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Through the Re:Mind Newsletter, delivered every other Tuesday, we unleash your full potential and upgrade decision-making. We’ll explore mental models and life design.

Inversion

By Juan Carlos

Definition

Don’t search for a solution by thinking linearly; consider outcomes you don’t want to occur first.

So, rather than plot a one-year plan meticulously, think about all the ways things can go wrong. Figure out how you or the idea will fail so you don’t end up there.

By inverting a problem, you can better understand what you don’t want to happen and avoid adverse effects you would have otherwise invited.

Why Use It

Thinking forwards is additive and solutions-oriented, whereas thinking backward is subtractive and seeks to remove missteps. Using inversion, you’ll shine a light on roadblocks that are not immediately apparent.

Practicing inversion illuminates places where future risks may exist and identify patterns that could lead to failure.

When to Use It

Utilize this method during the ideation process to interrogate decisions before you’ve decided to move forward with a particular solution. By considering possible outcomes, you will prevent yourself from being misguided by your own bias.

How to Use It

Get comfortable acknowledging the opposite of what you desire rather than immediately confirming what you already consider to be true. By exploring the opposite of what you want to solve and questioning your assumptions, you will have more clarity about the best path forward.

Sometimes it’s possible to find or be a part of a project that has not turned out the way you’d hoped. You might think taking incremental steps is essential to fixing the issue, but many times it’s an illusion, and you could waste a lot of time moving rocks instead of boulders.

How to Misuse It

Utilizing inversion can help us see problems in their entirety, but it’s not useful if you don’t know much about the field of study. If your circle of competence is limited, then ignorance can play a factor in misunderstanding what the next steps should be.

Next Step

While inverting a problem will not give you all the answers, the mental model will guide you in choosing a sounder path by figuring out how to avoid failure.

Where it Came From

Before the term “Inversion” was coined, Stoic philosophers Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, and Epictetus, conducted an exercise known as a “premeditation of evils.” The activity helped folks envision a life of negative consequences as a way to choose one’s future.

Then came German mathematician Carl Jacobi who believed the best way to clarify your position was to restate math problems in reverse and expanded the stoics concept to a new field.

Eventually, Howard Marks and Charlie Munger picked up inversion thinking and popularized it for myriad applications.

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.