The Foundational Toolbox for Life: Abridged Dictionary

Image by PDPics from Pixabay


I apologize for the long delay since my last article. Rest assured I have not been idle in applying and further refining the concepts I’ve been writing about, which I’ve started calling the Foundational Toolbox for Life. The purpose of the Toolbox is to give people a place to start when it comes to solving any problem; to help them frame situations constructively. Any system people build, people can break, and we’ll inevitably break any system we try to build unless we develop habits of maintaining and updating it. We’ll need to work together to do that, and we’ll need to have a shared idea of what we’re doing and how. That’s far from the only purpose these tools can be put to, but it’s probably the most important one. 

These past months, I have been busy with projects to help the world take over itself using the Toolbox, but there are still three more foundational articles planned: observation mindset, the composite mindsets, and the motivations. Those articles might not be done for a while, though, so this piece will give you a brief preview of them. 

This document is an abridged dictionary and guide to the concepts I use in the Toolbox. It’s ordered by category rather than alphabetized, and has sections for order and chaos (some extra basic concepts that help define the rest), motivations (what people want), liabilities (the problems that stand in the way of what we want), mindsets (the tools we use to overcome those problems), and attributes of those mindsets that we can grow stronger in. Future articles will make more extensive use of these concepts to frame problems and solutions on societal issues. 

Some of these keywords and vocabulary words are subject to change, and some will probably need to be expanded. It can be tricky to locate a word within the English language that has enough of all the connotations that match the different aspects of a concept, and not too many connotations that don’t. If I find a word that works much better than a word I’ve currently got, I may upgrade. The definitions are subject to revision as well as I develop a better understanding of the concepts themselves. 

Without further ado, welcome to the whirlwind tour of the tools in the Foundational Toolbox for Life.


Order and Chaos

These are some basic existential concepts on which the tools in the toolbox are based. They help define what we want, what obstacles we face in getting it, the skills we use to overcome those obstacles, and the comparable attributes of all of those concepts. 

Situation: A collection of factors (or details, or variables, if you prefer) that affect each other, such that if you want to change one of them deliberately you must do some combination of the following: 

  1. know the states of some of the other factors
  2. change some of the other factors as a prerequisite 
  3. be aware that some of the other factors will change as a result

In real life, situations are not always completely separate from each other, but they are often separate enough that you don’t need to know about every possible context in order to deal with one of them. 

Context: A collection of situations that distantly influence each other, or a type of recurring situation that works much the same way each time. 

The map and the territory: The territory is reality: situations and contexts. Reality has many different situations and contexts that require different skills to deal with, and each situation could be considered a different territory. 

The map is the mental model you have of a territory. Your map makes predictions about the territory and about how you can change it the way you want. The map does not need to know how the territory works; it only has to make predictions based on what it observes. A map can predict the correct way to throw a ball to hit a target. 

Order: Describes how good a representation of the territory your map is; how comprehensively it depicts the territory and how accurate its predictions are. Order can also describe how easily a territory can be represented by a map. A territory with neat and consistent patterns is easy to predict with a simple map. Order is about certainties and limits, what must be and what cannot be. In short, order is what is “known”. 

Chaos: Describes omissions and errors in your map of a territory. It can also describe how difficult it is to represent a territory with a map. A messy and asymmetrical territory requires a more complicated map to represent it, and more work to make that map. Chaos is about possibilities and exceptions, what may or may not be. In short, chaos is what is “unknown”. 


Motivations: the general tendencies that each of us has in what goals we pursue and why. When we accomplish a goal, motivations describe what sort of goals we’re likely to pursue next. They describe what brings us joy and satisfaction. When we don’t act on our motivations, it’s usually because we’re either helping other people fulfill theirs, or we’re working towards the long-term objective of becoming better able to fulfill motivations. 

Motivations describe the core reasons why anyone does anything. They describe our value judgments of one world as more pleasant and desirable than another. They represent ways in which we wish the world would change, or stay the same. The can be combined with each other, and frequently are. If we’re not doing something for the sake of our own motivations, we’re either doing something for the sake of the motivations of other people, or for the virtues that counteract liabilities and make it easier for people to fulfill their motivations. (More about liabilities and virtues in the next category).

