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Iteration: A Mental Models Cookbook

By Juan Carlos

The Setup

Iteration, the act of repeating a process, is required to perfect anything. As an individual, a part of society, and a citizen of the universe, it’s your responsibility to focus and choose what you will improve. The first step toward meaning-making is understanding that the world trends towards chaos and that all living things work hard to keep up. When choosing a way to spend your time, it’s essential to recognize that how you start will not be how you end up. Along the way, things will change, and that’s a good thing to embrace. Look back retroactively and applaud how far you have come. Think about where you are now to decipher the next move you want to make.

The Approach

  • Recall that all things trend toward disorder naturally. You choose what to keep in order and maintain.
  • Consider that everything is competing for survival, and you must constantly evolve.
  • Note that invention and reinvention are necessary to stand out, and aging methods will be replaced, no matter how brilliant.
  • Utilize repeatable processes to deliver a known output and then optimize it.
  • Review the outcome, good or bad, and notice how much you succeeded or failed to couch the next step.

​The Latticework

  • Entropy, the second law of thermodynamics, is the gradual decline into disorder. It illuminates what needs to be kept in order.
  • The Red Queen Effect describes the process and importance of evolving personally and as a part of society.
  • Creative Destruction is the constant state of invention and reinvention in products and organizations.
  • Algorithms help codify and repeat rote processes for specific outcomes.
  • Minima and Maxima assess whether you have reached the highest peaks and valleys personally or professionally.

​The Deep Dive

Entropy is a measure of disorder in a system. When left alone, life becomes less organized, everything decays. Ice melts into water, smoke dissipates in the air, ruins crumble, and sandcastles wash away. Things with high entropy exhibit more disorder, while items with low entropy display more order. Without entropy, everything would stay the same. So, what can you do to prevent entropy? To fight entropy is to use energy and effort to create structure and form. Life is made precious by creating order, whatever that may be for you, and for that work to stand up to entropy.

Red Queen Effect
The Red Queen is from Lewis Carroll’s novel “Through the Looking Glass.” She notes to Alice that in the Red Queen’s world, she’ll have to run as fast as she can to stay in place and twice as quickly to move forward. The effect is an evolutionary hypothesis that organisms must constantly evolve to survive, reproduce, and hopefully gain an advantage. It is the perceived and actual necessity to continuously adapt and change to survive, or perhaps even thrive, against other people, organisms, or forces, who are taking similar action in an ever-changing climate. What holds for organisms is valid for working within the construct of society and attaining success.

Creative Destruction
The continuous process of invention where new products replace obsolete ones. Capitalistic markets naturally dismantle old methods for new ideas and practices as a part of the free-market system. By halting or eliminating aging processes, one frees up resources to innovate. The process of creative destruction results in winners and losers, and by remaining committed to aging methodologies, organizations and people are left behind. As entrepreneurs embrace new technology, they disrupt industries and create new verticals. Adaptation rewards an organization with continued relevance, and stagnation is punished with irrelevance.

Algorithms take an input and make an output: Cooking from a recipe creates a dish. Using a step-by-step app, complete taxes each year. Tying shoelaces in a specific order keep shoes on during the day. Algorithms solve problems in a repeatable manner and produce a known outcome. An algorithm is a precise sequence of operations commonly used to solve a problem or calculate something. They are a step-by-step path that links a mathematical problem to its solution. They don’t aim for perfection but rather to produce valuable outputs. We are constantly using them to complete discrete tasks and are being used by them for a variety of outputs. Building an algorithm does not require coding experience but rather a way to codify a set of inputs, processes, and repeatable outcomes.

Minima and Maxima
The highs and lows of life are natural, and moving between peaks and valleys is how you get from point A to point B. The minima and maxima, plurals of minimum and maximum, are collectively known as extrema, the smallest and largest values in a given field. There can only be one global maximum in any domain, and any smaller peaks are local maxima. Similarly, there is a global minimum, and smaller valleys are local minima. When climbing a hill in life, it’s challenging to comprehend if you’ve reached the highest peak. By reaching local maxima, one knows what it took to climb there, and from that vantage point can see the descent afterward. Sometimes, one has to descend from the current local maxima and challenge themself to scale the next highest peak — the global maximum.

Hi, I’m
Juan Carlos

I’m a creator at heart, a filmmaker by instinct, and a polymath who thrives on diversity. My life’s work is about framing: capturing, exploring, and sometimes breaking conventional boundaries to uncover deeper truths.

My Story

From directing award-winning films to leading product innovation at startups, my career spans the creative and the analytical. I’ve authored children’s books under desert skies, each designed to spark curiosity and independent thought in young minds. Whether through technology that simplifies complex issues or through mental models that enhance clarity, I constantly strive to reimagine how we perceive and interact with the world.

In my personal life, I’m a father fascinated by nature and humanity’s marvels. I share this wonder with my children as we explore the world’s beauty together. Every day offers a new frame, reminding us that what we focus on defines our lives’ story.