Winning the lottery

So how do mental models work?

Here is a quick example of my model for getting rich:

  1. Pick the right numbers.
  2. Buy a lottery ticket.
  3. Win the lottery.

Easy, right? Unfortunately, this is in conflict another mental model of mine:

  1. My chance of getting hit by a bus are orders of magnitude greater than winning the lottery.
  2. I live in London, with lots of buses, some of which drive extremely close to the side of the road.
  3. If I play the lottery, chances are I’ve been hit by a bus.
  4. I’d better not play the lottery.


If you think this is a bit far-fetched, you should see my normal mental models. But that’s okay… mental models don’t need to make sense, they just need to work. The important thing is to ask the questions:

  • Does this mental model work for me?
  • Is there something that might work better?

    Mental models

    What are mental models?

    Mental models are the the models we build up of how the world works in order to interact with the world in a more efficient manner. These models can come from our perceptions and imagination – and give us a reference to how physical things or abstract interactions work.

    Prof. Ruth Byrne, in her gentle introduction to mental models, likens mental models to architect’s models or physicists’ diagrams. These models and diagrams are an analogy to the structure they represent, and make it easier for decisions and interpretations to be made.

    Kern communications ties mental models into systems thinking, making the link between product design and user’s mental models about how a product will function.

    Mental models, belief systems, or whatever you call them, have a huge impact on how we act in the present moment. We encounter so much information, we need our models in order to get on with our lives, and not be paralyzed trying to interpret every new situation.


    Do you like how the world around you makes you feel?

    We create our beliefs about the world from our experiences, but they don’t need to be permanent. How quickly can we change? Consider the following story:

    • You are riding on a busy bus. Sitting next to you are a couple of rowdy, uncontrolled, obnoxious kids. Their father is sitting there, clearly inattentive, letting them bounce around and make a lot of noise. They just can’t keep quiet or sit still… and are distracting everyone on the bus – others are eying the kids and sending annoyed glances to the father. What’s wrong with him? Why can’t he do something about his children. He is acting really inconsiderate and ought to be thrown off the bus. What a horrible father.

    That’s a reasonable interpretation, right? Are you annoyed at this guy?

    • One of your fellow passengers has had enough. He gets up, walks over to the father and says, “Sir, you have to do something about your kids. They are distracting everybody on this bus Please calm them down.” To which the father replies, “I’m so sorry… we are just coming from the hospital… their mother just passed away… it was all so sudden… I don’t know what I’m going to do without her…”

    What happens to your interpretation? Are you still annoyed?

    Remember: You never have all the information. Even if you did, you still choose how you react.

    Do you like how you choose to feel about the world around you?

    Take charge

    We are in charge of our beliefs about the world. Everything we see as good, bad, evil, whatever… stems from our own beliefs. These beliefs are not written in stone, but are something ethereal that we hold on to, and often identify with.


    For example, some of the beliefs that I have:

    • Sunny weather makes everyone happier. When I have too much sunny weather I stop appreciating it, so a variety in weather is good. The sun always comes out every day in London… even if it is for just a few seconds. The rain is fun to listen to. Drizzle is not. Apples taste good. Cheesecake tastes even better. But cheesecake is unhealthy. But the blueberry cheesecake at starbucks is really good, so what does it matter? I don’t like being judged, therefore I shouldn’t judge people. Shakespeare wrote, nothing tis neither good nor bad, but thinking makes it so. I think that’s a good philosophy for me to live by.

    None of these are universal truths that are true for everyone. They’re not even always true for me. The catch is… I created them – from my own experiences.

    Perceiving reality

    Here’s an interesting bit from about… perceiving reality. I like how it describes that we don’t really know what is out there. Our reality in only constructed by our five senses… so all we know is what we interpret from these different senses we experience.

    Our perception of the world isn’t solely constructed from what we are sensing, but also our memories of what we have experienced. From these, we have constructed beliefs about the way things are.

    It’s kind of like putting on glasses that make your vision weaker. I guess it makes it easier to get through the day. I wonder if my day would be even easier if I didn’t put on my contact lenses in the morning.


    Simplicity Blossoms When Coercion Dies

    Govern a state with predictable actions.
    Fight a war with surprise attacks.
    But the universe becomes ours
    only by eliminating coercive acts.
    By not doing, nothing lacks.

    How do we know these lessons?
    By tuning into our Essence.

    The more taboos and prohibitions there are,
    the poorer the people become.
    The more deadly weapons there are,
    the more our fears turn us numb.