Most people are responsive to at least two or three of these motivations at some point or other. It’s usually less healthy to be responsive to fewer motivations, because then there are fewer options for finding joy and satisfaction. Your profile of motivational responsiveness is probably at least a little based on nature, but can certainly change over time for a number of reasons. Even with a diversified portfolio of motivations, there are still dangers, but we’ll cover those in the next section. 

Like the other tools, motivations are defined by order and chaos, but also by experience and influence.

Experience: Input from the world into your mind; the effect that the world causes in you. 

Influence: Output from your mind into the world; the effect that you cause in the world. 

Specific Motivations

Celebration: The desire to obtain more of some sort of experience; to fill one’s future scope of experience with more of something. Responding to the motivation of celebration is called “feasting.” 

Example: Celebration might seek to eat a large number of apples, or to eat apples more frequently. 

Acquisition: The desire to obtain more of some sort of influence; to fill one’s future scope of influence with more of something. Responding to the motivation of acquisition is called “taking.” 

Example: Acquisition might seek to own as many apple orchards as possible. 

Idealization: The desire to impose more order on one’s experience, to make it more closely match a specific vision. Responding to the motivation of idealization is called “molding.” 

Example: Idealization might seek out apples that conform ever more perfectly to one’s own standards for appearance, texture, and taste. 

Control: The desire to impose more order on one’s influence, to have absolute power over something without interference. Responding to the motivation of control is called “gripping.” 

Example: Control might seek to grow apples without any outside factors interfering with their development. 

Curiosity: The desire to impose more chaos on one’s experience, to experience novel, previously unknown sensations or information. Responding to the motivation of curiosity is called “roaming.” 

Example: Curiosity might seek new kinds of apples with new appearances and flavors, or new ways to prepare them. 

Boldness: The desire to impose more chaos on one’s influence; to transgress rules or defy assumed limits and cause unpredicted or unpredictable effects. Responding to the motivation of boldness is called “breaking.” 

Example: Boldness might seek to defy people’s expectations, including their own, by finding new uses for apples or breeding new strains. 

Insulation: The desire to avoid some sort of experience; to remove something from one’s future scope of experience. Responding to the motivation of insulation is called “hiding.”  

Example: Insulation might avoid eating some strains of apples because it finds the flavor unpleasant. 

Relaxation: The desire to avoid exerting some sort of influence; to remove something from one’s future scope of influence. Responding to the motivation of relaxation is called “leaving.” 

Example: Relaxation might avoid having to maintain an apple orchard or prepare apple products because it finds learning or exercising the relevant skills to be draining. 


Liabilities describe obstacles in the way of fulfilling motivations. These obstacles are based on fundamental aspects of conscious existence as we know it, and which only become obstacles when they stand in the way of what we want. As such, liabilities can feed each other or interfere with each other. This category of concepts also covers some possible approaches to dealing with those obstacles. 

Material Liabilities

Scarcity: Material order; stability that obstructs; known limitations on what one can physically do. Scarcity can be modeled as a collection of known barriers, each requiring a toll to cross. Your resources, knowledge, effort, and skills will limit which combinations of barriers you can cross, and some barriers may not be crossable at all. 

In short, scarcity is when you run out of stuff. 


  • Insufficient fuel to reach the next checkpoint
  • Insufficient strength to move the obstruction
  • Insufficient funds to purchase something you need
  • Insufficient charge to power your device
  • Insufficient time to make the deadline
  • Insufficient information to calculate the correct answer

Disaster: Material chaos; discovery that disrupts; unknown or unpredictable events that disrupt one’s physical plans. Disaster can be modeled as a collection of barriers with tolls, the same as scarcity, except that you are ignorant of the barriers’ exact locations, the amounts and natures of the tolls they charge, and in some cases the very existence of a barrier at all. You will occasionally crash into these barriers and your plans will suffer setbacks. (Once you have run into a barrier and now know it is there, it can be considered scarcity rather than disaster. However, the event of running into the barrier without warning is still a disaster and usually causes more problems than if you had known to be ready for it.) 

