Asymptote – Mental Model – The 80/20 Rules Best Friend
I want to share an important mental model I like to call ‘The Asymptote’.
This mental model will help you make smarter decisions in all areas of your life.
In mathematics an asymptote represents a point where a curve can never cross.
The curve inches closer to the asymptote over an infinite range but never meets it.
Look at the image below to get a visual representation of an asymptote.
The curve will never cross point C.
The Y value could be 1,293,930,290,492,840,487,453,503 but the x will never equal C.
Asymptote as a mental model Example
A mental model is a framework for thinking.
It allows you to evaluate complex problems through looking at only a few variables.
The asymptote represents a hard boundary which you can never cross, but through attempting to cross it, you can exponentially improve your results.
I run several YouTube channels with my team.
The YouTube algorithm is a complex beast.
But through First-Principles thinking, it can be boiled down to two important variables.
The ‘average view duration’ and the ‘click-through rate’(CTR) of a video are crucial for success.
The average view duration is how long people watch your video on average.
The click-through rate is the rate at which people click on your video.
If your video is shown to 100 people and 10 people click on it, you have a CTR of 10%.
YouTube wants to keep viewers on the platform as long as possible to show as many advertisements as they can.
This is how they monetize their audience.
If you have a video which is 10 minutes long, and people on average watch 8 minutes of it, you will make YouTube very happy so it will promote your video.
What if your thumbnail and video title are boring?
What if for every 100 people to whom the video is shown only 1 person clicks?
YouTube will have to stop promoting your video as it will be wasting their resources.
You need both to go viral (I just gave you the secret to YouTube – you’re welcome).
Here comes the Asymptote.
Having 100% watch duration is not possible in the long run.
Some people come to your video by mistake, some people get bored half-way through, and some must feed the baby crying in the other room.
Having 100% click-through rate is also not possible.
Humans have different psychologies.
What will make you click in a heartbeat might not even grab my attention.
But if we imagine that such things are possible and optimize for both, we exponentially increase our chances for success.
We will never cross the asymptote C (perfect AVD and CTR).
But we can have stupendous results in Y (views, subscribers).
There are many asymptotes in life.
Barriers you will never cross that can profoundly increase your results.
The Perfect Stoic Sage
The stoics used to contemplate the Stoic Sage.
A paragon of all the stoic virtues and ideals.
A being who could never be hurt by externals due to his powerful reasoning mind.
A God-like figure who was in a constant state of eudemonia.
“The wise man is said to be free from vanity; for he is indifferent to good or evil report… At the same time, they are free from pretense… Nor indeed will the wise man ever feel grief; seeing that grief is irrational contraction of the soul… They are also, it is declared, godlike; for they have a something divine within them.”
— Diogenes Laertius (explaining the Stoic Sage)
Alas, it’s impossible to reach such a state.
We are humans and subject to a myriad of emotions and primal responses.
Even if your practice of Stoicism is perfect, your humanity will come through.
We can’t help but feel hurt when we have been betrayed.
Depressed and confused after the death of a loved one.
However, if we move towards the asymptote of the Stoic Sage, our base level of happiness will increase.
The same can be said of many practices.
Being mindful and waking up from a sleepy state has many benefits.
However, we can not be mindful 100% of the time.
It’s an asymptote.
If we aim for it, we will find that our lives drastically change as we gain greater levels of control.
How to Find Your Asymptotes
They key to finding asymptotes is to find a goal which satisfies these two questions.
- What is a goal that cannot be reached?
- As I move closer towards perfection, what will exponentially increase my results?
Let’s say you are a writer and want to improve how engaging your books are.
You might think spelling and grammar is your asymptote.
- Can perfect spelling and grammar not be reached?
It can be reached as there are set rules for spelling and grammar.
- Will getting better at spelling and grammar exponentially improve results?
No, it is a prerequisite just to play the game.
Something like having perfect character development, engaging complications, incredible climax and satisfying conclusion will drastically improve reader engagement.
The perfect combination cannot be reached but inching closer towards it will increase your results.
Do this and I promise you will be one step closer to living and dying well.