Forward. Backward. Preferred. Dis-preferred.

Like any good algebraist, he is made to think sometimes in a forward fashion and sometimes in reverse; and so he learns when to concentrate mostly on what he wants to happen and also when to concentrate mostly on avoiding what he does not want to happen.

~ Charlie Munger from,

That item from a list of six elements, originally from the best pilot education program in existence, made me realize there’s this thing that I do. For me it’s such an intuitive, automatic thing, but it occurs to me to share it to make it explicit.

Let’s begin by thinking about planning and learning. (I’m done. You are now thinking about planning and learning. :) Next, we’ll trot out three magnificently useful, relative adverbs: how, when and why. Six sublime questions instantly appear:

How do I plan?
When do I plan?
Why do I plan?
How do I learn?
When do I learn?
Why do I learn?

I’ve certainly spent a lot of time thinking about those questions. For example, I’ve a bunch of blog posts about knowledge systems that came from thinking about, “how do I learn?” I could spend all my time thinking about those six questions. Exploring those questions, understanding myself, and learning in general, are fine projects to spend time on. But it’s tough to get started. Each of those questions is a deep, Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole.

What I want to share is how to use a different framework to flip the entire process over. I want to share my way of making progress on those fine projects without intentionally working on them. Things happen. Thoughts arise. (Your experience may be similar to mine?) The following framework will take anything—happenings or thoughts—and guide it into being deep work on those six questions.

Simply ask:

Forward or backward in time: Is the event in the future or past? Am I thinking about the future or past?


Prefer or dis-prefer: Do I prefer or dis-prefer the event? Do I prefer or dis-prefer what I’m thinking?

For me, the act of examining something—an event, a thought—in the light of those questions, (forward/backward? preferred/dis-preferred?,) leads me to learning about one, and sometimes several, of those six, big questions.


The Munger Two Step

While most of us make decisions daily, few of us have a useful framework for thinking that protects us when making decisions. We’re going to explore Munger’s two-step process for making effective decisions and reducing human misjudgment.

~ Shane Parrish from,

Some day I hope to write something as useful at the post I’ve linked to above. I do not hold hope for ever writing anything as directly useful as what Munger had to say, quoted and referred to in the post linked above.

There’s so much wisdom—how to make decisions without losing your shit is life-critical… right up there with knowing how to breath… There’s so much wisdown in that post about predictions and unknown-unknowns and making decisions with uncertain information.

Also, in the realm of unknown-unknowns: I’m sure you believe you know how to breath. Pop quiz: Take a pause and imagine you’re giving a lecture to a bunch of aliens who breath through gills… I’ll wait. How’d you do? Still 100% certain you know how to breath?

I’m not trying to preach to you about, “you don’t know how to breath!” I’m trying to show you—by asking rhetorically about something you certainly do a lot—that “knowing” is really hard.

And all of your deciding stands atop your knowing.