September 15, 2020

The Decision Book – 4 models that I will use in my life

I’m a sucker for the EPL used book sales (well, really, any book sales!) and when there was one on Saturday (and actually still going on today if you see this post in time), I had to go (and I always try to make time to go). The last time that I went, I came around 11 / 12 and realized that a lot of the books had either been taken or had not been taken out from their boxes and ended up getting not a whole lot of books. This time, I was happily surprised to see many books that I wanted to read and one of the books that I picked up (and will likely give away to a rich person because I know she is a sucker for frameworks and models) is The Decision Book.

Inside the Decision Book, there are 50 different models for understanding yourself better, understanding others better and generally simplified frameworks and models for thinking about the problems that all of us face in our lives. While I don’t want to give away the book, I did want to touch on a few models that I thought were quite interesting and consider how I would apply it to my life:

Personal performance model

This model helps people think about whether they need to change their jobs or not. It explores three different axes:

  1. What are the tasks that I currently have to do
  2. Am I sufficiently challenged doing the tasks that I have to do? How do my abilities match up to those tasks?
  3. What do I want to do and to what extent are the tasks that I am currently doing, the tasks that I want to do?

The idea behind this model is to take note of these three (think of a three axis graph with different shapes of triangles every week). If the shape of the triangle is approximately the same, then you should be asking yourself what you want to do, whether you have sufficient capability to do what you want to do, what you can currently do and whether you want to do the things that you are currently doing. If not, then think about how to change what you are currently doing into more of what you want to do (either by changing projects, changing your abilities or both).

Network Target Model

I’ve talked previously about how you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with but this model takes it a bit further in figuring out in a more scientific way what that actually means. Think about the five people you spend the most time with and what groups they belong to (are they friends, family, coworkers, etc.). Then think about:

  • What is their wealth? How many are richer / poorer than you?
  • What is their age? How many are older / younger than you?
  • How attractive are they? How many are more attractive or less attractive than you?
  • What is their nationality? How many are the same or different?

Although the book does not describe it, I think the next step here would to be figure out what the average is AND how you might want to change the amount of focus / time you spend with certain friends to achieve the different goals in your life. If you want to be more of a business owner / entrepreneur, you should surround yourself with those people: side hustlers, freelancers, consultants, etc. If you want to make more money, surround yourself or spend more time with ambitious, money making CEOs.

Black Swan Model

I found this interesting not only because it refers to Nassim Taleb’s book The Black Swan (which I have but is on my to-read list) but it also made me think differently about how we all make decisions (or at least consider information that I would never have thought about otherwise). The way we seem to make decisions is we encounter a problem or a cross-road of some sort and we think about, in the past, whether something seems similar, what information we have from our experiences we could use and how we went about it in the past. We use information from our past to inform our decisions for the future. Nassim (and this model) argues that while you can use the information from your past, it does not necessarily guarantee or even increase your success due to “Black Swans”. When 9/11 hit, all the information pointing to 9/11 seemed obvious. But if the information was there, why wasn’t 9/11 prevented? This was a black swan.

All this is to say that we should account for more black swans in our lives and while we may not be able to plan or mitigate these black swans, even knowing that they are there can impact our decisions.

Rubber band model

I thought the rubber band model was an interesting concept — it’s very similar to a pros and cons list except it reframes the pros and cons into “what is pulling you forward” and “what is stopping you from going forward” — i.e., two positive questions rather than the positives and negatives of a situation. The concept of reframing is extremely powerful and I expect this model to be no different — if you are considering leaving a job, leaving a boyfriend or even leaving for a different city, think about what is pulling you forward and think about what is stopping you from going forward — what are the positives of moving to another city? What are the positives of staying?


What’s important to remember is that a model is a simplified way of looking at something. It extracts what is most significant about a situation or decision and tries to boil it down into something simple so that you are able to make a decision out of the most salient points — but it certainly does not represent the real life decisions that you have to make with maybe millions of variables that you have to consider. That being said, models are a very useful way of thinking about complex problems — boiling something that can be very complex: like moving to another city, into a small set of variables, can be extremely handy.

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