Element Expansion Pack


In the previous article, we went through the eight basic Elements, fundamental problem-solving mindsets everyone can learn. These mindsets can be used together and can contribute their different strengths to a task or project. For example, operation can carry out graceful motions to craft art imagined by synthesis, or to implement plans created by organization. However, beyond this simple cooperation, multiple Elements can be combined into a gestalt, greater than the sum of its parts, to synergize their individual strengths (as we see with the Primary Elements forming the Secondary Elements). This combination can be done inside a single person’s head, or it can be done as a team effort, just as a team can use a single Element together.

From these combinations come yet more composite Elements, collectively referred to as peripheral Elements. We’ll get to the more advanced ones in a future article.

Interstitial Elements

The Interstitial Elements are the Elements between related Primary and Secondary Elements. For example, the Secondary Element of strategy (Earth Element) is a specialized combination of analysis (Ice Element) and organization (Electricity Element), so there is an Interstitial Element between strategy and analysis and another one between strategy and organization. Interstitial Elements are relatively limited in scope compared to other mindsets, but it’s not hard to find situations where their specializations are useful.

Rock Element


Rock Element (between Ice and Earth): Rock Element is the Element of security, and it combines analysis and strategy to create plans that are extremely robust, closing down unwanted possibilities as much as possible, by investigating and identifying possible weak points and allocating resources to protect or reinforce them. The price for this is decreased efficiency—increasing certainty doesn’t come cheaply.

One example of security mindset is building a security system to catch intruders in a building. Security mindset could identify all the ways in which the building could be entered, and come up a list of known measures that could be taken to prevent unauthorized access (though some of them would be expensive and arguably not worth it).

The theme for security mindset is rock because rock is related to earth, but is more solid, durable, and rigid, representing plans and structures which are more fortified against failure but which take more time and effort to work with. Rock also has connotations of petrifaction, which represents either using this mindset to imprison destructive forces, or immobilizing oneself by closing down every option with even the smallest risk (which is all of them).

Metal Element


Metal Element (between Electricity and Earth): Metal Element is the Element of standardization, and it combines organization and strategy to create relatively robust plans that prioritize efficiency, conserving resources by allowing for the possibility of failure, as long as the expected value of the plan is positive. (That is, if you were to implement the plan many times, you would succeed enough times to turn a profit on net balance.) The tradeoff for increased efficiency is decreased robustness.

An example of standardization mindset would be the building owner in the security example above deciding that the cost of the very best security system is more expensive than all the robberies it would prevent. They choose to purchase a mid-level security system, which allows a few robberies to take place, but prevents enough robberies to be worth its cost.

Standardization mindset has a metal theme because metal is related to earth and electricity, and is used for mass production of standardized parts. Metal is also used for the creation of instruments which uphold standards such as weights and measures, clocks, and even coins (e.g. gold and silver standards). Depending on the type of literal metal, it may be more or less durable or resistant to environmental effects than certain forms of literal rock, but that’s not the point. The idea is that Metal Element is more efficient in general, but the standardized solution may not cover every case, whereas Rock takes more effort to work with, but produces situation-specific solutions which are much more solid.

Aura Element


Aura Element (between Electricity and Wind): Aura Element is the Element of modification. It combines organization and tactics, so that you can create innovative solutions that fit neatly within existing systems, and even enhance their efficiency. This mindset can be used to create a clever setup to enhance efficiency, or to create a system of modular parts that can be swapped out for different effects without compromising the overall system.

One example of the use of modification mindset would be deciding to reposition a lamp in your room to provide you better light at your desk, while figuring out how to make sure it keeps the rest of the room well-lit.

Modification mindset has an “aura” theme because auras are usually imagined as vaguely-electromagnetic energy fields which can be strengthened, modified, infused with different properties, or tuned to each other by adding or reconfiguring items.

