Super Thinking: The Big Book of Mental Models by Gabriel Weinberg [Summary]

This is a comprehensive summary of the book Super Thinking: The Big Book of Mental Models by Gabriel Weinberg. Covering the key ideas and proposing practical ways for achieving what’s mentioned in the text. Written by book fanatic and online librarian Ivaylo Durmonski. Supporting Members get full access.


Super Thinking is exactly what the title entails – a big book that lists a wide variety of mental models. What exactly are mental models? Set of frameworks, thinking scripts, that promise to radically reduce the time you need to make a decision. Gabriel Weinberg, who happens to be the CEO of DuckDuckGo, does a wonderful job explaining these frameworks. He adds context and real-life examples to make it easy for readers to “get” what they’re reading.

The Core Idea:

You don’t have to be Superman to make smart, thoughtful choices in your life. Simply do what the smartest people on the planet do – take advantage of the already established mental models. The main goal of the book is to introduce you to a lot of thinking concepts. This way, by upgrading your mental toolbox, you will have everything needed to make better decisions in life. Your ability to find insights, quick, in difficult situations will increase – helping you become a master problem-solver.


  • Not every problem is a nail that you can beat with a hammer. Add more tools to your mental toolkit.
  • There’s a huge difference between what you know, what you know you don’t know, and what you don’t know at all.
  • Reading about mental models is just the starting point. To actually get them you need to practice.

5 Key Lessons from Super Thinking: The Big Book of Mental Models:

Lesson #1: To Be Right More Often, You Need To Be Less Wrong

What to have for dinner? What movie to watch? What color scarf to buy?

You’re facing a ton of decisions on a daily basis. Naturally, you want to be right most of the time. You don’t want to hear the nagging “I told you so” from your wife.

However, being right all the time is not an easy task. The world is full of moving parts and every living thing on the planet has a plan on its own. Usually different from what you want.

The following mental models are here to help you be right most of the time:

  1. Inverse thinking: Don’t focus on being right all the time. Focus on being less wrong. When you think about a problem, always consider the inverse perspective. When you play sports, don’t focus solely on gaining a point. Concentrate on not losing a point – on making fewer mistakes.
  2. Argue from first principles: You can’t create new solutions if you don’t understand the founding parts. Or as the author writes, “Understanding how molecules fit together enables you to build new molecules.” The idea of this mental model is to help you figure out what’s definitely true. What is unchangeable? What are the main materials? Once you know, think of clever ways to combine them.
  3. De-risking: This is the process of testing your assumptions. You think that your product will generate profit? You need to be sure. To de-risk this statement, you need to be more specific. You need to be certain that the gains will be higher than the costs in order for a product to be profitable. Being specific. Considering all the possible options about a concept will help you find loopholes and fix (de-risk) them.
  4. Ockham’s razor: Don’t use a complicated explanation when a simpler one will do the job. Ockham’s razor is a thinking concept stating that the simplest explanation is always better. The main idea is to find the simplified version of a tricky situation/problem. By “shaving” the redundant data you force yourself to think on the core issue.
  5. Frame of reference: A lot of times we make mistakes because we assume that other people know what we know. The frame of reference theory explains that you see life from your perspective. If you’re inside a train, you’ll see everyone next to you still. But for the people outside, all the folks inside the train are moving. Meaning that there’s a difference between your frame and other people’s frame.

Lesson #2: Understanding Other People is Key Component in Making The Right Choices

People are not the same. We all have differences.

It’s vital to take into account what others might think or feel.


Because we can’t thrive in the world if we don’t maintain good relationships with other people. To flourish emotionally, you rely on outside folks – your family members, spouse, kids, friends, etc. To make progress financially, you need clients – once again people you need to understand better.

The following thinking concepts will help you cope with individuals and increase your empathy skills:

  1. Third story: There’s a gap between what you know and what someone else knows. To elegantly close the gap and convey your message clearly, always try to explain things as taking a third-person approach. This will allow you to be impartial in situations and reduce the chances of being misunderstood.
  2. Most respectful interpretation (MRI): You emailed a colleague 24 hours ago and you still don’t have a reply? Don’t immediately assume that he’s disrespecting you. The MRI theory will state that he’s simply busy. This approach will help you build trust in other people which is always a good long-term strategy.
  3. Learned helplessness: A state of mind that prevents you from trying because you convinced yourself that you’re helpless to make a difference. This usually happens if someone is/was experiencing difficulties over a long period of time – abuse, failure, unsupportive peers. To emerge from this state, a person needs to see that their actions can make a difference.
  4. Semmelweis reflex: Even if new evidence is presented, most people will still hold tight to their old beliefs and keep doing what they are doing.
  5. Confirmation bias: People rarely question their own assumptions. When exposed to new information, most folks interpret it in a way that best works for them – confirming what they already know, not questioning it. The older you get, the harder it will be to change your thinking.

Unfortunately, it’s extremely easy to succumb to confirmation bias. Correspondingly, it is hard to question your own core assumptions. There is a reason why many startup companies that disrupt industries are founded by industry outsiders. There is a reason why many scientific breakthroughs are discovered by outsiders to the field. There is a reason why “fresh eyes” and “outside the box” are clichés. The reason is because outsiders aren’t rooted in existing paradigms. Their reputations aren’t at stake if they question the status quo. They are by definition “free thinkers” because they are free to think without these constraints.” Gabriel Weinberg

Hey there, sorry to interrupt…

Since you’ve come this far, it seems that you are really passionate about books and learning. I’m too! And while what I’m about to say next probably won’t quite excite you, I have to say it…

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