March 14, 2022




20 Military Strategy & War Concepts | 40 General Thinking Concepts

At a glance

Welcome to the 71 new members of the Mental Models, Concepts, and Frameworks newsletter who have joined us since last week.

Highlights of this newsletter:

Military Strategy & War Concepts

Seeing the Front

One of the most valuable military tactics

Involves “personally seeing the front line” before making decisions—not always relying on advisors, maps, and reports, all of which can be either faulty or biased

Seeing the Front improves the quality of insights

Asymmetric Warfare

A type of warfare in which two parties have different military capabilities or methods of war

In such a case, the weak party must take advantage of its special advantages or the opponent’s weaknesses in order to have any opportunity to achieve its goals

Two-Front War

Occurs when opposing forces approach two geographically separate fronts in order to divide and disperse the defenders troops, and create logistical difficulties

WW2 was a good example: Germany was forced to defend two front's when they became enemies with Russia


Various tactics and strategies used to combat armed insurgency (violent, armed war against authority waged by small forces)

It's the blend of comprehensive civilian and military efforts designed to simultaneously contain insurgency and address its root causes

Mutually Assured Destruction

A situation where two parties are in a stalemate, and neither can make a move without causing their own destruction

Paradoxically, the stronger two opponents become, the less likely they may be to destroy one another

Proxy War

An armed conflict between two states or non-state actors which act on the instigation or on behalf of other parties that are not directly involved in the hostilities

Example: Cuban Missile Crisis

Guerilla Warfare

A form of warfare where small groups of soldiers, such as paramilitary or armed civilians use military tactics including ambushes, sabotage, raids, petty warfare, hit-and-run tactics, and mobility, to fight a larger and less-mobile traditional military

Flypaper Theory

Involves deliberately attracting enemies to a location where they are more vulnerable, like attracting flies to flypaper, usually also directing them far away from your valuable assets

For example, U.S. ground forces in Iraq preventing attacks on U.S. soil

Fighting the Last War

Armies by default use strategies, tactics, and technology that worked for them in the past (last war)

The problem is that what was most useful for the last war may not be best for the next one. This can mean smaller forces prevail with better tactics

Rumsfeld's Rule

You go to war with the army you have. They’re not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time

Organizations hardly ever have perfect resources, but they can't always afford to wait until they have better ones before moving forward

Trojan Horse

A strategy in which a warring party is tricked into letting in the enemy behind their defenses

A Trojan horse can refer to anything that persuades you to lower your defenses by seeming harmless or even attractive, like a gift

Exit Strategy

A means of leaving a current situation, either after a predetermined objective has been achieved, or as a strategy to mitigate failure

At worst, an exit strategy will save face; at best, it will deliver an objective worth more than continuing the previous plan

Empty Fort Strategy

Involves using reverse psychology (and luck) to deceive the enemy into thinking that an empty location is full of traps and ambushes, and therefore induce the enemy to retreat

Boots On The Ground

Used to convey the belief that military success can only be achieved through the direct physical presence of troops (wearing boots) in a conflict area

Conducting a war just from afar—for example, using only air power—will not achieve the ultimate goals

Winning Hearts and Minds

A concept used in the resolution of war, insurgency, ano other conflicts, to express prevailing not by the use of superior physical force, but by making emotional or intellectual appeals to sway supporters of the other side


An attempt to contain the enemy, to prevent its further expansion, be it expanding geographically, militarily, or politically

Containing acknowledges that an undesirable event has happened, that you can't easily undo it, and so instead tries to mitigate further loss


Making concessions to opponents in order to avoid direct or further conflict with them

If you are in no position to meaningfully deter or contain an emerging conflict that you’d like to avoid, appeasement may be a necessary evil

Winning A Battle But Losing The War (AKA, a Phyrric Victory)

Refers to achieving a minor victory that ultimately results in a larger defeat, rendering the victory empty or hollow

It can also refer to gaining a small tactical advantage that corresponds to a wider disadvantage


A beachhead is a temporary line that a military unit establishes and holds until reinforcements arrive and they can make an advance

Businesses can use a beachhead by concentrating resources in one small area and succeeding first before moving on to bigger markets

Attrition Warfare

A warfare where the opponents are so strong that an end can only be reached through an extended and mutual depletion of each other’s resources

In these situations, the side with the largest reserves of resources typically wins in the long-run

General Thinking Concepts

Pain, Chemicals And Diseases

The tendency to become confused when we are in pain, under the influence of chemicals or have a physical or mental illness

Before making important decisions, ensure you are free of these influences and your senses are not distorted

Multiple Tendencies

The tendency for multiple psychological biases operating together to lead to irrationality on a tremendous scale

Corporate boards are a great example: Incentive-caused bias, Liking bias, Authority bias, Social Proof Bias, Reciprocation, and many more...