Explosion Element


Explosion Element (between Fire and Wind): Explosion Element is the Element of radicality, and it combines synthesis and tactics to open possibilities that you may not have otherwise considered using the resources you have at hand. Implementing these possibilities may cost more than the more conventional alternatives. The influence of organization’s efficiency on tactics is downplayed in favor of emphasizing the creativity of synthesis. The primary principle is expanding your awareness of what is possible. Doing so entails removing constraints which are so familiar as to be implicitly assumed, but which hold you back from considering all your options. Doing so allows you to achieve results that appear impossible to others. Sometimes an idea that radicality mindset comes up with does improve efficiency, but at the cost of something else. Increasing efficiency in general means balancing various priorities, while radicality is more about making it possible to achieve a single objective using all the resources at hand. 

This mindset can be used to deal with emergency situations, when there is one top priority and all others can be sacrificed. However, it can be used at any time in order to create unprecedented situations to demolish or bypass obstacles, to set things in motion, or to introduce an entertaining change of pace, among other purposes. It’s important to note that radicality can make you aware of untapped potential, but you still get to decide whether it is worth the price to unleash. (It is usually best to consult other mindsets when making such a decision. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.) 

Even more so than other tactics-related mindsets, radicality mindset opens up possibilities of both success and failure when its ideas are implemented. These solutions use as few constraints as possible, discarding efficiency and robustness along with other situational priorities. Such is the fee for doing the impossible. “For a price you never thought you’d pay, Explosion Element finds a way.” 

One example of the use of radicality mindset is a castaway stranded on a desert island deciding to burn a jacket in order to send a signal fire to a passing ship, thus destroying a long-term asset by using it for an unintended purpose that will hopefully obviate the need for it anyway. Another use of radicality might be realizing you can overclock a device or vehicle to boost its performance at the risk of damaging it over the long term. However, not all uses of radicality are destructive. An artist might choose to create sculptures out of discarded metal and shards of ceramic plates, putting material at hand to a use that is not immediately obvious to most people. (Using rubbish for more functional purposes falls under salvage mindset, as it has an emphasis on robustness.) 

Radicality mindset is themed on explosions because of the thematic connection to fire and wind, and because explosions are all about releasing potential and breaking through limitations, despite at great cost and with great risk. However, this Element also encompasses the theme of rocket propulsion, making situations more dynamic and allowing you to aim for heights and destinations previously out of reach. 

Smoke Element


Smoke Element (between Fire and Darkness): Smoke Element is the Element of inspiration, and it combines synthesis and empathy to introduce new possible impressions to people and tailor the conveyance of possibilities to the audience to make them more receptive.

One example of inspiration mindset would be figuring out what sort of present to get someone that they would genuinely enjoy: doing so takes both imagination and an impression of the person. Helping the person see how they, personally, might enjoy the present (if it isn’t immediately obvious) would also use inspiration mindset.

Inspiration mindset is themed on smoke because of the fire/darkness connection, and because smoke can generate unique shapes and smells which are mysterious and evocative. Some people also use literal smoke to provide them with inspiration by literally inspiring it. However, I’ve always found my own practiced skills with synthesis-related mindsets to be quite sufficient for that purpose.

Sound Element


Sound Element (between Water and Darkness): Sound Element is the Element of rapport, and it combines operation and empathy to more gracefully interact with people. It is useful for reading moods, projecting and instilling all kinds of emotions, and grabbing, holding, or avoiding attention. Charisma is part of the purview of this Element.

One example of rapport mindset would be performing; singing, dancing, acting, or playing instruments requires both practice and an understanding of an audience in order to reliably influence emotions. Not all uses of rapport must be so conspicuous or impersonal, however. Calming down a friend is another example.

Rapport mindset has a sound theme because sound and music reliably and strongly influence emotions and can be used to sense ambiance. In addition, sound is thematically related to darkness in that it provides a counterpoint to light, allowing us to navigate in darkness through both ordinary noises and echolocation. It is thematically related to water because soundwaves can travel through water as well as air (and can be visible on the surface as ripples).

