Author: richbowdler

Mental Models Radio – My Origin Story – Episode 1

Make Smarter Decisions
Put Mental Models
in Your Head


“Will be the best use of 1 hour this year…
and it’s completely free!”


Mental Models Radio
Episode 1 - My Origin Story



Uh Huh. Oh Yo people, hi. If you’re like me, you’ve probably heard that the quality of your thinking depends on the models in your head and that to be a great leader or entrepreneur, then you need to listen to podcasts or read more books and that’s great. Yeah, those things do apply. That’s true.

But if you have ever wondered,
“how do actually retain all of that useful information that I’m reading and listening to?”
…then stick around because that is what this show is all about.

I’m Richard Bowdler and this is mental models radio:

Hey, welcome to my origin story on mental models. Now this was tough trying to figure out whether to jump in because I graduated like way back in 2003 and I’ve done a number of things since then. And um, one of those as being to coach people in mental models, which effectively they’re just tools for thinking, right.
One of my other deep backgrounds is in human memory and applied memory development, memory techniques and um, the really is, the thing that’s interesting is, um, applying memory too for me to mental models. But then applying models to real world situations. I mean there’s intellectual interest in and you know, models in and of themselves, but really I don’t care about the thought of it. What I care about is take model, have it in your head, be out in the real world, apply it to a situation and get a tangible result.

And one of my other backgrounds, uh, most recently over the last six, seven years is been in company growth. So early stage tech companies and growing those. So I want to jump in. Um, like I said, I graduated back in 2003 and um, I always still, the one I wanted to do was be a marine and that was my chosen path. Yet after spending four years at university, uh, hanging out with a bunch of liberal intellectuals, suddenly I’ve kind of thought, and also then being in love for the first time as I was coming out of university, I suddenly thought going off and killing people and is that exactly what I think is the best thing to do? Um, there’s more to that story, but that’s for another podcast. And, um, let me jump into the story. So surely after Uni I was trying to figure out what am I doing with life and, um, also wanted to just go and travel.

So I spent, spent a short while in India, um, a bit of a Cliche, but whatever. And then I remember coming back from India. So this is right. This was probably around 2005. And, um, I’m from the Midlands and I was back home. I remember standing in the hallway at my parents’ house and after having seen the kind of the entrepreneurial spirit of lots of, uh, lots of people in India, um, but people who were, uh, originated from India, but also, um, people who are traveling, there’s this incredible drive. And I just thought that, that looks amazing. I want to spend my life doing entrepreneurial things and I’m standing there and I just look at my dad and you know, conversation around, you know, so what are you doing with your life? And I remember looking at my dad and saying, I want to be an entrepreneur and I’ll never forget it.

My Dad looking back at me and just like, you know, steely, no uncertain terms, saying you are not an entrepreneur. And I was so rude, so mixed in my feelings. First of all, I was just like, what? Like how can he be so choose? It’s not like a thing that is preordained, it’s a skill and you can learn it and develop it. And I, I mean at the time I thought like, you know, f you, um, and it may will have been someone else’s words coming out of his mouth. But anyway, that was my thought at the time. So anyway, so to go down this path, I knew that like sales and marketing were both very important skills and um, in particular I wanted to become good at sales. I wanted to know what the models were for selling. And obviously it’s very, it’s as broad as it as long.

But I went and got my first job, which is kind of, you may see it as like a lowly job, but as one of those at a charity fundraiser. So one of the street fund raisers, like refer to as charity. Muggers. So I did, that was my first job out of uni and it was tough. It was tough, but it was incredibly good training in taking someone who’s a stranger on the street and speaking to them in a way that like they really got their bank card details and got them to sign up to give money to a charity on a regular basis. So you a number of, I mean I tutor a number of different sales jobs and became good at them and really it, um, but also had a passion for human memory. So it’s been for a few years, come to 2007 and I had started to train people in human memory part because this was something that I’d been training myself in and going into memory competitions and nerdy stuff like that of which, by the way, I think human memory is, it’s kind of a fundamental matter mental model.

