Yet another mental model I picked up from Taleb’s Incerto series, the barbell strategy advocates investing 90% of your assets in risk-free investments while investing the remaining 10% in high-risk investments. The idea is to clip your downside while keeping your upsides unlimited. In an uncertain world, Taleb promotes this as an anti-fragile strategy. A way to apply this to your career is to have a boring, stable career on one side while focusing on grand endeavors as a side business. Ex: Einstein, Kafka etc.
Similarly, it’s possible to apply a slightly different idea, black and white thinking, to different activities in life. This particular variation, I picked up from Modern Wisdom’s mental models video. I highly recommend it. The idea is to live in the black and whites of life and not the grey. i.e. Whatever you’re doing, do it all the way or not at all. Exceptions exist of course.
The idea is to live in the extremes of life, not the middle grounds. For an example from my life, when analyzing a project, I first switch to self-doubt mode gathering as much information as I can and focusing fully on the analysis. Then when I’m satisfied, I switch to full-on execution mode, focusing purely on shipping it. Another idea I had was to learn 2 completely opposite programming languages Ex: ReasonML/OCaml and Clojure instead of a language that tries to do 90%.
A more meta example is my writing process. I first focus fully on aggregating notes and putting text on screen. Then, I switch completely to editing. Or, as Peter De Vries put it “Write drunk, edit sober”.
This also ties in well with deep work. Switching between extreme focus monk mode and extreme leisure mode and not mixing the two in “shallow” work allows you the productivity and quality benefits of deep work and the time for adequate rejuvenation.
Barbells and Black and white thinking are both powerful mental models that I’ve applied to many areas of my life with success. Like all good mental models, they also tie in well with other cool ideas I’ve picked up such as non-linearity and convexity. Perhaps, I’ll write more about these ideas in future posts.