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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.

Playing the Long Game: A Mental Models Cookbook

By Juan Carlos

The Setup

Playing the long game is seeing the forest for the trees. Making mentally sound choices means keeping a long-term perspective rather than seeking short-term gains. First, have the right mindset when confronting others’ choices, especially when they act inconsistently. Moreover, understand how scenarios impact folks’ decision-making. This helps couch when and where individuals protect their interests. With those groundings in mind, when starting a new endeavor, make a move that impacts the future—seize the middle. In other words, take control of a resource early on as a tactical advantage. Capitalize on successes and build momentum, like a snowball hurtling down a slope. Invest in yourself, your endeavors, and your financials. They will compound over time.

The Approach

  • Don’t assume someone has bad intentions when they might be ignorant.
  • Recognize when scenarios require individuals to behave in their self-interest.
  • Take control of a resource early on personally or professionally as a tactical advantage.
  • Understand how luck plays a role in success and capitalize on it.
  • Start compounding as soon as possible to reap the most rewards financially, personally, and professionally.

​The Latticework

  • Hanlon’s Razor is a reminder to never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity. In other words, don’t assume a person’s actions have the worst intentions when they can just as easily be explained as ignorance.
  • Prisoner’s Dilemma is a game set, so each individual wants to protect themself at the other’s expense. Even though an individual’s actions are rational for them, they are not for the group. The concept helps evaluate scenarios and probable actions.
  • Seizing the Middle is a forward-thinking chess strategy to control the board’s center. When executed, it allows a player to set the rules of engagement. The strategy applies to real-world scenarios.
  • Matthew Effect shows how luck plays a role in success. An early advantage, no matter how small, can change future events. This will help you recognize how the effect transforms life trajectories.
  • Compounding is the addition of interest to a fixed sum, leading to exponential gains. Reinvesting time and effort in something increases its value and can be a force multiplier. It is human nature to overestimate short-term gains and underestimate long-term ones. What is possible in one year is much different than five and ten years.

​The Deep Dive

Hanlon’s Razor
We spend most of our days communicating with others and interpreting their actions. Even though we know the world is complex, we are quick to accuse when something goes wrong. A mind can almost immediately misconstrue another’s questionable actions negatively. By doing so, you compromise communication and clarification. Worse, the effect of this mental trapping can distance you from people and lead you to miss out on opportunities. Use the philosophical razor to convert those thoughts into more positive ones. In practice, reframing scenarios in healthier ways to discount implausible explanations for human behavior is beneficial. By giving others the benefit of the doubt, you develop stable relationships.

Prisoner’s Dilemma
The prisoner’s dilemma is a game that exhibits why two people behaving rationally might not cooperate, even when it’s in their best interest. Usually, the game is set so each individual wants to protect themself at the other’s expense. Even though an individual’s actions are rational for them, they are not for the group. By pursuing that strategy, they produce a worse outcome. The game illuminates the conflict between individual and group rationality. It’s a classic paradox that portrays how acting in your self-interest doesn’t produce the most favorable outcome.

Seizing the Middle
In chess, a player seizes the middle at the beginning of the game. By securing the middle, you have more options in the future. With the tactical advantage, they control board movement, and more opportunities are available. The same is true in business. Controlling a consequential domain gives an organization leverage in financial terms or market position. The result is an ability to set the rules of engagement by owning a needed resource and ultimately increased revenue. In business or economics, an entity claims a critical resource or domain to limit an adversary’s choices in the future. The group that controls the space has more flexibility and can outmaneuver opponents, making their success more probable. Like the sun in the solar system, the pieces on a chessboard revolve and rely on the center.

Matthew Effect
The adage “the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer” is often invoked to describe the effect. Whether it’s fame, success, or wealth, someone with an existing advantage can more easily acquire it than someone with less. That advantage compounds over time. While luck plays a role in success, an early advantage, no matter how small, can change the future course of events.

Exponential gains in personal and professional life are often rooted in compounding. Albert Einstein famously noted, “Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world.” The power of compounding is in actualizing gains via effort over a long period. By reinvesting interest in a fixed sum, one earns the combined amount in the next period, which continues exponentially over time — interest earned on interest. While compound interest is based on finance, compounding has applications in several disciplines. The effect is quantifiable when building wealth and observable in relationships, health, and, most importantly, knowledge.

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.