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How to make rational decisions?

By Joe Lu ...



Decisions are all we have really. At least, all we have control over. You don't get to decide your genes, your parents, where you were born, or even a great deal of what happens to us as children ... but at some point we start to have more control over our lives, and how things turn out come down to our decisions.

Meet Antigone Wong

Six months ago I got a call from an old friend, Antigone Wong. She was the first graduate from WEquil School, and a freshman at the University of Virginia. I've known Antigone since she was maybe seven years old. For a while in 2021 she was coming over to our house regularly while schools were still shut down and WEquil School was one of the only options around.



Antigone reached out because she was having trouble making some important decisions. Her situation was similar to a lot of young people heading out into the world for the first time. School had taught her many things, but not so much in the area of how to make rationale decisions under uncertainty.


Mental Models


One of the first things that I did was introduce the concept of Mental Models. Specifically the concept of Circle of Influence. She defined this model in her project linked here in the excerpt below... "Circle of influence and circle of concern were introduced by the author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey. He defines your circle of influence as the areas of your life that you can influence, like who you choose to marry, what you choose to major in, or where you choose to live. Your circle of concern includes parts of your life that you may or may not be able to influence, but certainly spend mental energy thinking about. These may include your physical health, natural disasters, or international politics."



Being in a position of trust and authority is tricky. I've found myself in this situation a lot since Sumay and Aila started WEquil School. Young people are eager to believe people who sound like they know what they are talking about, especially if they are kind and considerate to their situation. So I try to careful not to answer questions about important decisions, but instead provide tools. Mental Models are just that...tools for making better decisions...and that's exactly what Circle of Influence helped Antigone start to do, by helping her remove fears, worries, and information clouding her mind outside of anything that she could do anything about.


Next we talked about having an accurate "Map of the Territory". Life is infinitely complex. There is no end to the information overload one can subject themselves to. Like a picture of our neighborhood, there is all this detail that can cloud one's mind with needless detail that can obscure what really matters.



All models are wrong, but some are useful. The same is true for Mental Models, like maps. Road maps don't show you everything. What they show is what you need to know in order to get from where you are to where you want to go. Mental Models work the same way, helping to simplify complex problems down to the information that matters most.

Logical Fallacies

We are not born with brains well suited to the modern world. So much has changed about how humans engage with each other that many of our natural instincts can work against us. One example of this is our Negativity Bias. We all have it, and for good reasons, but not reasons that make a whole lot of sense in a world far less dangerous than the one our ancestors evolved to survive.



We live in a world today that is full of opportunity. For example, one of the single most valuable things that a young person (or anyone) can do is to meet new people. That's not a natural thing to do. Everyone experiences some degree of social anxiety. We all fear rejection and try to avoid shame and guilt. That's a relic of how we evolved...in a world in which we only met new people when encountering tribes who often fought over territory the same way chimpanzees still do today.

Today, we must learn about Logical Fallacies as a necessary step towards overcoming them. Until we are aware of them, they simply control us the same way software controls the routines of a computer program. Without this knowledge we cannot hope to perceive Logical Fallacies for what they are, an evolutionary by-product that helped our ancestors survive and pass on their genes in a world that looks almost nothing like the one we live in today.

Values and Principles


Antigone and I spent a lot of time talking about values. We all have values, even if we don't know how to articulate them. They are embedded in our every decision...like your decision to keep reading this essay, or decide to check your phone, go exercise, or eat a snack. Your actions are a manifestation of what you believe to be of value to you, even if you were not the one to put these values into your own head. In order to make rationale decisions, one must understand their goals...

  1. Who are you?

  2. What do you want to do?

  3. Where do you want to go?

  4. How do you wish to be remembered?

These are questions that I often ask entrepreneurs that I support, my daughters, and new students I meet at WEquil School that are starting an ambitious project. Covey asks these questions in exercises in the book, "7 Habits..." that I gave to Antigone, and that she made foundational to her course. Without taking the time to make our values explicitly known to ourselves, we risk allowing our values to shift in favor of impulsive desires. There is an ancient Chinese proverb that reads, "Easy decisions lead to a hard life, hard decisions lead to an easy life." This wisdom reflects the reality that often times the right decision is one that requires doing what upon reflection is aligned with our values, even if it is emotionally inconvenient in the moment.


Everyone has their own opinions about what is "Good" and "Right". Everyone also has their own temperaments and personalities that may have some sway over what they decide to be right for them. At the same time, there is wisdom to be learned about what values we can live for that can help reduce unnecessary suffering and regret.



Equilibrium

One such value for me is the concept of "Equilibrium". The concept is simple...leverage your strengths, interests and passions to create unique value for the world...



While simple enough to state...Equilibrium is a challenging value to put into practice. One must develop a strong sense of their "Specific Knowledge"...a concept that Sumay explains at length in her studies of Naval Ravikant, a successful entrepreneur and angel investor that helped inspire the philosophy of WEquil School. Then there is the process of discovering how to channel your unique knowledge to create value in real world contexts we call "Projects" like this one...



Applying this value is at the core of WEquil School, and how we help young people build a sense of value and self-worth by taking responsibility to create real value for the real world. The same value is one I have used to help entrepreneurs find success on our platform. Sumay even composed a song by the same name that we have used in a lot of our videos.



My specific knowledge appears to be helping others discover theirs. People like Antigone, who I believe to be an extraordinary individual; which is why I am investing $10,000 into her class and community supporting her ambition to share her passion for this subject with the world.


Antigone's Specific Knowledge


Antigone was a bit apprehensive about starting this class. She is only 18 years old. She is also still learning a lot of the material herself. But she has a rare gift that I could not be more excited to help her share with the World.



Since Antigone was a young girl she has always had an extraordinary combination of humble curiosity. She is also someone with deep compassion for other people. She is very good at listening, and helping other people feel comfortable sharing their story and perspective. That is all on top of her being an extraordinary student, hard working, and a willingness to turn problems into opportunities to learn, grow and create her own future. Antigone's course is very unique. Each student will be creating their own projects, applying Mental Models and Logical Fallacies to solving problems in their own life. This takes a lot of emotional intelligence on her part...to help others in her community to express themselves and practice writing and public speaking. That would intimidate many professional adults, but her background from WEquil School makes her an ideal teacher for this type of class. Antigone will also not be alone. Sumay Lu, CEO of WEquil App, her friend Gabriel, Jimmy Edwards our Director of Teaching and Learning, and myself will all be supporting her. She has the dream team backing her up and we are ready to give it all we got.


We are offering a free one week trial to new students joining our new Mental Models and Logical Fallacies (MMLF) course and community.

Hope you will join us! Sincerely, Joe Lu CEO of WEquil Startups Co-Instructor at MMLF



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