Making Sense of Aliens, Jedi & Cults
I recently came across Richard Burton’s mental model of aliens, Jedi & cults and can’t stop thinking about it. Reading through his Medium post on it was an aha! moment for me. An alien founder assembles a group of Jedi to start a cult and go on a mission together. At first glance, it sounds a little odd. But once you read through Richard's examples and start to piece together some of your own, it's amazing how powerful the model becomes.
One field the model works quite well for is investing. A perfect example, although maybe a bit controversial, would be Tesla. You have an alien founder in Elon Musk who assembled a group of Jedi to build a start-up electric vehicle company that amassed a cult following. Had you identified this back when the Model S released in 2012 and Tesla was trading at $30, a $1,000 investment would now be worth $31,633. That’s a 3,063% percent return. Amazon is a great example as well. Jeff Bezos is an alien founder who put together a team of Jedi and built a cult brand into one of the most dominant companies on the planet. Steve Jobs and Apple is yet another prime example, and I'm sure you can think of many more.
When used to gauge potential, this model can be a recipe for asymmetrical success. When you're right the upside is unlimited, and when you’re wrong the downside is limited to whatever time or money you put in. So while you might not have a 100% hit rate, your successes can far outweigh any losses. Hitting one Tesla can make up for 10 duds. This model has long been used in venture capital, where the entire industry runs on the concept of asymmetrical success. Investing in a company like Uber will make a VCs career regardless of how many misses he/she has in their portfolio.
Along with investing, this mental model can also be immensely helpful for making career choices. If you get an opportunity to join a company that fits the alien, Jedi & cult criteria the potential upside can be astronomical. If everything clicks right, you'll find yourself on a rocketship.
The best part about this model is that once you get it lodged in your mind you can't help but look out at the world through its lens. Soon after reading this, you'll be looking for aliens, Jedi & cults everywhere.