mental models

By 2020 Your Skills Will Be Unimportant, But Why

You have wasted your time in becoming a professional, who no longer learns.

Alex Gray, a Senior Writer at Formative Content, notes “By 2020, the Fourth Industrial Revolution will have brought us advanced robotics and autonomous transport, artificial intelligence and machine learning, advanced materials, biotechnology, and genomics.” Gray continues, “Five years from now, over one-third of skills (35%) that are considered important in today’s workforce will have changed.”

Becoming An Expert Has Put You At A Disadvantage

If your skills are no longer important, how will you make a living? What will be your life’s purpose? Could Gray be wrong in her assessment, perhaps it’s just an opinion?

Then panic begins to snake its way into your brain, and you discover, “I haven’t had to learn anything new in decades.” While the questions you have asked are an attempt to rationalize the facts, the actual problem is you.

Professionally you have become an expert. You have made the decision that you have learned all that you need to learn to do your job well. You have grown comfortable in the knowing mindset, which makes you less open to new ideas, other possibilities and even questioning your world view.

You have habitualized the application of your expertise. Neurologist Robert Burton calls this phenomenon the certainty epidemic. Burton explains, “Your resulting sense of certainty feels like the only logical and justifiable conclusion to a conscious and deliberate line of reasoning.”

Unfortunately, you have limited your conclusions based solely on a finite subset of available data. The single source of truth has served you well the World is evolving, because of the fusion of technologies. While this blurring of technologies speaks to a number advances between the physical, digital, and biological spheres, they also give birth to a series of complex problems that will require new levels of critical thinking and creativity.

Charlie Munger Says You Are Unwise

The long-term treatment for the epidemic is constant learning, specifically building a latticework of mental models. What is a mental model? It’s an explanation of how something works. Your mental model is a theory, a belief, a worldview that guides your decisions making; helping you understand the relationships between events.

I first learned about the importance of mental models from Charlie Munger, vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway. In a 1944 speech at USC Business School titled “A Lesson on Elementary Worldly Wisdom,” Munger details the importance mental models.

What are the models? Well, the first rule is that you've got to have multiple models because if you just have one or two that you're using, the nature of human psychology is such that you'll torture reality so that it fits your models, or at least you'll think it does.

It's like the old saying, “To the man with only a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.” And of course, that's the way the chiropractor goes about practicing medicine. But that's a perfectly disastrous way to think and a perfectly disastrous way to operate in the world. So you've got to have multiple models.

And the models have to come from multiple disciplines because all the wisdom of the world is not to be found in one little academic department. That's why poetry professors, by and large, are so unwise in a worldly sense. They don't have enough models in their heads. So you've got to have models across a fair array of disciplines.

Remixing Of Ideas Is Your Only Solution

So what are the multiple disciplines that you must focus on? Microsoft founder Bill Gates suggests he would place his focus on:

  1. Artificial Intelligence
  2. Energy
  3. Bioscience

Where do you being learning about these topics? The most straightforward solution is to read, but you have to read wide then deep. No, blog posts won’t do, the coverage is shallow. I am referring to books, for example:

  1. Artificial Intelligence — “The Master Algorithm,” by Pedro Domingos
  2. Energy — “Energy and Civilization: A History,” by Vaclav Smil
  3. Bioscience — “The Vital Question,” by Nick Lane

As you begin assimilating information questions should start popping into your head:

  1. Why does artificial intelligence need neural networks?
  2. Why can’t we optimize our resources by creating regional electricity grids?
  3. Why couldn’t we replace all of the tissues in the human body through engineering?

Once you have healthy list of Why questions now have some fun by asking What if:

  1. What if we could build learners that build neural networks?
  2. What if we could build self-replicating electricity grids?
  3. What if nanobots could repair the damaged tissue?

Now we are being to build interest in learning more about the Why and What if scenarios, but the How is what fuels the latticework of mental models:

  1. How do we build an advanced algorithm that builds neural networks?
  2. How will self-replicating electricity grids be funded?
  3. How will we program that nanobots to only repair damaged tissue and leave the healthy tissue, alone?