Laser Element


Laser Element (between Water and Light): Laser Element is the Element of precision, and it combines operation and semantics to more fluently use labels to aptly encapsulate situations, or to make movements more consistent.

Precision shows up in everything from measurement to manufacturing to marksmanship. The right algorithms and rules can increase consistency and level of detail tremendously, and there are many situations where those are the key factors for performance. Billiards and fencing make use of precision as well. The use of jargon to describe an object or situation in technical detail is yet another example of precision.

The mindset of precision is themed on lasers because lasers are light produced with coherent waves, and are noteworthy because they are so precise. Their precision also makes them more effective at affecting objects than other forms of light with the same power input. Some of the many uses for lasers include measurement, cutting, targeting, and communication, all of which are also examples of precision mindset in use.

X-Ray Element


X-Ray Element (between Ice and Light): X-Ray Element is the Element of diagnosis, and it combines analysis and semantics in order to better draw on more information and invoke powerful algorithms to analyze a situation. The semantic aspect makes assessing systems and their problems faster, more powerful, and able to operate using less information, while the analysis aspect allows the assumptions and conclusions that semantics relies on to be checked against other information and tested with critical thinking. By quickly locating and verifying key details of a situation, diagnosis makes it possible to not only identify problems, but also target weak points or even track past events using clues left behind.

One obvious example of diagnosis mindset is to identify a disease based on symptoms and prescribe treatments for it, though this mindset is by no means limited to medical use; it can be applied to any situation that follows a pattern. For instance, the same mindset with different skills and calibration can also be used to “diagnose” a crime scene by figuring out what happened and who the culprit is.

Diagnosis is themed on x-rays because while x-rays are part of the electromagnetic spectrum, like light, they are thought of as “cold” radiation and penetrate sparse matter rather than being absorbed and converted to heat. This property allows us to see past the surface, just like diagnosis. More obviously, x-rays used to help diagnose injuries.

Tertiary Elements

The Tertiary Elements are combinations of Primary Elements and Secondary Elements which incorporate the opposite Primary Element. For example, tactics is a specialized combination of synthesis and organization, so there is one Tertiary Element for tactics combined with analysis and another for tactics combined with operation. These tend to be more versatile and more difficult to master than the Interstitial Elements, because their ingredient Elements have less in common and are more opposed in their principles. We’ll see the logical conclusion of this with the Great Elements in a future article.

Snow Element


Snow Element (combination of Ice and Wind): Snow Element is the Element of hacking, and it combines analysis with tactics in order to explore structures or systems and find ways in which their properties can be better leveraged or exploited. It can also be used to come up with clever ways to learn as much as possible from an environment with limited resources.

One example of hacking mindset is to use knowledge of a computer program’s limitations and assumptions to present it with a situation it was not designed to deal with, to get it to behave in ways that were not thought to be possible.

Hacking mindset has a snow theme because of snow’s obvious association with ice and wind, because it adds extra solidity to tactics while adding versatility to analysis, and because of the cascading effects it can have on systems, like the proverbial snowball effect or even an avalanche. Also because of Snow Crash.

Void Element


Void Element (combination of Ice and Darkness): Void Element is the Element of deconstruction, and it combines analysis with empathy in order to better understand the emotions and perspectives of others. Deconstruction mindset also allows you to visit other people’s paradigms, figure out the underlying assumptions and weak points, and show people those properties in a way that they can understand and accept.

One example of deconstruction mindset is to engage in collaborative truth-seeking with a person in order to resolve a disagreement. Deconstruction can also be used to call into question the popular understanding of a trope (a feature or theme that shows up across multiple works of fiction) by depicting more realistic consequences for it, e.g. showing how people would actually deal with having a magical adventure. (For more about trope deconstruction, you can visit http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/Deconstruction, but be careful, because TVTropes Will Ruin Your Life.)

