The Personal MBA

Master the Art of Business

A world-class business education in a single volume. Learn the universal principles behind every successful business, then use these ideas to make more money, get more done, and have more fun in your life and work.

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What Is 'Mental Simulation'?

Mental Simulation is our mind's ability to imagine taking a specific action and simulating the probable result before acting.

Anticipating the results of our actions improves our ability to solve new problems.

Mental Simulation relies on our memory, learned via perception and experience. Without supplying a goal, a destination, mental simulation can't exist.

Mental Simulation is extremely powerful if you learn how to harness it consciously.

Josh Kaufman Explains 'Mental Simulation'

Quick: imagine jumping into the middle of an active volcano. Is it a good idea?

Answering this question took you only a few fractions of a second, even though you've never personally jumped into a volcano or seen anyone who has.

What you've just done is quite extraordinary: how is it possible to immediately know the answer to something you've never considered before? Mental Simulation is our mind's ability to imagine taking a specific action, then simulating the probable result before acting.

Our minds are constantly trying to predict what will happen in the future, based on what's happening around us and what actions we're considering. Anticipating the results of our actions is a significant advantage: it dramatically enhances our ability to solve novel problems.

Mental Simulation relies on our memory-the database of Patterns we've learned via perception and experience.

When you imagined jumping into a volcano, your brain couldn't find any personal experiences, but it did find relevant Associations: lava is hot, hot things burn, burns are painful and dangerous, painful and dangerous things are bad.

This set of associations is used to simulate the probable result in the blink of an eye, resulting in snap judgment: VERY BAD IDEA.

Mental Simulation is extremely powerful and versatile-it can be used to test even the most arbitrary actions without risk. Given any goal or scenario, Mental Simulation is what your brain uses to connect point A to point B, where point A is where you are now, and point B is what you're imagining.

The only limitation on what you can simulate is your imagination.

For example, how would you go about visiting Antarctica? It's a random question, but by holding the End Result in mind for a few seconds, your brain automatically starts connecting the dots, based on the Patterns you've learned.

"I could call a travel agent... cruises go to Antarctica all the time... I'd have to fly to Argentina... I'd have to buy a really warm coat, etc." All of this thinking just happens, without much effort on your part-it's what your brain is designed to do.

Mental Simulation only works if you supply a "point B," even if the action or goal is completely arbitrary -you can simulate the path to even the most unrealistic and absurd destination you can imagine.

Think of using a service like Google Maps or a vehicle GPS system-the system can give you accurate directions, but it won't work unless you enter a destination. That destination can be your best friend's house or someplace random like Albuquerque, New Mexico. Either way, without supplying a Goal, the system can't operate. The same rule applies to mental simulation-no destination, no simulation.

Mental Simulation is particularly powerful if you learn how to harness it consciously, which we'll explore in detail in Counterfactual Simulation.

Questions About 'Mental Simulation'


"I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free."

Michelangelo, sculptor and artist


From Chapter 6:

The Human Mind


https://personalmba.com/mental-simulation/



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The Personal MBA

Master the Art of Business

A world-class business education in a single volume. Learn the universal principles behind every successful business, then use these ideas to make more money, get more done, and have more fun in your life and work.

Buy the book:


About Josh Kaufman

Josh Kaufman is an acclaimed business, learning, and skill acquisition expert. He is the author of two international bestsellers: The Personal MBA and The First 20 Hours. Josh's research and writing have helped millions of people worldwide learn the fundamentals of modern business.

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