39+ mental tools I use to make better decisions

Are you looking to start a company, make a drastic change in your life or are you stepping into the unknown? There are forces of nature that are there to help and guide you if you look for them. It can get scary, fearful, and very daunting. As a result, I have compiled a list of things that will guide me even in the darkest moments of life and business.   

This is a list of belief that I use as a compass. Many of which I have stolen from other people, from nature, national geographic and my observation on life. Some of the belief might seem contradicting but they are not. Some belief may be applicable at a different stage in your life. Choose the ones that will help you accomplish your goals and discard the ones that you think have no value. Either ways, this is the wisdom I have learnt and I am happy to share with anyone interested in expanding their values.  

I call these set of mental toolbox as Wisdom: My guiding compass 

1. Always finish what you start
There are three four layers of awareness to this sentence. When you start a book do you finish it? When you start a project do you finish it? When you order food, do you finish it? The is a behavior that sets you in the right path to success. I see many people give on their ideas, dreams and values way too quickly. It is because they do not have the habit of finishing what they start. In business and generally in life you want to be committed to a task. Set mini goals, micro goals but get it done.

I personally hate to see any of my dreams or ideas go unfinished. I keep generating new ideas all the time, so it is in my best interest to complete my projects or else I won't have anything to show for. It is one of the most valuable mindsets that I have set to adopt. Always Finish what you start. 

Also, due to this mindset, you will only commit to things you know you want to get done. This allows you to be very selective in your endeavor. You will start saying NO to more task and will only say YES to the biggest opportunities. When you keep doing this it will have a snowball effect. You will have to charge more for your work, product and service you offer to clients, you will start to build a brand that is unique and remarkable, you will be able to close you own self and you will start to see tremendous success. Which is to say, when you say you are going to do something, no one will want to get in your way, and that is what you want from others. A respect only you can earn.  

2. Money is a by product of giving more perceived value
Value is not what you define. Value is what other perceive as value. If they feel they are getting value, they will be happy to exchange money in return. 

3. Focus on what you want, not what you do not want
You want customers, a great career or great relationship. If you focus on growing your business and getting more customers you have a better chance of getting  more customers. On the other hand, if you focus on clearing debts and bills, all you will get is more debts and more bills. 

4. Exponential growth
If you have a goal of getting 1 customer, and you accomplish it, your next goal is to aim for 10 customers. If you accomplish it, next aim for 100, 1000, 10000 etc.  The reason why this works, is because the strategies used to get 1 is different to get 10 and is different to get 100. This makes sure, you are not complacent and you are constantly challenging your system and resources. Exponential growth exists everywhere is nature. Try to avoid linear progress or resort to linear progress only when exponential growth get challenging. 

5. Every action, idea or opinion you have, has a higher probability to kill your business rather than making it strive (Inversion)
Be cautions about your actions and how you use your resources. Every action internally or externally (competitors and the market) is most likely to kill your business rather than make it the next billion dollar company. Therefore, focus on developing systems that will help your business be more resilient to market changes and disruption. Learn from others mistakes and success and stand on the shoulders of giants. 

Read this article to know more about what makes business like Apple, Coca-cola and Walt-Disney stand the test of time, where as most companies struggle to survive.

6. Take time off
Replenishing is equivalent to boosting energy. 

7. Meritocracy. 
The Market is the best judge. No opinions should ever judge the merit of your company

8. Mental models
Mental models are models that help to explain how nature works. They help in better decision making and thinking patterns. There are various mental model. Constantly look to expand on your models. 

9. Rituals
Strengthen rituals. One of my rituals, before starting any work, is to keep a glass of water handy, a note book to track my time logs and ideas. I then write the top 3 things i need to accomplish by the end of the day. After which i open my laptop and start to work on executing my list. It is rituals that brings discipline and habits into my life.

10. 100 things to do before you die. Squeeze them into your breaks.
From the book 168 hours, there is an exercise to write down 100 things you want to do before you die. Some are big things and some are small. On that list, i have gardening and drawing as part of my things to do. I then squeeze watering my plants or removing weeds during my 10 mins breaks or scribbling or doodling on my notepad after an hour of work. What are the small things you want to accomplish that can be done during your break time.  

11. Put the oxygen mask on your self first before you put it on anyone else
This is what every flight attendant tells you before take off. It has a very profound meaning in life. Take care of your self first before taking care of your business. Eat well, sleep well, exercise well and you have a better chance of being more productive which in turn can help you in your business or relationships. If you do not take care of your self, you business or relationships will be impacted.  