In short, disaster represents what you don’t know will go wrong. Disaster is when you run into stuff. 


  • Natural disasters
  • Diseases and blights
  • Equipment and software breaking down
  • Accidents and injuries
  • Human error and lapses in judgment

Motivational Liabilities

Stagnation: Motivational order; identity that binds; known limitations on what goals one is willing to pursue. Stagnation can be modeled as ruts in the mind, that wear deeper and steeper with each repetition of a thought or decision until they become automatic assumptions, hardly noticed and never questioned. 

In short, stagnation is goals destroying themselves. 


  • Addictions
  • Inability to delay gratification
  • Akrasia (lack of willpower)
  • Complacency
  • Willful ignorance
  • Herd mentality
  • Fanaticism

Conflict: Motivational chaos; choice that divides; unknown or unpredictable clashes between multiple desires in a person or group of people. We cannot know how well the agents of each goal can champion their cause, or what they’re prepared to give up in order to do so, until we see the outcome of their struggle. Conflict can be modeled as wagons or carts rolling in the dark, each carrying a particular goal, and when they collide it’s unknown which ones, if any, will be able to regain their original course. 

In short, conflict is goals destroying each other. 


  • War
  • Crime
  • Ideological polarization
  • Feuds
  • Trolling
  • Deception
  • Arguments


Tradeoffs describe two different ways each liability can manifest. People choose one version of liability over another because they think they’re better able to survive or afford it. 

Underregulated Liabilities

Underregulation is a tradeoff approach to a liability which completely disregards the threat the liability poses, to skip paying the cost of worrying or doing anything about it. 

Wastefulness: underregulated scarcity. Spending resources and effort on things that do not provide lasting benefit, and thereby not having them when it really matters. 

Negligence: underregulated disaster. Failing to anticipate that things may go wrong and set things up to prevent or mitigate problems. 

Decadence: underregulated stagnation. Developing bad habits and becoming addicted to the pursuit of motivations at the expense of others, the big picture, or long-term benefits. 

Turmoil: underregulated conflict. Violence, coercion, and rule by superior force which impede and discourage constructive activities. 

Overregulated Liabilities

Overregulation is a tradeoff approach to a liability which pays a high cost with the intent of averting the liability as much as possible, but which risks incurring the liability in a different form. 

Austerity: overregulated scarcity. Hoarding resources and spending them only when absolutely necessary in the short term, thereby sacrificing other potential benefits and opportunities they could afford. 

Susceptibility: overregulated disaster. Avoiding all risks and the unknown, resulting in being completely unequipped to deal with disaster when it does happen, as well as being unable to gain new knowledge. 

Dogma: overregulated stagnation. The unwillingness to question certain ideas or consider certain possibilities, which sets unnecessary limitations on people’s ability to achieve their goals and which may make it impossible to to deal effectively with change. 

Corruption: overregulated conflict. Deception, manipulation, and fraud which use rules as weapons against people to cheat them out of what they try to accomplish, and eventually cause trust to break down. 

Political Compass

These terms describe the tradeoffs that people tend to make in a particular context, usually the context of politics or government policy. 

Progressive: rejecting the status quo; fears austerity and susceptibility more than wastefulness and negligence and so tends to err on the side of underregulating scarcity and disaster. 

Conservative: accepting the status quo; fears wastefulness and negligence more than austerity and susceptibility and so tends to err on the side of overregulating scarcity and disaster. 

Libertarian: favoring more individual freedom; fears dogma and corruption more than decadence and turmoil and so tends to err on the side of underregulating stagnation and conflict. 

Authoritarian: favors more collective structure; fears decadence and turmoil more than dogma and corruption and so tends to err on the side of overregulating stagnation and conflict. 

These ideological terms are subjective in the sense that two people can advocate the same policy for different reasons, or they can advocate different policies due to favoring the same type of tradeoff, but with respect to two different reference frames. 

For example, two different people might favor the status quo, but they might disagree about what counts as the status quo. They might reject the status quo but disagree about what direction to move in. They might favor spending more of one resource to conserve another, but disagree about which resource is more important to conserve. They might favor instituting a hierarchy of authority but disagree about who that authority should be and what rules they should create. 