Deconstruction is themed on the concept of “void”, or nothingness, because its major strength is to dampen emotion and motivation and dismantle or erase ideas and paradigms. In addition, voids are usually depicted as dark, and often cold. Due to the difficulty of depicting nothingness, deconstruction has the moon as a secondary theme, because the moon seems to be erased on a regular basis, and because deconstruction mindset opposes narrative mindset, which has the sun as its theme.

Magnetism Element


Magnetism Element (combination of Electricity and Darkness): Magnetism Element is the Element of politics, and it combines organization and empathy in order to coordinate the emotions of large, diverse groups and negotiate agreements that are satisfactory to as many as possible. It is also useful for determining how much effort it is worth to make an impression on someone, and what the optimum way to do so is.

One application of politics mindset is to broker a compromise between two conflicting groups of people over what you’re going to do that weekend, while ensuring that people feel good enough about it that there is no lasting resentment.

Politics mindset is themed after magnetism because magnetism is related to physical electricity and it works subtly and invisibly. Furthermore, magnetism often takes effect by aligning various domains in a ferromagnetic material to point in the same direction, and the domains exert their own force by so cooperating. Similarly, groups of people can be aligned (or polarized) to cooperate in order to achieve a common goal despite their differences. Moreover, the term “magnetism” has been used to describe politically-apt people for a long time.

Radio Element


Radio Element (combination of Electricity and Light): Radio Element is the Element of notification, and it combines organization and semantics in order to coordinate information, so that people are apprised of what they need to know, when they need to know it. It is also useful for scanning one’s environment efficiently, and for doing research in order to acquire basic knowledge of a situation.

One example of notification mindset in use is the selection of search algorithms to sweep an area. A double example is mission control doing research on situations that field agents encounter and telling them the most important facts.

Notification mindset has a radio theme because radio waves represent a range of wavelengths on the electromagnetic spectrum and easily create electric current through induction, which is how transceivers work.. Furthermore, radio waves are used for scanning and information transmission.

Sun Element


Sun Element (combination of Fire and Light): Sun Element is the Element of narrative, and it combines synthesis and semantics in order to create brands, rules, codes of conduct, metaphors, and entire paradigms that represent ideals and systematize adherence to or understanding of concepts. It can give meaning to experiences and create stories which allow us to designate what information is significant and which isn’t.

One example of narrative mindset is the creation of a logo and a mascot with a backstory in order to embody an ideal a company wants to strive for. Another example is the creation of all of these metaphorical “Elements” to make it easier to visualize and get excited about problem-solving mindsets.

Narrative mindset has a sun theme because of the sun’s obvious associations with fire and light, because the sun is a powerful symbol in every culture, and because suns by definition have planets (as opposed stars in general), which Sun Element uses to represent the worlds that it creates.

Lava Element


Lava Element (combination of Fire and Earth): Lava Element is the Element of institution, and it combines synthesis and strategy to create visionary new structures and systems which are fortified with foresight. Unlike many such creations, which emerge haphazardly through the short-term decisions of isolated groups of people, the creations of institution mindset are deliberate and cohesive. In contrast to the so-called institutions that are clumsy and counterproductive, institutions devised by a skilled institution user run smoothly, are well-equipped to adapt and evolve as necessary, and have policies for elegantly stepping aside in situations where they are not helpful.

One example of institution mindset is the creation of a mission statement and organizational structure for a new type of non-profit. World-building is also an application of institution, because it requires imagining a robust, functioning system and its behavior under various circumstances, as well as working within limitations to prioritize different aspects you want it to have that may be mutually exclusive with each other.

Institution mindset has a lava theme because of lava’s obvious association with both fire and earth, and because institution can transform the world by creating new structures and even whole landscapes, sometimes wiping out what used to be there.

Clay Element


Clay Element (combination of Water and Earth): Clay Element is the Element of preparation, and it combines operation and strategy to allow the user to apply practiced intuition to recognize contingencies and weak points in a plan, and fluently go through the steps to acquire the materials to fortify the plan. It works best on situations you are familiar with, due to the reliance on operation. Preparation can be used before an event to drill in appropriate actions (obviously) or during an evolving situation to gradually guide it towards a more favorable outcome with each immediate decision.