It’s like a catch all and the, on the set of tools that go into, um, knowledge acquisition and retention, they are absolutely fundamental to, um, being able to keep mental models in your head and then to use them. Um, and that’s, so that’s really when, when I started doing that and 2007 and started training people creating information products, um, is when I started to get interested in the Internet. And, um, you know, obviously he had been around for a while, but I just wasn’t that interested and already started to get interested in analytics, company growth and all these good things. And what does all of this have to do with mental models? You might be asking yourself, well, it’s quite simple as far as I see it. And that is in essence what you do, how you think they are so related. So what you do and the results that you get in your life, it all comes down to what models you hold in your head. Like the models that you have that shape your beliefs around how reality is and who you are in reality and therefore what you think you’re capable of. So the results that you get in your life are directly related to the models that you have in your head. It’s, it is that straightforward. So that’s what this has to do with, um, mental models.

Anyway, getting back to the story. So, um, I was training people in memory for several years and then, um, I had this vision and this dream that I wanted to be part of building a high growth tech company. And then it was in the end of 2012 there was one guy who had been in one of my seminars. He had raised some money and wanting to build an online tutoring company. And he, he approached me and asked if I’d help him build it. And I, it looked like a fantastic opportunity and I jumped at the chance. And the weight thing was shortly after doing this, I, I, I was going to the gym and it’s a street gym and I live in London, is a street gym in east London and I just, it’s, I like it. What I used to like it when I went for a period of time because it was just no bells and whistles.

No, you know, it was just heavy iron and that was as and massive guys. I’m not a massive guy by any stretch of the imagination, but it was just, you go in, you pay five plants, pay five pounds, and then you lift weights. And so while I was in the, and just doing some dead lifts, I remember it, I had this tiny blood blister on my index finger on my left hand and it was kind of getting in the way of dead lifting. So I just just like bit it to get rid of it and then carried on dead lifting and then thought nothing else of it. And then about a week later my hand swelled up and went into hospital and because it was pretty painful and they gave me some antibiotics and said, look, come back in 24 hours. If this isn’t better and I’m 24 hours later.

It was nowhere near about. Uh, and they, they brought me straight in and um, long story short with this aspect, they ended up putting me on general. I’m doing surgery and taking out a whole bit of gunky flesh and turned out loud, contracted Nrsa. So it’s like a hospital superbug but possibly caught it from the gym, possibly caught it from my own mouth. Who knows? Um, Bob, there is a silver lining to this story and the silver lining is twofold. First pieces. I mean like I was in hospital for several weeks because they, they couldn’t figure out how to get rid of this bug because there was a super bug. I’m Rsa and they tried all sorts of cocktails of antibiotics to get rid of it. So I’m just like, you know, I’m fit youngish, healthy guy and didn’t know if I was going to recover from this infection.

But the silver lining is one I didn’t die. And two, before I went into hospital, I picked up a copy of a book by a guy called Steve Blank and whether or not you know him or have him, he’s the guy who God fathered the lean startup movement. So he, he was the, the teacher mentor to a guy called Eric Reese. You’ve probably heard of. He wrote the book, the start, the lean startup. Um, but Steve Blank was his mentor and this book and it’s like, you know, it’s a textbook. And um, I just thought while I was in hospital, didn’t have that many visitors and I also had, um, a separate ward because I had this super bug. I wasn’t, I was with the NHS and it wasn’t, you know, any special treatment. But because I had a, this, this bug, they wanted to contain me. So I had my own little separate room off, a kind of off the main ward and, and I was in there for a few weeks and I had nothing else to do other than read this book again and again and go through it.

And it was so good. If you haven’t read it and you’re into company building, then I whole heartedly recommend that you do. If customer development is a path that is relevant for what you’re doing. And I also started to using memory techniques that I have trained myself and trained other people and started to build out frameworks in my head to put the contents of the book into my head. Because I think there’s a lot of power in having frameworks at your fingertips. So, you know, silver linings Hay. And, um, but anyway, when I came out to the hospital, I, I still have to, to obviously tell the guy who I’d co founded this company with, that this was the holy grail of the path that we should be following. And I was slightly frustrated and disappointed because what else he, he hadn’t spent the last several weeks. I’m consuming this literature and getting really like jazzed up on it and he just didn’t want to listen.