The exercise is designed to help you see past the conventional answers and seek out the speculative ideas. Ideas that might not even, at least on the surface, have a natural connection. Author Warren Berger notes, “What If questions — often involves the ability to combine ideas and influences, to mix and remix things that might not ordinarily go together.”

The 10,000-Hour Rule No Longer Works

I know this is a lot of work, but that is how you build new mental models. That is how you inoculate yourself against, your skills being unimportant in five years. Specifically, that is how you build valuable skills. The World Economic Forum explains that in 2020 these will be the most sought-after skills:

  1. Complex Problem Solving
  2. Critical Thinking
  3. Creativity
  4. People Management
  5. Coordinating with others
  6. Emotional Intelligence
  7. Judgement and Decision Making
  8. Service Orientation
  9. Negotiation
  10. Cognitive Flexibility

Do you currently have any of these skills? Do you have mastery over that skill? When I say mastery I am not referring to expertise or the 10,000-hour rule which was popularized by Malcolm Gladwell, I am referring to having the competence of a skill so you can help solve someone’s problem.

Being able to solve someone’s problem is always an in-demand tool. If you have the rich latticework of mental models, you can summon that knowledge to, “combine ideas and influences, to mix and remix things that might not ordinarily go together.” You might come up with a solution to a complex AI that has its roots in bioscience or solves a complex energy problem that has roots in AI.

You must take ownership and build your understanding of not just how one thing works but how lots of things work. You must fight the natural tendency that dictates, “to the man with only a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.”

This One Staggering Habit Will Propel You Towards Success

You’ve always been impressed by people who were intelligent, accomplished and always seem to have the right answers. Privately, you would ask, “How did he become so wise?” While some part of you wanted to ask the question, a more substantial part of you refused. Why, perhaps you attributed their success to some natural gift of intelligence; even good genes.

Resistance Is Not Futile, It's Deadly

You are not alone. I also thought that people who were intelligent, accomplished and always seem to have the right answers, were gifted; and I felt I was not gifted at all. I spent the better part of my life accepting the narrative, “I would never be smart.” I was complicit with the Resistance in my self-sabotage, self-deception, and self-corruption.

Author Steven Pressfield doodles, “Resistance cannot be seen, touched, heard, or smelled.” Pressfield continues, “It's a repelling force. It's negative. It aims to shove us away, distract us, prevent us from doing our work.”

Beginning to understanding the mindset that leads me to believe “I was not good enough,” I started to search for people who would mentor me directly or indirectly. What I began to discover is that many of the successful people were not born smart they learned how to became smart.

How? The read, an obscene amount:

  • Bill Gates — reads about 50 books per year
  • Mark Cuban — reads more than 3 hours every day
  • Warren Buffett — reads 600 and 1000 pages per day

The Solution is Compound Interest

Yes, this is an obscene amount of reading, but it’s the corner-stones of their success. Warren Buffet explains, “That's how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it.”

When I first read that quote I was mentally paralyzed, and I asked myself, “Could it be that fundamental?”

Seneca continues the argument, “If you apply yourself to study you will avoid all boredom with life, will not long for night because you are sick of daylight, you will be neither a burden to yourself nor useless to others, you will attract many to become your friends and the finest people will flock about you.”

The Only Believable Solution

Yes, knowledge accumulates from believable sources and people who are smarter than you. And while you can spend countless hours searching for mentors, people to help you grow, you can start small, at your pace by picking up a book.

But to build your knowledge-base you must be deliberate:

First. Always be reading — on the train, at your desk, waiting in line, in bed, etc. Second. Set a goal for how many books will you read this year. Third. Create a list of books you want to read. Once you are reading, sip the book. Take notes in the margin. Write questions at the bottom of the page. Research unfamiliar topics. Create an alternate index. Go to the bibliography a choose your next book to read. Rinse and repeat.

I read an inspirational quote from Mark S A Smith on Twitter, “Reading science, math, & philosophy 1 hour per day will put you at the upper echelon of human success within 7 years.” It’s a powerful statement but what if you took on the challenge? Who would you become? What opportunities would you encounter? When would you exceed your dreams? Where would you be?

