the building blocks of making

better decisions


Mental models are a way of explaining how things work. Throughout our lives, we build up a personal collection of mental models to understand the world around us.

Mental models aren't perfect but developing a rich toolbox of them can be useful in navigating the complexities of life. Learning to intuitively apply the right models in the right situations is something we develop with practice.

This website is a curated collection of models with broad applicability in everyday life. There’s a focus on brief descriptions and simple, real life examples of the models in use.

Weekly Mental Model

Proximate and Root Causes

Discovering the root cause of an event involves looking deeper than the immediate causes for that event.


A proximate cause is the event most closely associated with or immediately responsible for an observed result. This may differ from the root cause. Getting to a root cause often requires a deep dive into the situation using approaches like Socratic questioning or the 5 Whys


  • Post-mortem reports for critical failures generally outline proximate causes and how they stem from the root cause. For instance a website was down due servers running out of disk space which was in turn a result of a bug which in turn was a result of poor testing and so on.

  • A child repeatedly asking "why?" to answers for an initial question is trying to get to the root cause.