And his actual, his response was, listen, I feel like I’m fighting you and your books. And I just thought, how can you be so stupid? Like these guys who wrote this book, Steve Blank and bobbed, or sorry, I took to credit both authors. Um, these guys have built 14 tech companies between them and how many have we built between us? Right? I’m a huge, huge believer in not reinventing every wheel, especially when you don’t need to, unlike standing on the shoulders of giants and going from that cause he can go further faster. So it was very frustrating to me and ultimately the, the relationship didn’t work out and we parted ways and the business didn’t work. And, um, I actually ended up speaking to Steve Blank about the business. Um, but again, another story. Um, but anyway, so I was out in the market and this is, um, 2014 and, um, I, I strongly believe in the model, if you will.

It’s a mental model of a strategy of preeminence and that is just lead by giving value first. And that’s what I hope that some of the stuff that I’m teaching you or that you’ll either learn that you’ve experienced from listening to me or that you will go on and listen to, will, I will bring you lots of value. And I really believe in bringing value to people upfront. Before any ask. And I’ve done this with, um, so a couple of friends of mine started a, started a tech company, um, data, data management and analytics business. And I had, I’d been through a lot of sales training over the years and I sat down with, um, one of my good friends who was one of the cofounders and just opened up all of the training that I’d had the, the pleasure of experiencing to help him structure his initial sales sales plan.

And, and that was, that was kind of it. But then, so come come to 2014. And um, he approached me with, uh, you know, questions to help them with some, some other aspects of his business, uh, helping him with some of the sales ops infrastructure. I’m just what tools they needed. And we ended up working together. I ended up working for, uh, my, my two friends and went on this journey over four years from 2014 to 2018 of building a high growth, high tech VC backed business. And it was awesome. It was a truly wild ride and it’s exactly what I wanted to do. And I had the opportunity to bring to that organization the frameworks that I had spent time putting into my head that were essential for company growth and essential for having a view on where we were as an organization in our journey from idea three to fixing business model, which is as far as I’m concerned, is invaluable.

And, um, after four years options vesting, I wanted a new adventure and that was marriage fatherhood’s and I wanted to spend teaching and writing and coaching and consulting, which is home, how I am spending my time now and building my own projects and products. And one of those is, so who, last year 2018, um, a friend of mine, she approached me and asked me if I would, I would help her. We’ll show her how to put a set of mental models in her head. So I kind of applying memory techniques to mental models and I’m sure if you’re listening to this then you almost certainly familiar with font, the phone, them street blog and Shane Parrish. And there’s one massive article in there that has like a, it’s being, you know, refined in edited over time, but, uh, there were like 113 mental models and now there’s like 109, but whatever the, it’s, it’s a, um, a collection of models that Shane and his team have looked at and, and looked at from both the way the world works.

Um, but also from reverse engineering, how Charlie Manga and Warren Buffet in particular, Charlie mango, but how the two of them go about thinking about the world at large and could deconstructing that and grouping tools, mind tools, mental models and distinctions into a number nine, also different main bodies. And so that’s one project that I have worked on after, um, after some time. And it’s been really, really satisfying. And what, like if you want to know more about that and not, it’s not, um, how to say, I guess it’s, I looked at looked at it with a view to say, not just how can I teach someone memory stuff and then then go away and apply it. But what if I could actually remove or reduce the barrier to entry and do a lot of the heavy lifting for people who want to consume and use memory techniques but have it applied so it’s not something that you want to know more about. Then, um, listen to the outro of this episode. So listen, that’s kind of been a whistle stop tour, a bit of a welcome and me saying hi and do stay tuned for more. That’s it to the outro.

Hey, thank you so much for taking the time to tune in. I really hope you’ve enjoyed the show and if you’ve taken any benefit from this, then please go ahead and subscribe to make sure that you catch the next one. Now I’ve got something else that I think you’re really gonna love a short wanted to go. I asked myself a question, would it be possible to design a program that takes information and structures it in a way that it just goes into your head and what better information to do that with than a set of mental models on human nature and judgment. And that’s exactly what I’ve done. I took 24 models and on cognitive biases and created a done for you memory palace. And I’ve had hundreds of people go through this free program. And if that’s something that you want as well, getting 24 fundamental cognitive biases, uh, the mental models on human nature and judgment delivered to your long term memory, then just go over to story, forward slash mental models, or that’s all one word, no hyphens or anything like that. And that’s exactly what you’ll get. There’ll be an invitation for you there to jump in or be of one hour. You can watch through it and, um, go over there now and enjoy it. So once again, that is a story, forward slash mental models, all one word. And that is in. So once again, thanks for tuning in. I’m Richard Bowdler and this is mental models radio. Catch you in the next one.