An example of the use of preparation mindset would be maneuvering a fighting opponent towards more favorable ground that gives you an advantage. Another might be quickly assembling supplies you might need for a sudden trip, if you’ve gone on similar trips before.

Preparation mindset has a clay theme because of clay’s obvious association with both water and earth, and because it clay combines the fluid and adaptable nature of water with the solidity and durability of earth. Preparation can be used to procure tools, shape the environment, or to impede unfavorable events, similarly to how clay can be shaped into tools and buildings or bog things down.

Rubber Element


Rubber Element (combination of Water and Wind): Rubber Element is the Element of flexibility, and it combines operation and tactics to allow a person to gracefully generate and implement clever ploys that intuitively take into account the situation and the person’s available resources and abilities. Whereas ordinary operation requires practice in the specific skills and motions one wishes to use, flexibility makes it easier to come up with ways to adapt the same skills and motions to new purposes.

An example of flexibility mindset in use would be applying one’s existing martial arts skills towards wielding a stepladder as a makeshift weapon, having nothing better on hand. Another might be exploring and practicing different methods for performing tasks and overcoming obstacles if you lose an arm. (Also, any task that becomes a regular routine stops qualifying as “tactics” and so the flexibility mindset eventually just becomes “operation”).

Flexibility mindset has a rubber theme because rubber is flexible and elastic, able to stretch or compress to fit different purposes, and then return to its original shape afterward (if allowed to do so). It is more reliable than the wind, but more versatile than water when it comes to storing, absorbing, and redirecting energy.

Quaternary Elements

The four Quaternary Elements are combinations of two non-opposing Secondary Elements. They are similar in scope and versatility to the Tertiary Elements.

Crystal Element


Crystal Element (combination of Earth and Light): Crystal Element is the Element of clarification, and it combines strategy and semantics to create fortified semantic systems, allowing the user to write instructions, constitutions, or other documentation in such a way as to remove ambiguity and prevent misunderstanding (at the cost of taking more time and effort). It can also be used to write computer code that is easy to debug and that has minimal errors or unintended effects. Conversely, clarification can also apply semantics to strategy in order to create protocols and checklists which speed up and simplify the process of identifying weak points and closing unwanted possibilities, at the cost of relying on assumptions which may not be valid.

One application of clarification mindset is contract law, creating formal agreements with as few loopholes as possible. Another application is creating formulas and algorithms for more effectively and easily playing board games (not quite the same thing as game theory).

Clarification mindset has a crystal theme because of crystal’s obvious association with clarity, earth, and light. Furthermore, a crystal is a mineral which often forms (relatively) rapidly due to its rigidly ordered structure, but which is brittle or conditionally durable due to that same order, reflecting the difference between clarification mindset and basic strategy.

Dust Element


Dust Element (combination of Earth and Darkness): Dust Element is the Element of reputation, combining strategy and empathy to help a person influence what lasting impressions they make on people. This mindset allows one to make decisions with the possible feelings of others in mind, avoid negative associations or causing offense, and form plans to build stronger relationships and positive associations. Knowing to what degree associations will stick and dealing with cognitive dissonance between different associations is part of managing any reputation.

One application of reputation mindset is managing public image for a celebrity, politician, or company.

Reputation mindset has a dust theme because dust is associated with earth, and has connotations of an impression that lingers; a lasting trace of what was present. It accumulates on people, places, and objects, and reflects past associations.

Glass Element


Glass Element (combination of Wind and Light): Glass Element is the Element of interpretation, and it combines tactics and semantics in order to exploit the ambiguity inherent in any semantic system. Although this mindset is often used for sneaky purposes, due to its ability to find loopholes in rules and twist the truth (by saying things that are literally true but deceive people into thinking something else), it is capable of constructive feats as well, just like any other mindset. For example, interpretation allows you to collate information and reframe facts so you can see patterns that are not immediately obvious. Furthermore, it can be used to bring together different paradigms and algorithms and use them together in innovative ways in order to create more powerful tactics.