    When craftiness spreads far,
    the more bizarre what is done,
    The stricter the laws there are,
    the less the robbers run.

    Therefore, the wise know
    to make no one a foe.
    The less coercing we do,
    The more tranquilities grow.

    When harmony reigns,
    and we rule ourselves with felicity,
    everyone gains,
    and we’ll all live in simplicity.

    Tao Te Ching
    Lao-tzu (abt.551-479 BCE)


    verse 57 as translated by Ralph Alan Dale 2002 ISBN 0-7607-4998-1


    Lucid dreaming for dummies

    The art of lucid dreaming is all about waking up inside your dream, becoming conscious that you’re dreaming and realizing that you are in control of what is created. My own lucid dreams are relatively infrequent… about once every two months, but when they happen, I love to take off flying.

    Lucid dreaming takes a bit more work than dream recall.

    Critical State Testing

    One method to wake up in dreams is to ask yourself if you’re dreaming or not. To do this you need to build up the habit while you are awake.

    Pick 5-10 occasions during the day to ask yourself “Am I dreaming or awake, right now?”. Make sure you stop and become intently aware of your surroundings. Look carefully for oddities or inconsistencies. Think back to events of the last several minutes. Do you have any trouble remembering what just happened?

    Be careful not to just answer to yourself, “of course I’m awake” without thinking about it, otherwise in your dream… you may do exactly the same.

    Scheduling time for lucid dreaming

    Another step is raise your awareness before you dream. Here is a technique:

    1. Set your alarm to awaken 2-3 hours earlier than usual, then go to bed at the normal time.
    2. When alarm goes off, get out of bed immediately. Stay away for 2-3 hours.
    3. A half-hour before returning to sleep, think about what to accomplish in lucid dream: where to go, who to see, what to do.
    4. Return to sleep in an undisturbed place, keeping your intention focused on having a lucid dream as you fall asleep.
    5. Give yourself at least 2 hours to dream.

    Dream analysis 101

    Okay, here is my quick and dirty Jungiang Dream Interpretation guide. Brace yourself.

    There are 3 elements to Jungian dream interpretation:

    1. Dream Details.
      Record as closely as you can the exact details of the dream. Events, emotions, anything out of the ordinary, anything that stands out. Not just the object in the dream, but also the distortions on the object.
    2. Personal, cultural, and archetypal associations.
      Gather your associations of your dream details, starting with what symbols mean to you personally, and then what they mean to you culturally, and finally what they mean on an archetypal level (in that order).
    3. Put it in context.
      Place the dream and associations in the context of the dreamer’s current life situation. As a general rule, if you already know what the dream seems to be saying, then you have missed its meaning.

    There you go. That’s it. I said it would be quick and dirty, didn’t I? It’s not rocket science.

    Where do dreams come from?

    Recent theories postulate that dreams often stem from worries or emotionally charged problems that are unresolved when you go to sleep. The dream process helps to break down the emotional charge so you the following day you can devote your energy to… uncovering new problems and worries!

    This is slightly different to Freud’s theory that dreams have latent meanings; instead, your dream comes from your conscious introspections instead of your ‘subconscious infantile impulses’ (if you have such a thing). Also, your dreams aren’t disguised or distorted wishes – they are just your senses replaying unexpressed emotions that have aroused from your day.

    On another interesting note, your beliefs about how your dreams are structured and what they mean may actually effect HOW you dream. If you read up on Freudian dream analysis, your dreams are more likely to fit Freud’s theory. If instead, you’re a believer of Jung’s interpretation methods… then your dreams will adapt accordingly.

    Either way, the more you recall and analyze your dreams, the easier they become to understand.

    Dream recall

    Having trouble remembering your dreams? Here is what you do:

    1. Get a private dream journal and keep it next to your bed.
    2. Before falling asleep, repeat to yourself (at least 10 times) a positive intention to remember your dreams. For example: “I remember my dreams with ease, and write them down as I awake.
    3. First thing in the morning, as you awake, lie still. (Yes, this is difficult with an alarm clock.)
    4. There is a period between when you end dreaming and when you awake, where you are conscious but still have access to your dream memory. Think up 3 key words to describe your dream.
    5. When you awake, write down the key words before anything else.
    6. Next, write down your dream in a much detail as possible including anything you remember – most importantly how you felt and anything out of the ordinary.

    The longer you do this, the better you get. Practice, patience and intention. Everyone dreams every night. Except possibly when there is a lot of alcohol… I find that drastically interferes with my dreaming process. Which is probably why I don’t drink much. I like my dreams.