Eliyahu Goldratt’s Prototype Mental Model


Eliyahu Goldratt's Prototype Mental Model

“When a proto-type—a new initiative—doesn’t work, we face two alternatives: one is to bitch about reality and the other is to harvest the gift it just gave us, the knowledge of what has to be corrected.” 

— Eliyahu M. Goldratt

I want to share an interesting mental model I learned from the business management expert Eliyahu Goldratt’s book ‘The Choice‘. 

This theory will help you remove the emotional sting associated with failure whenever you embark on a new venture.

Whether you plan to reach 10% body fat, build your business to 7 figures, or become a better artist, it doesn’t matter.

This mental model will help.

It’s called the ‘Prototype Analogy’.

The idea is to look at your problem like a scientist.

First, assume you want to test a theory.

You must assemble a prototype to conduct your experiments.

You then test your assumptions with your prototype.

Some are correct whilst some are wrong.

As a scientist, would you be disappointed at not knowing everything that was going to happen?

No, you wouldn’t.

You understand each test provides valuable data you can use to formulate your next hypothesis.

Each experiment moves you an inch closer towards understanding the truth.

This rational approach is easy for a scientist to do because they are taught to follow the scientific method.

Scientists learn to remove myopia caused by emotional investment.

They stick to what is true and build from first principles.

Scientists play what Naval Ravikant termed “iterated games”.

The more experiments the better.

The more data, the higher the probability of your conclusions being accurate.

The Eliyahu M. Goldratt Prototype Analogy In Life

We all have goals and aspirations which seem hard to attain.

When we attempt to achieve something great, we often fall short.

This causes us to feel negative emotions such as stress, fear and depression.


Because we have been programmed to take failure personally.

This programming starts in infancy and continues through our schooling system.

We are celebrated when we achieve something great like an A on our report card.

When we fail, we are left to feel less significant.

When our business does well, we are regarded as a genius.

When the business fails we are ridiculed.

The game of life is a constant fight for preserving our ego whilst desperately seeking validation.

We put too much importance on everything and become trapped in our minds.

You can’t see reality accurately whilst stuck in your mind.

We give up too quickly before gaining accurate insight.

The Reality of Our World

The world we live in is incredibly complex.

There are thousands of variables you can’t see which silently influence your outcomes.

What worked for one person isn’t always the blueprint for you.

Someone lost a ton of weight with keto, but when you tried it you felt like shit.

Someone built a massive business from cold-calling clients, but you haven’t made a single sale.

Someone met their spouse on Tinder, but all you seem to find are degenerates.  

There are no black-and-white solutions.

The only way to figure out what will work for you is through doing thousands of small experiments.

Each experiment allows you to get closer to the truth.

Maintaining this level of persistence is possible only by not identifying with the outcome.

Not taking failure personally; seeing everything as raw data.

Like Neo, you must first see The Matrix code before you can start bending reality to your will.

Keep experimenting and adjusting your course along the way.

Eliyahu Goldratt's Prototype Journal Exercise

To make this process a reality, I suggest purchasing a journal for each of your goals.

Like a scientist, state the objective, assumptions, duration and means of experimentation.  

For example, let’s say you want to lose weight.

You assume losing 2kg in a month might be possible through walking alone.

You decide to do 10,000 steps a day instead of your usual 4,000.

You commit to walking every day as soon as you wake up.

Fast forward a month.

You reflect on your progress by asking probing questions.

Did I walk 10,000 steps every day?

Did I lose weight?

Perhaps nothing happened.

You are still the same weight.

This isn’t the time to bitch and moan about it.

It’s time to celebrate.

You have just received useful data to help set up your next experiment.  

Perhaps next time you reduce your daily calories by 500.

You redo the experiment, but this time successfully lose weight.

The cool thing about this method is it can be used for anything.

The key is to test one variable at a time and be brutally honest with yourself.

Commit to the plan and track the results.

This will begin to feel like a game.

You will soon realize that failure was never personal.

You simply didn’t test enough things.

Do this and you will be one step closer to living and dying well.

By Isaac

I help people live and die well.