One application of interpretation mindset is steganography: hiding information by storing and transmitting it through unconventional media. Another application is augmenting cooking with chemistry knowledge to create successful recipes that might be hard to come up with otherwise. A third application is making puns.

Interpretation mindset has a glass theme because glass bends light and makes it possible to do innovative things with it, including allowing information to be reflected, distorted, concealed, or magnified. Glass is also fragile, like both tactics and semantics, which open up possibilities of failure and rely on assumptions, respectively. However, the fracturing of glass can also represent when may happen if you reinterpret part of a situation to fit into an unorthodox paradigm, but other aspects of the system don’t fit into the paradigm at all.

Quantum Element


Quantum Element (combination of Wind and Darkness): Quantum Element is the Element of surprise, and it combines tactics and empathy in order to cleverly create impressions which provoke reactions that might not normally be likely, such as confusion, amusement, or realization. Based on an understanding of a person, you can use resources at hand to direct their attention or confront them with something that catches them off guard. The empathy aspect of surprise can also be used to coax resources themselves into lending themselves better to the plan.

One application of surprise mindset is prestidigitation (stage magic). Surprise can also be used on a complex inanimate system, such as an idiosyncratic engine that you would like to induce to generate more power.

The mindset of surprise is themed on quantum mechanics, because even though quantum mechanical phenomena have distinct limitations, they do have a theme of unpredictability and doing what was presumed impossible. Indeed, the entire field of quantum physics was quite a surprise for physics in general.

Tempered Elements

The Tempered Elements are uneven combinations of opposing Primary and Secondary Elements. One Element is “tempered” with its opposite, which is used in the service of the first, to further its purpose. These Elements are quite powerful because of the balance between opposing processes. We’ll see even more such power with the Great Elements in a later article.

Wax Element


Wax Element (Ice tempered with Fire): Wax Element is the Element of science, and it uses synthesis in the service of analysis to generate alternate hypotheses to better model the world, and creative ways to ask questions of unknown systems and get answers through experimentation. It takes both critical thinking and creativity to make sense of new observations and alter existing theories or create new ones to account for them. On its own, this mindset doesn’t necessarily take into account the resources at hand (unlike mindsets related to organization, strategy, or tactics).

Examples of science mindset would be the experiments done to figure out the chemical elements and create theories as to how they relate to each other, or the experiment to calculate the universal gravitational constant. Another example would be crash test dummies, created to test how safe cars are for humans as accurately as possible without injuring actual humans.

Science mindset has a wax theme because of wax’s ability to collect and store various forms of analog information, including shapes, smells and other chemicals, and even sounds. Wax has also been used to detect subtle events (the unauthorized opening of letters) and similarly can seal things to preserve them for future study. Finally, wax can be used to create replicas, which represents the testing of hypotheses on simulated systems (e.g. crash test dummies).

Plastic Element


Plastic Element (Fire tempered with Ice): Plastic Element is the Element of design, and it uses analysis in the service of synthesis to create schematics for systems to serve specific purposes, based on a working knowledge of the principles involved. Like pure synthesis, design is used to envision new possibilities of things to be created, beyond that which exists. However, it uses analysis to make sure those possibilities could function as intended. On its own, this mindset doesn’t necessarily take into account limitations on the resources available or failure modes for unplanned situations (unlike mindsets related to organization, strategy, or tactics), but when used properly it usually generates multiple alternative designs which account for different priorities and limiting factors.

An example of design mindset would be generating various possible blueprints for an ergonomic chair.

Design mindset has a plastic theme because of plastic’s use in prototyping and proof-of-concept mock-ups.

