Best Articles

Best Articles on farnam street

Knowing where to start can be a little difficult.

To help, I’ve compiled a list of the best articles based on popularity, feedback I’ve received, or impact on people’s lives.

Best Articles by Category

Mental Models/Thinking

Mental Models — The best place to start to understand mental models.

Adding Mental Models to Your Mind’s Toolbox — How mental models are useful and how we can prioritize them.

How to Think — Thinking about how we think.

Changing How We Think — “To change patterns of thinking, change patterns of talking.”

Herbert Simon on using Mental Models — What would we see if we cracked open the brain of a decision-maker?

Richard Feynman: The Difference Between Knowing the Name of Something and Knowing Something — Just because you know what something is called does not mean you understand it.

Albert Einstein on Sifting the Essential from the Non-Essential — “I soon learned to scent out what was able to lead to fundamentals and to turn aside from everything else, from the multitude of things that clutter up the mind.”

The Work Required To Have An Opinion — “I never allow myself to have an opinion on anything that I don’t know the other side’s argument better than they do.”

Charlie Munger on the Value of Thinking Backward and Forward — “Flipping one’s thinking both forward and backward is a powerful sort of mental trickery that will help improve your thinking.”

Charlie Munger’s Five Simple Notions to Help Solve Big Problems — The five big, but simple notions Charlie Munger finds useful to begin solving a complex problem.

Carol Dweck: The Two Mindsets And The Power of Believing That You Can Improve — Dweck’s work shows the power of our most basic beliefs. Whether conscious or subconscious, they strongly “affect what we want and whether we succeed in getting it.” Much of what we think we understand of our personality comes from our “mindset.” This both propels us and prevents us from fulfilling our potential.

How did Charles Darwin Become an Effective Thinker? Follow the Golden Rule — Darwin’s habit of forced objectivity helped him see reality clearly, even though he wasn’t nearly the smartest person of his time.

Decision Making

Avoiding Stupidity is Easier than Seeking Brilliance — If you’re an amateur your focus should be on avoiding stupidity.

How We Can Improve Our Decisions — My keynote speech at the Pender Investment Conference.

Decisions Under Uncertainty — We often think we’re making decisions involving risk when really we’re dealing with uncertainty.

How Using a Decision Journal can Help you Make Better Decisions — “Odds are you’re going to discover two things. First, you’re right a lot of the time. Second, it’s often for the wrong reasons.”

Daniel Kahneman’s Favorite Approach For Making Better Decisions — The premortem.

Your Environment Matters If You Want To Make Better Decisions — It’s hard to make rational decisions the way most of us work.

What You Can Learn About Making Better Decisions From One of Baseball’s Greatest Hitters — “the single most important thing for a hitter was to get a good ball to hit.”

A Two-Step Process For Making Effective Decisions — “One approach is rationality-the way you’d work out a bridge problem: by evaluating the real interests, the real probabilities and so forth. And the other is to evaluate the psychological factors that cause subconscious conclusions-many of which are wrong.”

How to Make Better Decisions In Life And Work — Most of us rarely use a process for thinking about things. If we do use one it’s likely to be the pros-and-cons list. While better than nothing, this approach is still deeply flawed because it doesn’t really account for biases.

What Matters More in Decisions: Analysis or Process? — “Our research indicates that, contrary to what one might assume, good analysis in the hands of managers who have good judgment won’t naturally yield good decisions.”

Making Smart Choices — “We have found that even the most complex decision can be analysed and resolved by considering a set of eight elements. The first five—Problem, Objectives, Alternatives, Consequences, and Tradeoffs—constitute the core of our approach and are applicable to virtually any decision.”

What happens when decisions go wrong? — “When a decision goes awry, we tend to focus on the people who made it, rather than on the decision itself. Our assumption, which is really unwarranted, is that good people make good decisions, and vise versa.”

Innovation

Seneca on Gathering Ideas And Combinatorial Creativity — “We should follow, men say, the example of the bees, who flit about and cull the flowers that are suitable for producing honey, and then arrange and assort in their cells all that they have brought in; these bees, as our Vergil says,”

Steve Jobs on Creativity — “Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.”

How to be Creative — A great short video.

Building Blocks and Innovation —  Most innovation comes from combining well-known, well-established, building blocks in new ways.