Virtues are constructive ways of dealing with liabilities that use a higher level of problem-solving, beyond the short-term, zero-sum thinking of the tradeoffs. They are approaches to building and maintaining strong skills, systems, and communities that can deal with liabilities in the long term more effectively than any attempt to balance tradeoffs against each other. Although they take more thought and effort compared to tradeoffs, they yield a much greater reward in exchange. 

Investment: deals with scarcity. Spends effort and resources in ways that yield an increase in valuable resources in the future, sustaining prosperity in the long-term. Another keyword for investment is cultivation.

Preparation: deals with disaster. Investigates new situations with caution to learn about what is possible; identifies parts of a system and creates and maintains systems to prevent, mitigate, and repair damage to those parts. Another keyword for preparation is equipping.

Transcension: deals with stagnation. Develops mental discipline to prevent addiction, and considers the nuances of ideas without having to accept them. Another keyword for transcension is challenge. (This virtue was formerly called “transcendence” but the name was changed to avoid the connotation of being beyond definition or conceptual understanding.)

Ethics: deals with conflict. Makes some sacrifices to adhere to sustainable principles and contribute to the wellbeing and success of others, considering their satisfaction important for one’s own. Another keyword for ethics is reconciliation.


If motivations describe the sorts of goals we pursue and liabilities describe the problems that stand in the way of those goals, then mindsets are the tools we use to achieve those goals by overcoming liabilities. Before we get into how mindsets work, we’ll need to establish some more basic concepts. 

Feedback loop: a process that does the following as a repetitive cycle: 

  1. receives experience from its environment
  2. exerts influence on the environment in response to that stimulus
  3. receives a feedback experience based on the influence it exerts
  4. updates itself and its influence in response to that experience
  5. Repeat this process indefinitely, until some condition is met or the situation changes so that the loop cannot continue

Every mindset, without exception, is a feedback loop that uses the processes of guessing and checking (below).  

Paradigm: A paradigm describes the type of map you use, defined by the aspects of the territory it includes. If you use a paradigm that doesn’t include important aspects of the territory, then your map won’t work no matter how much detail you add and how much you practice using it. For example, a topographic map won’t tell you when you’re about to cross from one country to another, and a political map will be of limited help in locating mountains and valleys. 

Calibration: The process of increasing the accuracy of your map through practice with applying a skill, and through learning from the feedback the territory gives you based on what you try. Maps may be calibrated for different territories, even if they are the same type of map. For example, two topographic maps might show completely different regions. More practically, a person may speak multiple languages, but that doesn’t mean they automatically know all of them. They still need to spend time learning and practicing each one. For the same reason, a person might have strong attributes in a mindset but will not automatically have every skill that uses that mindset. 

Guessing: the process of free association; exploring possibilities and chaos. Iterating through potential hypotheses. 

Checking: the process of accepting or rejecting guesses; exploring consistency and order. Matching hypotheses to the territory and redistributing their probability mass (and that of the hypotheses around them). 

Subliminal mode: Describes processes that leave no record of how they produced the results that they did. 

Distinct mode: describes processes that are monitored and recorded in the mind, and which can be directly accessed and altered. 

Mindset: a feedback loop that combines guessing and checking processes in order to make a more accurate map of some aspect of the territory. This map allows you to make predictions about that aspect and find ways to influence it to do and to become what you want it to. 

Each mindset maps a different aspect of the territory, which is determined by which modes the guessing and checking processes run in and how they are combined. Mindsets can be combined and dovetailed to make other mindsets. 

Mindsets are not hard categories, but a vocabulary to describe how people think, and how they can learn to think, and what kind of thinking different problems require. Just as primary colors can be combined to make more colors, and those colors can be used in different configurations to make pictures, there are basic building-block mindsets that can be combined to form more mindsets, which can be used to describe every possible skill. 

Basic Mindsets

These nine mindsets are the most important ones to learn and remember, because all other mindsets are derived from them. 

