May 2024

The best have intuition

If you want to be the best at what you do, you need to develop a feel for it, an "intuition".

Instead of calculating what to do, you're able to do it instinctively.

You can read instructions and successfully assemble furniture. No matter how many instructions you read, you will need intuition to build a good business. instructions cannot represent complexity of business.

Steve Jobs could write a series of books on how to build a company, yet most readers will still fail. Joan Didion could lecture her whole life on good writing. But, most listeners will never become great writers. Warren Buffet could share all his thoughts about how he invests. But, you will still find it difficult to match his skill

We lack their intuition.

The more complex what you do is, the more important intuition becomes. More complex activities have more possibilities. More possibilities means more decisions and more choices for each decision. Our minds can only reason so much. You cannot calculate your way to success in complex activities.

Our world is rapidly becoming more complex. We will need great intuition in order to get what we want.


Intuition determines how someone observes, understands, values and predicts.

When two painters see the same painting, their eyes are drawn to different parts. One may even observe something that the other didn’t.

They observe according to their intuition.

When two product managers analyze the same launch metrics, one may get anxious. They feel something is going wrong, while the other may feel happy that the launch was a success.

They understand according to their intuition.

When a team is choosing between options, with the same information, they may still value each option differently. They will prioritize them differently.

They value according to their intuition.

Two scientists who read the same paper will have different thoughts about what else could be true given these results. They will ask different questions. Imagine different futures.

They predict according to their intuition.


Intuition is triggered before rational thought. It shapes our thinking.

Most of our thinking is to rationalize our intuitions. We want to be able to explain why we do what we do so that we appear sensible to others.

Yet, we are driven by intuition far more than we think are. We are more irrational than we think are.

This isn't to say that reasoning isn't useful. Reasoning is a valuable tool to shape our intuitions. We can catch where our intuitions are biased through reasoning. But we don't have the time to reason about everything, and so how we feel about things guides most of our actions 2.


Intuition is trained by doing. Yet, not all doing is the same. Two students working just as hard, receiving the same training for years may still end up with very different intuitions: one much better than the other at getting what they want.

This difference is partly due to natural differences between them. Given the same training, people learn differently. But, I suspect the majority of the difference comes from what gives them a “kick”: that thing that feels so good we crave for more of it.

Our mind updates intuition to get us more of that kick. 3

If you want to train your intuition well, who you spend time with is the most impactful decision you can make. We are hardwired to get massive kicks when we receive respect and praise from others. This is a deep rooted craving that is difficult to observe but pervades most of our actions.

Those who feel they aren't that impacted by what others think of them seem to be the most affected because they’re blind to it.

If your peers celebrate awards, you will find yourself getting awards. If your peers value non mainstream, artistic, cinema, your intuition will evolve to make such movies.

The way you observe, understand, prioritize, and predict will change in ways that will get you the kind of results your peers will praise you for.

You will end up getting what your peers want, not what you thought you wanted.

An employee whose output is measured by their manager will develop their intuition to do work that will be praised by them, regardless of whether their manager has the right intuition about what the world actually wants.

When this employee leaves start their own company, they will realize that what they thought was intuition is actually bias.

We miscalculate opportunity cost. Spending time with average peers costs more than just the time not spent training intuition. You will have to unlearn the bias that you've picked up, and you can't “think” our way out of a bias. A bias is a habit. Habits are difficult to change.


When you get good enough, praise that pollutes intuition is inevitable. But if you choose to celebrate such praise, you're polluting your intuition even more.

Celebration is also a kick. What you celebrate impacts how your mind updates intuition.

A CEO that celebrates a fundraising round, or a hype article written about them, pollutes intuition for their entire company. The company will begin to observe, understand, value and predict in ways that optimize for the next fundraising round. This may not lead to building a better product, getting more customers, and making more money - which is what's required at the end of the day.

  • Build intuition by doing.
  • Choose the right peers.
  • Be careful what you celebrate.



Intuition is a different mechanism compared to rational thought.

We should be able to see this with those who suffer from amnesia: they may not be able to remember how to think what they did before, but their intuition will remain intact. They won’t have trouble driving, etc.

If Steve Jobs had lost all memory, he would still have the “feel” for when a design is off, he just might not be able to explain it anymore. Intuition is a wiring of neurons that cannot be undone instantaneously as memory can.


Bias and intuition are the same thing internally. We call it intuition when it helps us get what we want, and bias when it doesn't. The mind doesn't label it, it just wants to get a kick.