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Aug. 23, 2021

CPC Episode #33 - Think Like Elon Musk with These Models

What if you could install part of Elon Musk's brain into your brain? How would that change your life? In this episode, we're covering thinking tips like: Why modeling will explode test scores and get you job interviews What bear attacks teach you...

What if you could install part of Elon Musk's brain into your brain? How would that change your life? In this episode, we're covering thinking tips like:

  • Why modeling will explode test scores and get you job interviews
  • What bear attacks teach you about succeeding in life
    To achieve your goals, ignore the goal and focus on this instead.
  • What is congruence and why your social media profile may be hurting your college and job prospects
  • What a chain link reveals about failing college prep exams

Episode 33, and this week, were digging deep, like a miner, into those fantastic tools called mental models. We covered a few of these in prior episodes. If you didn’t catch those, let’s give a quick recap into what mental models are. I like to model performance. By modeling, I mean studying the top few percent in any industry and figuring out what they do, how they think, and how they behave. When I dug deeper into the mindset of people like Elon Musk, Warren Buffett, and his business partner Charlie Munger, I discovered they use these tools called mental models.

If we think of the brain as a toolbox, then you’re only as good as your tools. One of these tools they use is called mental models. Mental models provide frameworks and filters to run your thinking and decision making through. I’ve discovered over 90 mental models. For this episode, I want to cover two mental models. One called multiplication by zero, a.k.a., the weakest link, and one called systems versus goals. Think of these mental models as cheat codes to a successful college career and beyond. Out of all the tips and tricks I’ve discovered in my life, these, by far, rank in the top 3. I’ve seen average people accelerate their careers, , I’ve seen businesses explode, and I’ve seen brilliant ideas created, all thanks to these fascinating tools called mental modesl. You can use These mental models in school, for college prep, for your job, for your relationships, and beyond. 

To start, let’s see how I’ve used this mental model before to help students with math. 

I once worked with a student who needed help in Algebra. She came to me saying, “I’m just bad at math.” Now, when I hear a statement like this, a generalization, I like to dig deeper. So I asked her “all math?”. And she said, well, these factoring problems. So one question alone has isolated the type of problems she struggles with. Now, upon further practice, I discovered she struggled with a particular type of factoring problem. This problem requires exponents, multiplication, and division. Now, she was wonderful at multiplication and division. But the factoring with exponents is where she struggled. So we’ve identified the chokepoint.

This is where I’d like to introduce you to a concept called multiplication by zero. In life, there are two types of systems...Additive and multiplicative. Additive systems are systems which improve when things are added. On the other hand, Multiplicative systems work differently. Some improve with things being added. Other things, when added, crumble the system.

How does it work you ask?

Consider this math problem without using a calculator:

4 million times 32 thousand, 5hundred eighty, times 67 times 0.

IF you were paying attention, you can solve that instantly without a calculator. The answer is zero. Why? Because the last multiplier was 0, which zeros out all the other multiplications before it. And this is where we get our multiplication by zero mental model. In the example I gave earlier when I tutored the student, the problem required 3 skills. While she was strong at 2 of them, she didn’t know how to do the last one. This zeroed out her other skills because she always got the problem wrong by struggling with the exponent piece. Think of multiplication by zero as the weakest link theory. Suppose you're holding a steel chain full of links, but one link is bent and rusted. Once the pressure of the pull exceeds the strength of the rusty link, the rest of the chain will break apart. And there lies the magic of this mental model. In multiplicative systems, you are only as strong as your weakest link. So your mission, to improve math scores, college prep, and life, anything where you have a multiplicative system is to improve the weakest link. When you do that, you start to see a multiplier effect.

This carries over into the college prep world as well. Another mental model which is a byproduct of the systems versus goals mental model is called product versus packaging.

Suppose you have a great product. But the outside packaging is boring or ugly. If all people have to go on is the packaging, many won’t buy the product because of the ugly or boring package. The same thing works with you as the product. And make no mistake, when it comes to selling or presenting yourself, to college recruiters, to interviewers, and to new friends, a sale is made every time. Money isn’t exchanged, but you sell yourself, actively and passively on why people should connect with you, enroll you, and hire you.

You could be the smartest, most charming and socially electric person out there. But If you dress poorly or present a bland brand of yourself on your social media page, or your resume, or your interview, the poor packaging takes away from the product.

So using the system versus goals mentality, you’d dissect the pieces of you and your brand by which the world makes decisions about you. Things like clothes, writing, social media persona. You may be outstanding at dressing and have a great social media presence, but have a dry or weak personality. So when people meet you in person after seeing your online persona, there’s a congruence gap. And this is what you work on in your system. Fix the part of the system, the weakest link, and the goals work themselves out.

Systems thinking helps you optimize your experience because it focuses on the parts which you CAN control. The goal or outcome is not always under your control. But the inputs of the system, you do control. Suppose you’re preparing for a college entrance exam. Ask yourself...What can you control? 

  1. Sleep. You can get a good mattress and pillow to guarantee a good night’s sleep which recharges your brain
  2. Diet. A poor diet hurts your calculating ability and thinking ability, which hurts your exam scores. Think of your body as a car. Would you give it poor gasoline? Or no gasoline? And even in an electric car, would you have a poor battery which gave you low mileage? No, you’d want the best battery and components possible
  3. Study habits. Personally, I’d want to find the smartest kid I knew who did well at exams and find out what they did. How did they save Time What tips and tricks do they know?
  4. I’d work my practice tests until the questions became second nature. Treat it like a video game, the more you play, the more hints and cool tricks you find out. The easier the game gets.
  5. I’d work on my mindset. I’d go into the exam with the assumption I’m the BEST test taker on Planet Earth. I’d have a mock exam pinned up on my wall with a perfect score. This would help prime my subconscious to start assuming I’d already passed the exam before I ever started.

These things you can control. These are all part of your exam taking system. For any system, it’s only as good as the weakest link. And each piece of the system plays their part. So optimize the parts, you optimize the system. And when you optimize the system, you jack up the probability of achieving your goals. 

We covered a lot in this episode. And I want to help you crush college prep. So I put together a list of expert resources for you, to help you strengthen the weak link and avoid the multiply by zero problem for college prep. Resources like Test prep, financial aid, and mindset. Go to cpcshow.com. That's c-p-c-show.com. If you liked this episode, why don’t you subscribe to stay up to date on a treasure chest of college prep resources and tips? Thank you for listening.