String Element


String Element (Electricity tempered with Water): String Element is the Element of orchestration, and it uses operation in the service of organization to intuitively track and coordinate many details in a dynamic system with which the user is familiar. Organizing many things is always a challenge, but getting them to work together fluidly in real time takes practice and a developed intuition, which operation provides.

One example of orchestration mindset is, not coincidentally at all, conducting an orchestra. (The fact that orchestras usually have stringed instruments is a coincidence, but it fit the theme so well I couldn’t not mention it.) Keeping track of the performance of all the instruments and getting them to play in harmony is definitely within the purview of orchestration mindset (plus rapport for evoking emotions from the audience).

Orchestration has a string theme because strings are used to track and manipulate many different things in concert, and are thematically associated with such actions already (marionettes, for example).

Soap Element


Soap Element (Water tempered with Electricity): Soap Element is the Element of thoroughness, and it uses organization in the service of operation to perform tasks and movements efficiently. With thoroughness, you can evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of your movements and identify possible improvements to practice in the future. By optimizing your practice, you can make the most of the time, resources, and effort you have available.

Aside from identifying and implementing efficient ways to literally clean things up, the mindset of thoroughness can be used to figuratively clean things up: examples include cleaning a battlefield of opponents, cleaning up on the sales floor by smoothly prioritizing customers to attend to, and cleaning simple errands off a to-do list.

Thoroughness has a soap theme (along with bubbles, membranes, and caustic/corrosive chemicals) because soap and corrosives have connotations of scouring, and membranes have connotations of filtration. Both of these concepts represent changing the condition of an object or liquid (by removing filth) as much as possible with greatly reduced effort and in a realistic time frame. Also, soap is associated with water, but also relies on ions and polar molecules, invoking the concept of electricity in the form of charge and attraction.

Debris Element


Debris Element (Earth tempered with Wind): Debris Element is the Element of salvage, and it uses tactics in the service of strategy to improvise solutions that maintain the integrity of an overall plan. If a plan is in trouble and needs a creative solution to continue working, salvage mindset can innovate a patch or workaround while ensuring it is reinforced against problems that could come up in the future, so that the overall plan is still robust.

Examples of salvage mindset range from repairing a device using makeshift parts to finding new means of transportation to and from an event because the person who was going to drive couldn’t make it (while ensuring that there will still be room for everyone).

Salvage mindset has a debris theme because of the obvious associations between debris and salvage.

Nuclear Element


Nuclear Element (Wind tempered with Earth): Nuclear Element is the Element of overhaul, and it uses strategy in the service of tactics to repurpose resources in robust ways. If a plan or device would be more valuable put to a different use than that for which it was created, the mindset of overhaul can figure out how to make it work for that use, while making sure it is nearly as reliable as something that was originally designed for it. While similar to institution mindset, overhaul mindset does not assume the luxury of starting from scratch. Often the current system must even be kept partially functional while it is being converted to the new system.

Examples of overhaul mindset include the transformation of a car into an amphibious vehicle, or expanding an intersection and the roads leading to it to accommodate more traffic while allowing cars to continue to use the intersection with only minor inconvenience while the intersection is being expanded.

Overhaul has a “nuclear” theme because nuclear power represents an approach that generates large amounts of energy and requires a very robust infrastructure and occasional retrofits, as well as because of fictional depictions of nuclear energy, which show it mutating things into different and stronger forms.

Ink Element


Ink Element (Light tempered with Darkness): Ink Element is the Element of translation, and it uses empathy in the service of semantics to better understand information being communicated by a person from a different paradigm, and to find effective ways of conveying information based on the different paradigms of one’s audience. The means of conveyance may be words, pictures, or pantomime, but in each case the most important aspect of translation is figuring out which words (or pictures, or motions) will be most effective for a particular audience. As with other empathy-related mindsets, translation requires listening to and understanding others in order to be effective.