Primary Mindsets

These are the four core mindsets from which all other mindsets are derived, with the exception of the zeroth mindset. 

Operation: shapes effort, deals with trajectory; subliminal guessing paired with subliminal checking. Also known as intuition, operation mindset develops very detailed maps regarding territories that involve real-time interactions with rapid feedback. These maps are completely subliminal, unable to be directly accessed or edited. Updating and maintaining them requires practice. 

Example: You find an alien device capable of levitating objects. Operation mindset learns how to use it gracefully and even juggle with it. 

Synthesis: generates ideas, deals with possibility; distinct guessing paired with subliminal checking. Also known as imagination, synthesis mindset explores possibilities and hypotheticals by freely associating thoughts and memories, and blending the characteristics of different ideas. 

Example: You find an alien device capable of levitating objects. Synthesis mindset considers all kinds of things it can do, regardless of whether they are practical or efficient (such as building a floating city). 

Analysis: evaluates ideas, deals with consistency; subliminal guessing paired with distinct checking. Analysis mindset explores the logical implications of different ideas and hypotheses, identifying flaws and some simple updates to a hypothesis that might make it more closely match reality. 

Example: You find an alien device capable of levitating objects. Analysis mindset figures out how it works. 

Organization: allocates efforts, deals with priority. Distinct guessing paired with distinct checking. Organization mindset reviews the goals and constraints present in a situation and compares the rewards of different possible goals, and the different paths to reach them, in order to attain as much satisfaction as possible compared to the resource costs paid to achieve them. 

Example: You find an alien device capable of levitating objects. Given several possible uses you could put it to, organization mindset figures out which one will save the most time, effort, or money (such as running an inexpensive airline or shipping service). 

Secondary Mindsets

These mindsets combine two non-opposing primary mindsets, but they’re distinct enough in character that they are included with the basic mindsets. It is possible to use two non-opposing primary mindsets together without using the associated secondary mindset, such as using synthesis and operation to visualize and draw a picture without using empathy mindset

Tactics: redirects paths; deals with opportunity; combines synthesis and organization. Tactics mindset comes up with clever plans to open up options by applying the resources at hand in unexpected ways. It considers various possible uses of the combined contents of your inventory in the current environment and how relevant they are to the situation you’re dealing with. 

Example: You find an alien device capable of levitating objects. Tactics mindset considers how you can use it to solve a problem you’re facing (such as using it to create a distraction by lifting and dropping a large object some distance away). 

Strategy: fortifies paths; deals with contingency; combines analysis and organization. Strategy mindset foresees unwanted outcomes and arranges resources to close them down in advance. It reviews the assumptions on which a plan is based and decides on reasonable measures that will keep the plan on track if those assumptions turn out to be wrong. 

Example: You find an alien device capable of levitating objects. Strategy considers the potential hazards of using it and suggests measures to keep things safe (such as not leaving the device running unattended, or not levitating objects above places you wouldn’t want them to fall). 

Semantics: simplifies interactions; deals with generality; combines analysis and operation. Semantics mindset applies labels to situations to identify the most significant details, and applies rules to those labels to easily infer information or make decisions, as long as the assumptions underlying the labels and rules remain valid. 

Example: You find an alien device capable of levitating objects. Semantics mindset can record its properties and the steps to use it, and describe them to someone else.

Empathy: individualizes interactions; deals with sensitivity; combines synthesis and operation. Empathy mindset handles situations with hidden factors that change in response to what you do, such as people, animals, plans, temperamental machinery, or even food ingredients. Different entities may respond differently to the same stimulus, so empathy helps you adjust your behavior or the environment to evoke different impressions and more smoothly influence how an entity responds. 

Example: You find an alien device capable of levitating objects. Empathy mindset considers how it might make different people feel and what you can say or do to influence how they feel about it. 

Zeroth Mindset

Observation: absorbs moments; deals with actuality. Also known as mindfulness, observation mindset peels back the filters that other mindsets place over the territory and the predictions they make about it, and looks at the raw sensations that might otherwise be filtered out. 