Bye for now.



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Your attention sucks. Here’s what to do about it…

Make Smarter Decisions
Put Mental Models
in Your Head


“Will be the best use of 1 hour this year…
and it’s completely free!”


Your Attention Sucks.

Here's What to Do About it...


If you’ve ever wondered why your attention span may have become pathetic at best, and it is likely getting worse over time and what you can do about it, then you are in the right place.

Why I’m so interested in attention is because attention is the gateway to learning.

That’s what I’m going to be talking about in today’s episode…

All learning follows these four steps.

  1. Attention: You need to attend to something. In order to learn it.
  2. Encoding: you need to encode information or skill so that you can actually learn it.
  3. Storage: And then you need to store it in some way…
  4. Retrieval: and then finally, retrieve it.

So that’s the loop. And why learning is so important? Let me just quote Alvin Toffler:

“It’s safe to say that the illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write. But those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.”

Without attention we have nothing. No capacity to learn and no capacity to remember.

That’s why attention is so important.

At a high level you can break down attention into two areas:
– your internal attention
– your external attention

I’m going to give you a smattering of tools that can help with each area.

So tools that I use and the thousands of other people swear by for helping with internal attention. Number one is meditation and meditation can be either generic, whether it’s a transcendental meditation or something specific like focusing on a mantra and repeating that over and over,
OR writing out your mission statement, a mission statement for what you’re doing, what you believe in, what you stand for, and focusing on reiterating that. It doesn’t just need to be spoken. You can view a sport, an exercise regime that you have, as a meditation for you.

Whether that’s yoga, stretching, going for a run, doing sprints, doing weights, swimming. Whatever kind of exercise that you do, that puts you into a different mental state as a form of meditation. And it helps to pay attention to that.

What I want to talk about in more detail is tools that you can use to help your external environment to support your attention. Because if you’re like me, like many other people, you work online, behind a desk at a computer, they’re are a number of distractions, at every single turn.
And we really want to look at how can you minimize those distractions. I’m going to point you to a couple of tools that can really help. So the one thing that I want to start with is a concept called “The ONE Thing”. It is exactly what it says on the tin.

It really helps if you can just focus on one single thing and that’s it in a nutshell. A book that has been written by a very successful entrepreneur. A guy called Gary Keller who’s co-founder and chairman of Keller Williams Realty, which is one of the largest real estate companies in the world. He now consults and focuses on teaching his concept of the one thing.
What he found was the effectiveness of his teams went through a process where initially, each of his teams would have multiple things to focus on week by week.

Then he saw that not that much was getting done or his teams weren’t as effective as he wanted them to be. So he experimented with reducing the number of things that he wanted them to focus on and stripped it down and thought, “well, what if I just give people three things to focus on?”

And then “what if I just give people two things to focus on?” until eventually he experimented with,

“what if I just give each team or each head of division one thing to focus on?”

…and then just to operate around that one thing. The performance and productivity of all of the individuals that reported to him as well as his company went through the roof. His consulting practice is now focused on that. As another point of interest on that → Peter Thiel, who is a cofounder of PayPal and the Thiel Foundation, a very successful tech entrepreneur. He notoriously, rigorously, when he has managed people, he manages around one specific metric or one specific thing. The only conversations that he allows each individual report to have with him, the conversation has to be about that one thing. And if it’s not, then it’s not relevant at that time.

And it’s a discipline. It’s a management practice and a discipline both for you managing yourself… your own focus and effectiveness. And if you manage other people, to do the same. So I’m going to share

The ONE Thing

That was the name of the book.

There’s another, another couple of tools that I really like to use and I’d suggest you check out if you’re not already familiar with. One is using a process called Kanban. It’s a Japanese management process and it is so simple. I always find that the simplest tools are the best. In summary, you have three columns, possibly four.

And you can use a tool like Trello because it’s free or you could use a spreadsheet if you want, but Trello’s very easy to use. On the left you have a list of things. It’s your to do list and then the next list over at you have things that are in progress. Then what I like to do is to have an additional column. So rather than just having to do in progress and done, I like to have an additional column.

The thought is; in between “in progress” and “done”. So to do in progress and then won’t the one thing now and then done. So there’s a column that has the one thing now and that is the one thing that you will be focusing on right now. So at any one time, there was only ever one “card”. If you’re familiar with Trello, they use cards or there’s only ever one item in that column that is the one thing that you are focusing on right now.

