(2018-12-31) Chin A Framework For Putting Mental Models To Practice Part1 Mungers Speech

Cedric Chin: A Framework for Putting Mental Models to Practice, Part 1: Charlie Munger's Speech. It is really, really difficult to create a deliberate practice program for an unstructured skill — even Anders Ericsson himself admits that he does not know how to deploy deliberate practice for skills like solving crossword puzzles and folk dancing. The self-help hacks who have never actually tried putting this into practice will not mention that it’s really difficult.

The Framework

Use intelligent trial and error in service of solving problems (Problem Solving)

Concurrently use the two techniques known for building expertise (deliberate practice and perceptual exposure) to build skills in order to get at more difficult problems.

Periodically attempt to generalise from what you have learnt during the above steps into explicit mental models.

none of this will make sense without a framework — that is, a structure to organise these concepts and to explain why it works. So, in the next few posts, I’ll cover:

you should judge them according to what they’ve actually accomplished, keeping in mind that what works for them might not work for you because of hidden differences in their person or in their situation.

A more concrete example suffices. There are many self-help blog posts about deliberate practice, but a quick way to filter for usefulness is to scan the article for hints that the writer has actually tried putting deliberate practice into … well, practice

In science, what is ‘true’ was worked out by a bunch of philosophers in a branch of knowledge we call philosophy of science

My background is in software development and management. My goal is to build a business of my own

for now, I want to focus on two principles.

There’s a famous speech delivered by Charlie Munger at the USC's Business School in 1994, titled Elementary Worldly Wisdom. In it, Munger argues that you should learn lots of mental models from a large selection of disciplines, and then use that to provide context and colour to your decision making processes. This practice, Munger asserts, leads to wisdom; it is how he became so successful at investing and at life.

I have one problem with this approach, though. I think Munger’s prescription isn’t rigorously actionable. Or, to put this another way: I've put it into practice, and it doesn’t seem to make me better.

It is usually at this point that someone pipes in to say that “mental models are ways of looking at the world. I don’t think you can really practice them.” I reject this claim

I think there are two interpretations to what’s going on here. I’m not yet sure which is the right one.

The first is that perhaps Munger wasn’t speaking to me.

The second interpretation is that perhaps Munger’s recommendations lends itself more strongly to investing and finance.

if you aren’t in finance, as I am, then you’ll need an alternative approach

Quick Digression: Epistemological Setup

This framework is for this second group

in order to be rigorous, we need to have a framework for evaluating truth in the context of practice.

But there are alternative forms of knowledge

The Ancient Greeks call this knowledge ‘techne’, or art. I’ll call it ‘practice’.

The reason we must be clear of the differences is because smart people conflate scientific standards for knowledge with practical standards for knowledge all the time. See, for instance, this example of economist Robin Hanson holding Ray Dalio’s Principles up to the standards of science. He finds it badly-written and wanting. But a practitioner can mine Dalio’s Principles for actionable techniques and apply it to their own lives to great effect.

The first — and probably the single most important — principle is to ‘let reality be the teacher’.

The second principle flows from the first. When it comes to practice, one should pay attention to actual practitioners. This is because their approaches have been tested by reality.

I don’t believe Munger was recommending ‘Elementary Worldly Wisdom’ as a path to mastery. I think he was recommending it in addition to the normal ways humans achieve mastery.


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