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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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