And you focus on that, and only that, until it is done. And then you moved out over. Now I know there are, there are nuances to this. Another piece of literature I recommend is called

“The productivity Ninja” by a guy called Graham Allcott.

I’ll link to that as well. And that is yes, it’s great to have one thing to focus on, but obviously throughout the day, your attention, your energy, can wane wax and wane. So it’s useful to have a set of items, a set of tasks that you can do that do not require your deep focus and concentration that you can just pick off. Let’s say you’ve had a kind of called heavy lunch or you feel particularly tired at some point in the afternoon. You want a list of things that you can just kind of knock off quite easily.

But for the one thing, you want that to be a meaty piece of work that requires a deep focus and concentration. So that’s Kanban, and Trello (which I’m sure you’re familiar with) and Productivity Ninja.

Those are a few tools for you to look at. This is a short episode. There’s way more that I could go into here and I’m going to be talking further in further episodes about things like the one metric that matters, accountability and how to structure Accountabilities to help with your productivity. But some of those will be in future episodes.

There is loads more on this topic that is really powerful stuff to get into that I want to cover in another episode… such as looking at design of your systems to help you focus and attend to what it is that you need to.

But before I go, I just want to finish with this quote, which is from a lady who lived in the early 19 hundreds. A lady called Muriel Lester who was a peace campaigner and activist and became good friends with Gandhi. Here’s the quote:

“The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.”

The price of freedom is eternal vigilance… that applies to the freedom that you have in your mind. You need to be vigilant to things that will take up your attention and take up your time. I think that’s a great quote to finish with. And finally, if you’d like some more detail on all of this, go over and put together a free training on metacognition, learning and learning how to learn and improving decision making. Going to

And there is an excellent free training session for you there. Must’ve lost the, with more of this juicy goodness and some actionable takeaways.

I’ve really enjoyed having you tune in here. I hope you’ve found this useful. Stay tuned, subscribe below if you haven’t already, and I will catch you on another episode.




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What does “Document your journey” actually mean?

hi so a friend of mine asked me he's
getting he's in the growth world helping
companies and build and scale and I
encouraged him dared him to challenge
which was to create and publish content
on a daily basis and he said well you
know how when I said we'll just document
your journey and he said the question he
asked was what does that even mean
documenting your journey and then
immediately followed and a text
conversation by saying the cab driver in
my cab he's got two inch hairs coming
out of his ears he slash tag no given
and just like that's your journey your
literal journey so just start there and
then tie that into a broader story about
the the narrative and the career journey
that you're on and that's it
so grab people's attention with a hook a
compelling story about what's going on
in your world based on your observations
and then just start and I think the main
reason that people don't start not not
necessarily just with content creation
but whether it's getting up and doing a
presentation or public speaking within
their company or going for a raise or
starting the company that they want to
is because you think that you just need
to learn a bit more now sure you learn
as you go but you're ready right where
you are just start and I think it's
because we do really give a whoop what
people think about us too much which
stops us from starting and there's a
really interesting study where two
groups - art art schools our classes
were taken one control group you may
well have heard of this it was written
about in the first 20 hours by journal
era and one group was told that there
would be assessed on the quality of
their work over the course of
or a period and the other group were
told that they would be assessed on at
the quantity such as pure volume of
output measured in weight by creating
clay sculptures
it's a quantity versus quality and as
you might guess the group that were
assessed purely on the quantity also
produced the best quality work that's
just because you've got more data points
you're creating more you can learn as
you go so you learn as you go so the
point is don't give a hope what people
think about you get on and do your thing
because then you'll learn and then
you'll be able to you'll be further
ahead than you were yesterday that's it

Is THIS the flux capacitor you’re looking for…?

Did you say time travel?
What is it that makes time travel possible?



Non, non, non, non.
Not time TRAVEL.

I said "What makes time tracking possible?"
And delightful time tracking at that...

Toggl - it's completely free.




You can get a timeline view by project, to ensure you are focusing on your ONE THING.
If you're not familiar with the ONE THING framework (and even if you are), you really should check this out:

(Question to define: What's the ONE thing you can do such that by doing it everything else will become easier or unnecessary?)

...which will ensure you focus on what's important to get extraordinary results.