12. Deepen your understanding of a subject. 1st principle learning
The deeper your knowledge of a subject, you have a better chance of adding more value to a product, service and customer. Always try to deepen your understanding.

13. Try to expand your knowledge to a point where you can execute, make something out of it and sell it
No one can judge your knowledge, till you make a product and have people buy and use it. The market is the best judge.

14. 1st follow then be creative
I have a rule. If I am learning how to draw, learning a business strategy learning how to program or exercise, I do not put my own spin on it 1st. Follow the lesson from start to finish 3-5 times, before you put your opinion or spin onto it. You do not know what you do not know. Put your ego, bias and opinion  out of it. Follow point 5 if you are in doubt.  

15. Divide and conquer
In life and in business, there are skills sets you might need in the long run that will help you accomplish your goal. At the time, it might seem waste of time or deviating from your goal. If you can vividly see how the actions you are taking will eventually lead you to accomplish your goals, by all means deviate. For e.g. in business, your goal is to get more customers to use your product. But you realize, in order to get more customers, you need to make a breathtaking product so that 'word of mouth' can be your best marketing channel. Point#31 should help you out. You then spend several months on deepening your understanding of a subject, which you might not have had any clue of, but realize it will help you make a great product. You might have to deviate from your day to day task. Over time, point#16 will kick in, and your new skill set will be a weapon for your business.  

16. Law of compounding
Consistency is its currency. Be consistent in improving parts of your life or business everyday. Over time, it will compound. Every action you take or do not take will compound. If you make excuse it will compound over time, if you take valuable action and feedback, it will compound over time. The law will always be in effect. You cannot stop it. Therefore, knowing that the law exists, make sure you are compounding the right habits, behaviors and action. 

17. Your belief is your belief. It is your reality. 
As Henry ford once said, "Whether you think you can, or you cannot, you are right". What ever you believe in, is your own reality.  Correct your belief. Point #16 is always into effect. To change your belief, you need to stand on the shoulders of giants. Biography's are a good place to start.

18. Set strong rules, of what you want to achieve  and rules of which you absolutely do not want and cannot tolerate. 
Similar to point #3. Makes sure you have boundaries. As Warren Buffet says, you do not have to swing at every pitch. But if an opportunity lands on your sweet spot, do what ever it takes to capitalize on it. If it does not, you are free to ignore it. You are not obligated to focus on everything. And it is best to ignore and leave the things that you do not care about, or causes you discomfort.  

19. Progressively focus on details
Don't let the details stop you. Create a crap product, but constantly try to improve it. Point 16 will take care of it.  

20. Listen to your higher order calling
Market, customers, clients, time, resources, etc. They are constantly talking to you. It is your duty to listen and capitalize on what they want.

21. Clarity 
Clarity is when you can visualize every detail of how you want your product to be and how customers will use and feel it. It is how vivid your goal is in your mind.  The more clarity you have, easier to have focus on achieving you goal. Do not confuse clarity with focus.

22. Ability to zoom in and zoom out
Clarity, and 1st principle thinking will help you to zoom in on a problem and zoom out to see how a problem solve wants or needs of your customers. It is this ability that will make your product better

23. When should you pivot
Solve a problem till you have exhausted all resources and ideas. Do not give up without trying and giving in your best efforts.

24. Occam's razor
The simpler solution should always be the better solution

25. Deal with your resources as if they are always limited. 
a. Cognitive resource
b. time
c. Energy
d. Money
e. Water/food

26. Low hanging fruits
there are low hanging fruits in every endeavor. Make sure you exhaust them. In business it might be, have a social media presence, start a blog and join a networking event. Exhaust those free resources.

27. If you do not like the journey, focus on the destination. The feel of accomplishments

28. Catch your self fooling your self. Refer point #6

29. Measure Everything
If you are not measuring your performance, your time management, your finance, your customers or your idea, you are flying in the dark. Measurements are like your guiding compass. 

30. No Hypocrisy
Show, do not tell. Walk the talk. If you give advise to someone, make sure it comes from your own experience. If you create something, make sure you are the the 1st customer of your product. Do not create something because you feel the market wants it but you do not care about it.  

31. Visualize everything

Similar to point #21. The more you visualize how your product or business works, is in your mind, you build up clarity and eventually focus. Many might consider, just sitting and thinking is a waste of time. On the contrary, it is the best way to make sure, what you are making, is clearly mapped in your mind and it is easy to execute.  

