people as editors on any page we'd like, and also duplicate templates to take to our own workspaces.
So, we're on a mission to build systems that help us live with intention, improve productivity, and make work fun. We've learned from the greats to distill their knowledge into templates that we can all benefit from.
Our goal is to help you upgrade your mental models through the use of systems, and teach you how to augment the systems to fit your own unique lives. We also love to learn, so we want to build new templates together with you. Join us on our Friday Live Builds on Friday, 9pm Eastern to have direct influence over what we build next!
And if you want to learn the principles behind being intentional and gamify your life to integrate into any system that you want, we've just opened signups for the next cohorts of our LVL-UP Course - signups close on May 3!