Remember Buffett stated, “That's how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest.” Why don’t you start compounding interest, now? Why not stop being impressed by people who are intelligent, accomplished and always seem to have the right answers; when you can be that person.


Originally Posted: Medium

5 Mind-Blowing Questions That Can Help You Find Your Purpose

Are you looking for purpose in your life? If you do a Google Search on, “How can you find purpose in life?” Google will return about 1,170,000,000 results in 0.73 seconds. It’s staggering the amount of advice you will find on the Internet. Unfortunately, most of the information is more noise than signal:

  • 33 Ideas for Finding Purpose in Life
  • 4 Simple Ways To Set Your Goals
  • 6 Books That Will Change Your Life
  • For A Limited Time: Take My Email Course For $99

Your Lizard Brain is Kill You

I am confident the items above sound eerily familiar. Regardless of the noise, you try and find your passion; you list out your goals, you read the books and take the course. Armed with these new tools your glowing with motivation and you attack the goals; checking off items at a rapid pace. Unfortunately, motivation is a fickle source of energy, and it soon betrays you.

“We think someone else—someone smarter than us, someone more capable, with more resources—will solve that problem. But there isn’t anyone else.”

The glow you wore proudly fades, and the rapid pace becomes a crawl. Then life happens, and your most important goals drop to important, then they slip to less important and finally, your goals lay at the feet of would be nice.

At this point, your lizard brain is at full strengthen and screaming, “I told you that you were not good enough!” Author Seth Godin scribbles, “The lizard brain is the reason you're afraid, the reason you don't do all the art you can, the reason you don't ship when you can. The lizard brain is the source of the resistance.”

Why the Social Contagion is a Trap

I understand your frustration. Like you, I have spent countless hours searching for “How can you find purpose in life?” Only to be overwhelmed by the avalanche of results, which would lead me to prematurely give up and succumbing to the narrative of my lizard brain.

Strangely, I began to see improvements in my life and work, not from spending countless hours searching the web, but when I started to question advice, rules, and dogma. Author Vishen Lakhiani tutors, “We often take on ideas not through rational choice but through social contagion — the act of an idea spreading from mind to mind without due questioning.”

Lakhiani continues, “But it means we may be living our lives according to models that haven’t been upgraded for years, decades, even centuries. Blindly following may be efficient, but it’s not always smart.”

So I scrutinized the ideas based on social contagion and began to question everything. What I gradually began to understand is that I was relying on experts to solve my problems. Regina Dugan, a former Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) director, explains, “We think someone else—someone smarter than us, someone more capable, with more resources—will solve that problem. But there isn’t anyone else.”

Why More Beautiful Questions will Fuel Your Purpose

That was my problem; I kept relying on others to solve mine. How can you expect others to help you solve your problem when the source of the problem is you.

Warren Berger, the author of, A More Beautiful Question, explains, “If you give the mind time and space, it will do its own work on the problem, over time. And it will usually come up with interesting possibilities to work with.”

There is no specific question to ask yourself, in all honesty, any question will help start the change reaction to problem resolution. But I wanted to give you a call to action, five interesting questions from entrepreneur Tim Ferriss:

  1. Were my goals my own, or simply what I thought I should want?
  2. How much of life had I missed from under-planning or over-planning?
  3. How could I be kinder to myself?
  4. How could I better say ‘no’ to the trivial many to better say ‘yes’ to the critical few?
  5. How could I best reassess my priorities and my purpose in this world?

If I remember correctly, Ferriss explained that he leverages the answers to the questions to help him better plan his year, month, week and day. I started using these questions not to find answers but to start a dialogue with myself as an assessment; a frequent checkpoint that allowed me to self-correct.

I have experienced countless peaks and valleys, and I have found two things to be true 1. You will die and 2. Your time is limited. So don’t spend your days trapped by the social contagion, but spend all your time on your own needs. Organize every day like it was your last because it takes a whole life to learn how to live. Everything else is secondary.

Original Article: Thrive Global