A Technique for Producing Ideas — “the habit of mind which leads to a search for relationships between facts becomes of the highest importance in the production of ideas.”

The Remarkable Ways We Gain Insights — A lot of people aren’t wrestling with a problem when they come up with an accidental insight.

Why Your Organization Sucks at Innovating — It’s easy to make your organization more innovative if you stop trying to show everyone how innovative you are.

The Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators — The ability to look at problems in a non-standard way might be the most sought after competency of the future.

Seven Innovation Myths — Myth #1: Innovation is about the latest thing.

Einstein on The Essential Feature of Productive Thought — “Combinatory play seems to be the essential feature in productive thought.”

Eight Things I Learned from Peter Thiel’s Zero To One — There is no formula to innovation.

Google and Combinatorial Innovation — How a solution for porn developed into so much more.

Innovation: The Attacker’s Advantage — What if tomorrow does not resemble today?

Creativity and the Necessity of Giving up Your Best Loved Ideas and Starting Over Again — “All we can hope is that we will fail better. That we won’t succumb to fear of the unknown. That we will not fall prey to the easy enchantments of repeating what may have worked in the past.”

Leadership

16 Leadership Lessons from a Four Star General — “We like to equate leaders with values we admire, but the two can be separate and distinct.”

10 Life Lessons From a Navy SEAL — “If you want to change the world sometimes you have to slide down the obstacle head first.”

The Unwritten Rules of Management — “#1. Learn to say, ‘I don’t know.’ If used when appropriate, it will be often.”

Warren Buffett: The three things I look for in a person — “Inevitably, the most useful qualities have nothing to do with IQ, grades, or family connections.”

Leadership Is a Gift Given by Those Who Follow — “Leadership is a gift. It’s given by those who follow. You have to be worthy of it.”

Culture Eats Strategy: Nucor’s Ken Inverson on Building a Different Kind of Company — “Steel is about as bad a business as you could invent. Yet in Ken Iverson’s 30+ year reign, Nucor compounded its per-share earnings at a rate of about 17% per annum. There must have been something going on here.”

Letters

Richard Feynman’s Love Letter to His Wife Sixteen Months After Her Death — This will touch your soul.

Charles Bukowski: An Argument Against Censorship — “The thing that I fear discriminating against is humor and truth.”

Hunter S. Thompson on Finding Your Purpose and Living a Meaningful Life — You won’t find better advice. Anywhere.

Eudora Welty to The New Yorker: The best job application ever — “I suppose you’d be more interested in even a sleight-o’-hand trick than you’d be in an application for a position with your magazine, but as usual you can’t have the thing you want most.”

Letters from a Self-Made Merchant to His Son — “College doesn’t make fools; it develops them. It doesn’t make bright men; it develops them. A fool will turn out a fool, whether he goes to college or not, though he’ll probably turn out a different sort of a fool.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald offers a list of things to worry about and things not to worry about — Offering a hint of his parenting, the letter from August 1933 concludes with a list of things to worry about and things not to worry about.

Richard Feynman’s Letter on What Problems to Solve — “With you I made a mistake, I gave you the problem instead of letting you find your own.”

Reading

How To Read A Book — Seriously.

The Top 3 Most Effective Ways to Take Notes While Reading — This is how I take notes.

A System For Remembering What you Read — A helpful reading system you can implement today.

Twenty-Five Pages a Day – How to get the Big Books read.

The Buffett Formula: How To Get Smarter — The simple (but not easy) way to acquire wisdom.

Other

Ten Techniques for Building Quick Rapport With Anyone — Warning: the content in this post is so effective that I encourage you to think carefully how it is used. I do not endorse or condone the use of these skills in malicious or deceptive ways.

Mistakes — Just because we’ve lost our way doesn’t mean that we are lost forever. In the end, it’s not the failures that define us so much as how we respond.

How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big — Goals are for losers, passion is bullshit, and mediocre skills can make you valuable.

Tiny Beautiful Things — “Don’t lament so much about how your career is going to turn out. You don’t have a career.”

David Ogilvy 10 Tips on Writing — In 1982, the original “Mad Man” David Ogilvy, sent the following internal memo to all employees of his advertising agency, Ogilvy & Mather, titled “How to Write.”