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Heuristics are fascinating to me. I believe this is because they present a tremendous opportunity to influence our mindset and thinking.

A heuristic is something like stereotyping, it’s a tool for mental efficiency, a shortcut in other words. This doesn’t mean it’s good or bad. In fact, most people resort to using heuristics (shortcuts) when it’s not actually effective long term (eg racism).

They generally come from our cognitive maps (something Charlie Munger uses a ton). The reason being is that our cognitive maps can often be so complex and often so bias filled, that we look for ways to create shortcuts or paths of least resistance. Again, we often create these regardless of their accuracy, it’s simply a shortcut tool.

So of course controlling your cognitive maps and crystallized intelligence is key, but also controlling the “shortcuts” and mental habits that evolve into heuristics is crucial as well.

You can also use heuristics to reverse engineer your cognitive maps. For example the aphorism “Time is Money” is a heuristic. Even though it’s an extremely nebulous, inaccurate, and sloppy one at that. But, it still provides us with the understanding that our time has value because of its scarcity. And therefore we should strive to spend it wisely like we should with our other forms of value (like money).

I cautiously and somewhat frequently use heuristics to help create mental maps and adopt more accurate and helpful ways of thinking.

Heuristics can even be used to demonstrate ideas in the form of “logic math”. One of my favorite examples of a math based heuristic:

Potential = Performance – Interference

Simply explained, interferences reduce your performance, which subtracts from your ability to reach your potential. So by reducing your interferences (which increases your efficiency), and/or increasing your performance (which increases your effectiveness), you reach your true potential.

Let’s pull this apart a bit more. You can’t reach your guitar playing potential if you’re always getting interrupted by your phone while practicing. So to increase your performance, you should silence or turn off your phone, thereby dramatically reducing your interferences. Thus increasing your performance, allowing you to reach your guitar playing potential.

Jimi Hendrix or Stevie Ray Vaughn weren’t great because they were superhuman (ie far beyond the normal human capacity). They reached their potential and were great only because of their immense discipline to ruthlessly remove interferences, and relentlessly increase performance.

Most people never reach their potential simply because they never take action to reduce their interferences. Their performance might be great, but if interferences are left to influence their work, their potential will suffer.

Another interesting example of heuristics is taking the example from above, and making one tweak:

Potential = Performance / Interference

So by making one tweak; changing the ” – ” to a ” / “, we get an entirely new idea! And I would argue a more accurate one, because interference isn’t simply subtracted from performance! I would say that it divides the output of that performance!

Another favorite heuristic of mine is:

Education x Execution = Repeatable Success

It’s not simply learning OR taking action that leads to success. It’s learning, and then applying that knowledge, that leads to repeatable success! Just learning things will make you frustrated, and only taking action might make you lucky. Only BOTH combined are what create repeatable success.

I highly recommend understanding mental heuristics and start to use them to modify and control your thinking.

Conclusion: Find 1 thing that causes interference to your performance and eliminate it radically, your potential will thank you!