In 2011 Charlie Munger ended the tradition of yearly Wesco shareholder conferences by calling the attendees … peculiar:
“You people aren’t normal. It’s only peculiar people like you that I want to impress.”
So what makes someone peculiar in Charlie’s mind?
It’s someone who doesn’t think like the masses, someone who recognizes the limits of the human mind and adopts tools to think as rationally as possible.
And Charlie has hinted at the tools he has used to achieve his success.
Vague as Always
Charlie never really tells us flat out the exact system he has developed for rational thinking.
He has listed some mental models and cognitive biases, mentioned bits and pieces of his checklists, and made vague references to his system of decision-making.
This is because he wants us to figure this out for ourselves.
Partly he doesn’t want to make it too easy to follow in his footsteps, but he also thinks the process of researching and developing our own lists and systems is an inherent part of the learning process.
In short we won’t achieve the same success from tools we are given as we will from tools we make ourselves.
Picking Up the Pieces: Mental Models Munger Style
He has let slip some tips and tricks though:
- Have many tools in your mental tool bag: Don’t be the “man with a hammer”.
- Have a system and follow it, preferably using a checklist:
- Look at a problem rationally, then
- Look for the subconscious influences
- Invert: Solve problems by finding ways of causing problems then avoid them.
- Improve vicariously: Learn from other peoples’ mistakes.
- Watch for cases where forces work together: Lollapaloozas.
- Work at it: Becoming rational is a slow, arduous process.
- End your day a little wiser than you started.
- Disconfirming Evidence: “Destroy your own best-loved ideas”.
- Think as far ahead as possible: Consider 2nd and 3rd order consequences.
- Be persistent: “Slug it out one day at a time”.
Growing the List
There are of course other tools beyond what Charlie has mentioned publicly. These are what I have added to the list:
- Focus: Trying to learn too many models at once is a recipe for failure. Pick one, “learn it to fluency”, then move on.
- Meta-cognition: Learn to step back and watch your thought processes so you can start to recognize patterns and mistakes.
- Checklists: Okay, Charlie mentions this one but I think it’s far more important than he lets on.
- Broad Framing: Think long-term and always give appropriate weight to the Outside View (Base Rates/what usually happens in a given situation).
- Perfect vs Good: Your system will never be perfect or complete so work towards one that is good enough and start using it instead of waiting for perfection.
Share the Wealth
What tools do you have?
If you have some that aren’t listed above please leave a comment below. Let’s use crowdsourcing to help build our Latticework of Mental Models!
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