Most mindsets approach a new context with a learning attitude, updating their respective maps with new information. However, they will usually transition gradually to an application attitude, assuming the underlying principles of the map are correct and filtering out all but the most overwhelming evidence to the contrary. 

There are advantages and disadvantages to filtering out contradictory evidence, so there are times where it’s possible to use too much observation or not enough. 

Here are a few keywords that pertain to observation mindset, in order of least to most observation. 

Depleted mindsets fail to use observation when they need to, and so they fail to notice when they should learn and update their maps. 

For example, depleted strategy mindset might pack for a trip based on outdated assumptions about what you can and can’t do when you get there. 

Distilled mindsets are confident in their application attitude when they need to be, in situations that already well match their maps. 

For example, a seasoned traveler might use distilled strategy mindset to pack useful items for a trip to a place they’ve never been before, based on knowledge of key features of their destination that are similar to those of places they’ve been before. 

Attuned mindsets use observation in situations that are mostly familiar but with some unfamiliar aspects, to follow the map confidently while monitoring key details that indicate whether the map is still valid. 

For example, attuned strategy mindset might pack the basics for your trip based on acquired expertise, while continuing to learn new things about the destination that might inform what else you bring along. 

Enriched mindsets use the observation they need to notice when the situation becomes quite unfamiliar, to identify which parts of their maps need to be updated, and to get clues about what those updates might need to be and whether or not they’re working. 

For example, enriched strategy mindset might decide to gather more information on the weather, the news, and the schedules of various tourist attractions before considering what activities might be feasible on a vacation. 

Saturated mindsets use more observation than they need to and are stuck in the learning mode, unable to confidently apply their maps to move forward without checking each step. 

For example, saturated strategy mindset might try to pack too much for a trip by refusing to make any assumptions about what items may be unnecessary. 

Peripheral Mindsets

Peripheral mindsets are less fundamental and more specialized than the preceding ones. With the possible exception of the tempered mindsets, you can use them by applying either of their two constituent mindsets in service of the other. For example, precision mindset can be used with semantics aiding operation to increase the precision of physical movements, or with operation aiding semantics to increase the precision of language and symbol manipulation. 

Interstitial Mindsets

These mindsets combine a primary mindset and a related secondary mindset. 

Precision: combination of semantics and more operation. 

Rapport: combination of empathy and more operation. 

Inspiration: combination of empathy and more synthesis. 

Radicality: combination of tactics and more synthesis. 

Modification: combination of tactics and more organization. 

Standardization: combination of strategy and more organization. 

Security: combination of strategy and more analysis. 

Diagnosis: combination of semantics and more analysis. 

Tertiary Mindsets

These mindsets combine a primary mindset and an unrelated secondary mindset. 

Flexibility: combination of tactics and operation. 

Assembly: combination of strategy and operation. 

Institution: combination of strategy and synthesis. 

Narrative: combination of semantics and synthesis. 

Notification: combination of semantics and organization. 

Politics: combination of empathy and organization. 

Deconstruction: combination of empathy and analysis. 

Hacking: combination of tactics and analysis. 

Quaternary Mindsets

These mindsets combine two non-opposing secondary mindsets. 

Interpretation: combination of tactics and semantics. 

Clarification: combination of strategy and semantics. 

Reputation: combination of strategy and empathy. 

Surprise: combination of tactics and empathy. 

Tempered Mindsets

These mindsets combine two opposing primary or secondary mindsets unevenly. 

Thoroughness: operation bolstered by organization. 

Orchestration: organization bolstered by operation. 

Design: synthesis bolstered by analysis. 

Science: analysis bolstered by synthesis. 

Overhaul: tactics bolstered by strategy. 

Salvage: strategy bolstered by tactics. 

Translation: semantics bolstered by empathy. 

Background: empathy bolstered by semantics. 

Advanced Mindsets

These mindsets are formed by balancing opposing mindsets and being able to use them together effectively. 

Axial Mindsets

These mindsets combine two opposing primary or secondary mindsets evenly, but may also encompass the tempered mindsets. 

Action: deals with effort; combination of operation and organization (and thoroughness and orchestration). 

Perception: deals with ideas; combination of synthesis and analysis (and design and science). 