32. Speed. Speed of implementation

Faster you execute on an idea, faster you can test it. The strike rate of a cheetah is the highest among other predators. Nature likes speed. And speed can be s lethal weapon for your business. 

33. Find the truth. See reality for what it is.
Do not put your ego in the way of reality. Gravity will work exactly the same way whether you have an opinion or not. There are many things in nature and the market that works like gravity. Find what makes the force work, rather than have an opinion about it.

34. Think in systems. 
System thinking is about, minimizing bottlenecks and maximizing throughput. Your system is only as efficient as the least productive part of your system. To make your system work efficiently, you need to focus on the slowest performing part. Read The goal by Elyahu Goldratt's. It is about the theory of constraints.  

35. Exhaust nearby resources before expanding into new territory
The farther your customers the more costly is the cost of acquisition. First try to acquire customers that are within cycling distance or public transport. It will keep cost lean at the same time it will help you to build your local brand name. Only after you have exhausted your nearby resources should you start to expand. 

36. Stop wastage
Wastage of time, wastage of resources, wastage of software. What ever it might be, be efficient in your planning. Visualization (point #31) can help minimize wastage. 

37. Give customers what they want NOT what you think they need

Customers may not know what they need, but they certainly can be very demanding on what they want. Give them that. 

38. Have laser eye focus

Buffett referred to Ted Williams in his 1997 letter .... 

"We try to exert a Ted Williams kind of discipline. In his book The Science of Hitting, Ted explains that he carved the strike zone into 77 cells, each the size of a baseball. Swinging only at balls in his "best" cell, he knew, would allow him to bat .400; reaching for balls in his "worst" spot, the low outside corner of the strike zone, would reduce him to .230. In other words, waiting for the fat pitch would mean a trip to the Hall of Fame; swinging indiscriminately would mean a ticket to the minors. 

If they are in the strike zone at all, the business "pitches" we now see are just catching the lower outside corner. If we swing, we will be locked into low returns. But if we let all of today's balls go by, there can be no assurance that the next ones we see will be more to our liking. Perhaps the attractive prices of the past were the aberrations, not the full prices of today. Unlike Ted, we can't be called out if we resist three pitches that are barely in the strike zone; nevertheless, just standing there, day after day, with my bat on my shoulder is not my idea of fun." 

 In the recent HBO Documentary 'Becoming Warren Buffett', Buffett notes .. 

"The trick in investing is just to sit there and watch pitch after pitch go by and wait for the one right in your sweet spot, and if people are yelling, 'Swing, you bum!' ignore them."

39. Believe you are the best
Have an attitude of being the best. It will help you make breathtaking products your customers are proud of. Belief is everything. The best is subjective. No one decides who is the best, other that yourself. Set high standards and live up to it.  

40. We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.” —Albert Einstein.
This model has always saved me from trouble. If people are talking behind your back or criticizing you, trying to retaliate with your version of back stabbing is not going to help you. You need to tackle this problem with a higher level of consciousness. Which is to say, if you are in business create a breathtaking product so that no one can criticize your product or service, if you are an individual, upgrade your self. Upgrade your discipline, your goals, your knowledge your aspiration your dreams your social circle, your projects, etc. Do not try to retaliate when in trouble. It will never serve you. 

One method to self evaluate. How can "Anthony" be better? How can "Anthony" make "ANTSAND" better? Why are people back stabbing "Anthony"?  Replace the word 'me' and 'I' with your name. You need to do a thorough evaluation without being bias. Evaluate your self or your business in the third person.  


Please comment below if you have questions, ideas or how you can apply it. At ANTSAND, we apply everything we preach and teach. What we put out is based on our experience, our failures and success. We love to be transparent, as it really brings out the best in us. 

We will soon be creating a $5 monthly marketing package for our readers. You can pay us for one cup of coffee every month, and in turn we give you strategies, ideas, tactics, mindsets and exercises, you can apply in your business immediately. If you want to know more about it, just type in the comments below, "Coffee with ANTSAND". We would love to hear your feedback.

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Written by Anthony Shivakumar
Founder, Lead Marketing and Software Developer at ANTSAND

Anthony has a Master Degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering. He has worked in major software firms for the past 15 years and currently runs his own software and marketing company.

He continues to write articles related to marketing, programming, sales and growth hacking.


Apr 03, 2020 External
I liked it a lot, many important points that I do agree with.
Any book suggestion regarding point 34? (System thinking)
Thanks in advance!
May 28, 2019 External
I Love the idea of having mental tools. It give you guidance and helps you make better decisions.

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