The obvious example of translation mindset is translating thoughts and ideas between different languages, conventions, or cultures, which often don’t have a corresponding word for a particular concept. Thus the information you want to convey needs to be reconstructed from the words that are available based on how they are understood by people, so that people receive the message as intended. Furthermore, factual information must sometimes be conveyed to people who haven’t yet grasped the underlying concepts (or “schema”). In such cases, you may have to either help them build the concepts in their heads from more basic ones, or invoke the most similar concepts they know that are close enough for the time being (e.g. “atoms are like little spheres”). Emotional information is often even harder to convey, so the you may need to invoke an emotional memory from the audience that is similar to the emotion being described (e.g. “they were hurt that you insulted their poem; imagine if someone told you that your cooking was disgusting”). Translation can be used to explain the concept of war to a small, isolated tribe of islanders, but the more different a person’s frame of reference is, the more explanation it will take in order to avoid a misunderstanding.

Translation mindset has an ink theme because ink is a medium in which actual information is presented (as opposed to paper, which provides a context for the information; see below). Moreover, ink can be used to not only write words but also draw pictures and diagrams in order to effectively convey information to people who may not be familiar with the concepts involved. Finally, just as two people may see different objects in the same pattern of ink, so they may get different meanings from the same words and phrases, and it is important to account for that when conversing with them.

Paper Element


Paper Element (Darkness tempered with Light): Paper Element is the Element of background, and it uses semantics in the service of empathy to simplify the process of creating certain impressions. By following rules, you can more easily project a particular feeling to observers (who may or may not notice the effect), through cues involving appearance, word choice, or environment.

Examples of background mindset include etiquette, attire, makeup, accents, dialects, slang, shibboleths, fonts, camouflage, aposematism (and by extension warning signs and safety vests), and all the little touches of authenticity and verisimilitude that give readers information about the setting of a story, like references to period technology or celebrities of the day.

Background mindset has a paper theme because paper is the medium on which information is portrayed, and it provides some of the ambiance even though a person’s attention is mostly on the information in the actual message. Paper also refers to wallpaper, which provides emotional impressions in a room even though it is typically unnoticed, as people tend to focus on the actual contents of the room.


Keep in mind that these peripheral Elements are blends of the more archetypal Primary and Secondary Elements. When you are solving a real problem, you may invoke many different Elements, and the lines between similar Elements may blur. You may work on a semantics problem and invoke the related mindsets of precision and diagnosis, or even bring in organization just to make sure you’re using your time effectively. The purpose of naming all these peripheral Elements is to make you aware of what you can do when you learn more Elements and are capable of blending different types of thinking together (or oscillating between them rapidly).

If a person practices many or all of the Elements related to a Primary or Secondary Element, they can be said to use an “enhanced” version of that Element. For example, if a person practices the Elements of Ice, X-Ray, Rock, Snow, Void, and Wax, they would be said to be an Enhanced Ice Element user (for those keeping count, that’s the Primary Element, two Interstitial Elements, two Tertiary Elements, and a Tempered Element). Enhanced Secondary Elements may also involve the two related Quaternary Elements. Enhanced Elements are much more effective because they invoke the strengths of other Elements.

There are yet more Elements and more you can do, though! By combining opposing Primary and Secondary Elements in equal measure, you get Great Elements. Beyond those, there are even more powerful Elements that represent the combination of Great Elements, and of which these peripheral Elements are but slivers. We shall get to all of these and more in a later article. For now, be assured that the world of consciousness is wide. Each of these Elements holds infinite possibility, and the scope of possibilities opens up even further as you learn more Elements with which to pursue your goals.

However, knowing about the Elements is just the starting point. To develop your power, you must practice and seek feedback. When you can do that deliberately, you’re on your way to becoming the person you need to be in order to be who you want to be.



  • Explosion Element in this article was updated from the old version on 3/15/20. You can view the change in the Changelog.
  • The image for Aura Element in this article was updated from the old version on 3/15/20. You can view the change in the Changelog.

4 thoughts on “Element Expansion Pack”

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