Facilitation: deals with paths; combination of tactics and strategy (and overhaul and salvage). 

Communication: deals with interactions; combination of semantics and empathy (and translation and background). 

Composite Mindsets

Composite mindsets combine two axial mindsets and include all of the related primary, secondary, tempered, interstitial, tertiary, and/or quaternary mindsets associated with that combination of primary and secondary mindsets. 

Using a composite mindset doesn’t mean you use all of its sub-mindsets all the time, just like using your hands doesn’t mean flexing every finger all the time. It just means all the fingers are there to play a role when you need them. The same goes for the composite mindsets. For instance, applying competition mindset in a particular situation may only call for the standardization aspect of competition. 

A composite mindset may also tell you the best way to solve a problem involves a mindset that that composite mindset doesn’t include, and that’s normal. For instance, cunning mindset might decide that the most effective way to accomplish a goal requires research using notification mindset. 

Responsibility: deals with development. Combination of action and perception. (And thoroughness, orchestration, design, science, operation, organization, synthesis, and analysis.) 

Competition: deals with rates. Combination of action and facilitation. (And thoroughness, orchestration, overhaul, salvage, flexibility, assembly, standardization, modification, operation, organization, tactics, and strategy.) 

Connection: deals with relationships. Combination of action and communication. (And thoroughness, orchestration, translation, background, notification, politics, precision, rapport, operation, organization, semantics, and empathy.) 

Cunning: deals with consequences. Combination of perception and facilitation. (And design, science, overhaul, salvage, radicality, institution, hacking, security, synthesis, analysis, tactics, and strategy.) 

Education: deals with paradigms. Combination of perception and communication. (And design, science, translation, background, narrative, deconstruction, inspiration, diagnosis, synthesis, analysis, semantics, and empathy.) 

Presentation: deals with ambiguity. Combination of facilitation and communication. (And overhaul, salvage, translation, background, interpretation, clarification, reputation, surprise, tactics, strategy, semantics, and empathy.) 

Augmented mindsets: possessing an “augmented” mindset refers to being able to use all the mindsets related to a primary or secondary mindset; in other words, being able to boost the effectiveness of a basic mindset with any or all of the other basic mindsets.

For example, a person who can use augmented empathy mindset can use empathy, rapport, inspiration, deconstruction, politics, reputation, surprise, translation, and background, to the extent the situation calls for them. 

Apex Mindset

Capability mindset: describes having all above mindsets at your command. This does not mean having all skills or knowledge; you will still need to learn any skill you want to use, calibrate it through practice to the particular territory you want to use it in, and actually apply it when you want to change something. Possessing capability mindset just means you don’t have any mental blind spots. You can maintain awareness of and deliberately influence any aspect of the territory, and can learn or at least achieve a basic understanding of any type of skill involving any combination of mindsets. 

With capability mindset, you can go about your day with all the basic mindsets active in the back of your mind, and they can alert you when they notice something important. There don’t have to be hard boundaries between the mindsets; you can apply all of them to a situation in any combination or in any order based on their relevance to the situation. 


Attributes describe the different aspects of mindsets, motivations, and liabilities. These aspects can be compared and, for mindsets and motivations, exercised and strengthened. 

Attributes can refer to people generally, or with respect to specific contexts. For example, a person may have high resilience when dealing with deadlines but low resilience when dealing with social situations, or vice versa. Attributes can also be somewhat subjective. For instance, different people experience different levels of stress in the same situation. A person who enjoys crowds doesn’t need as much resilience to mingle at parties as someone who prefers smaller groups. The point of attributes isn’t to quantify, but to figure out what aspects of themselves people may want to improve on and to help them gauge their progress. 

Primary Attributes

Initiative: describes the conditions you require in order to start applying a mindset or pursuing a motivation. How great does the reward have to be? How close does it have to be to you? How certain? How much does it cost you to get started? 

Initiative attribute can also be used to describe liabilities: How likely is it that this liability occurs in this particular context? 

Applying initiative attribute is called “driving.” 


Operation mindset: You can casually start juggling whenever you feel like it. 

Celebration: When your local grocery store is out of apples, you decide to drive a half hour out of your way to get them without hesitation, because you want more apples. 

Scarcity: It’s very easy to run out of fuel for your machine because it’s perishable and so you can’t store very much of it at a time. 

Resilience: describes the conditions you require in order to continue applying a mindset or pursuing a motivation. How well can you maintain the quality of your performance under stress or uncertain conditions? How much hardship does it take for you to abandon active pursuit of a particular goal or general motivation? 

Resilience attribute can also be used to describe liabilities: How difficult is it to overcome this liability once it does occur? 

Applying resilience attribute is called “bracing.” 


Operation mindset: You can keep juggling even when something startles you. 

Celebration: It turns out the main road to the other store is closed, but you drive around until you find a detour, because you decided to get those apples and you’re serious about it. 

Scarcity: It takes a lot of effort to get the special fuel you need for your machine, so keeping your supply replenished is an ongoing battle. 

Versatility: describes how broad the range of possible changes is.

When describing a mindset, versatility attribute refers to how wide a variety of meaningful effects you can start to accomplish. 

When describing a motivation, versatility attribute refers to how wide a variety of goals you could pursue to fulfill a particular motivation. How soon after changing directions would you start feeling like you were making satisfying progress? 

Versatility attribute can also be used to describe liabilities: How wide a variety of forms does this liability manifest in, in this context? 

Applying versatility attribute is called “shifting.” 


Operation mindset: You can quickly learn to juggle small numbers of different kinds of objects. 

Celebration: You don’t need to get apples from the other store, because you enjoy other fruit just as much. 

Scarcity: Maintaining your machine is tricky because there are so many different resources it needs, and it seems like you’re always low on something. 

Intensity: describes the magnitude of a change.

When describing a mindset, intensity attribute refers to how far you can continue to push the effects you create. How large of an impact can you make when you try to change a situation? 

When describing a motivation, intensity attribute refers to how much of a change you desire to the status quo. If given the chance, how extreme a goal would you pursue? 

Intensity attribute can also be used to describe liabilities: How much of an impact does this liability have? 

Applying intensity attribute is called “delving.” 


Operation mindset: After much practice, you can juggle a very large number of unusual objects. 

Celebration: You may or may not drive out of your way, and you may or may not substitute other fruit for apples, but when you have the chance, you buy bushels of apples and eat one every hour. 

Scarcity: You only have enough fuel to run your machine for thirty seconds, which severely limits the number of widgets it can produce. 

Secondary Attributes

Enterprise: combination of initiative and mobility. Applying enterprise attribute is called “leaping.” 

Industry: combination of initiative and intensity. Applying industry attribute is called “hewing.” 

Adaptability: combination of resilience and mobility. Applying adaptability attribute is called “sliding.” 

Determination: combination of resilience and intensity. Applying determination attribute is called “scraping.” 

Axial Attributes

Independence: combination of initiative and resilience. With independence you can start and continue what you choose without regard for the environmental conditions. Applying independence attribute is called “striding.” 

Finesse: combination of mobility and intensity. With finesse you can apply as much effort as you need in a particular place. Applying finesse attribute is called “dancing.” 

The Rudiment and the Apex

Competence: the zeroth attribute. Competence means you have a basic grasp of a skill and how to apply it in a particular situation, and can use it on command under ideal conditions. Applying competence attribute is called “using.” (As in, “an operation mindset user.”) 

Mastery: the culmination of all previous attributes. Mastery means you have developed high levels in all attributes and thus can apply a skill however you need to. Applying mastery attribute is called “wielding.” 


Now don’t tell me how brilliant and beautiful this toolbox of concepts is. I don’t need other people to read it and tell me that; that’s not why I wrote it down. Tell me what you’re going to do with it: this knowledge, this power, this responsibility. 

What problems and liabilities will you confront, now that you have a place to start understanding them? 

What roles could you learn to take on for humanity, to contribute more to the universe than you consume? 

How will you build a better life, a stronger community, a kinder world? 

That’s what I want to hear about. That’s how I’ll know it was worth the effort.