It'll Get Worse Before It Gets Better Fallacy

If someone selling you something tells you this, be wary

If the problem continues to worsen, their prediction is confirmed and you'll believe they're competent. If it improves, they're right and you'll be happy. Either way, they win

Coincidence Effect

The tendency to underestimate the inevitability of unlikely events

Due to the sheer number of events that happen daily, unlikely events are more common than you'd expect

What would be more surprising is if improbable events never came to be

The Anchor

The tendency to be subconsciously influenced by initial data points in settings including negotiations, purchases, or estimates

For example, the “recommended retail price” on a producty or an initial quote for a service may be nothing more than an anchor

Be cautious


The tendency to assume that because something has happened in the past, it will continue to happen in the future

Inductive thinking can lead to overconfidence and have devastating results

We must remember that certainties are always provisional

Forecast Illusion

Expert predictions aren't as good as we think they are

If they're wrong, they enjoy free reign with few negative consequences because hardly anyone remembers. If they're right, the world will know about it

Analyse track records when assessing predictions

Association Bias

The tendency to see connections where none exist

Example: If we eat a foreign food and feel sick afterward, we avoid it in future

We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom that is in it—and stop there

Beginner's Luck

Creating a (false) link with the past based on a positive first-experience

Your first investment in the stock market proves to be a huge success. You believe you have real skill

Bouyed by this confidence, you bet more than you can afford and lose it all

'Because' Justification

The tendency for the simple justification of "because" to be sufficient for encountering more tolerance and helpfulness for our behaviour

A: "Why haven't you done this work yet?"

B: "Because, I haven't got around to it."

A: "Oh, that's okay then!"

Contagion Bias

We avoid contact with people or objects viewed as "contaminated" by previous contact with someone or something viewed as bad

E.g., we view a person who has touched a diseased person as likely to have the disease (regardless of the contagiousness of the disease)

The Problem With Averages

Using averages is troublesome when extreme cases (outliers) dominate the distribution. In these cases, we should discount the term "average"

If someone uses the word “average,” think twice. Try to work out the underlying distribution

Motivation Crowding

The tendency for financial rewards to erode any other non-monetary motivations

When you offer your friend money to babysit, it will feel like a transaction, making them less likely to want to do it from a place of friendship

Ask: Should this be monetary?

Will Rogers Phenomenon

Occurs when moving an element from one set to another set raises the average values of both sets


  • The element being moved is below average for its current set
  • The element being moved is above the current average of the set it's entering


The tendency for expectations to significantly change our interpretation of reality

If we expect one thing, but get something drastically different, we'll be more affected than we would have been had we expected something in the middle

Expect the unexpected

Simple Logic

Our tendency to use sensing or intuition over thinking because rational consideration requires more willpower

We give our best guess and scrutinise less to save effort

Not everything that seems plausible is true. Reject the easy answers that pop into your head

Volunteer's Folly

The tendency for volunteers to miscalculate the impact of physical volunteering compared to making another, more impactful contribution

Volunteering is an admirable thing to do. However, we should always ask: Is this the best possible way to contribute?

Inability to Close Doors

Our tendency to do everything we can to keep open the maximum number of options

There is no such thing as a free option: each one costs mental energy and eats up precious time

We must learn to close doors to focus on the few that really matter


The mania for all things new and shiny

When thinking of the future, we place far too much emphasis on recent technology while underestimating the role of traditional technology

Rule of thumb: Whatever has survived for X years will last another X years (Lindy Effect)

Sleeper Effect

The tendency for any knowledge that stems from an untrustworthy source to gain credibility over time

The source of the argument fades faster than the argument

In other words, your brain quickly forgets where the information came from, but not the message

Alternative Blindness

We systematically forget to compare an existing offer with the next-best alternatives

If you have trouble making a decision, remember that the choices are broader than “option A” or “option B”

Open your eyes to alternatives that aren't in plain sight

Falsification of History

We subconsciously adjust our past views to fit present ones to avoid any embarrassing proof of our fallibility

Admitting mistakes is emotionally difficult, so it's a clever coping strategy

It is safe to assume that half of what you remember is wrong

Fear of Regret

The tendency to act irrationally when faced with the feeling of making the wrong decision or missing out on an opportunity that might not come around again

We don't like to imagine feeling regretful, so we act, even if the opportunity will come around again


Humans have an impressive sense of how others think and feel. We are influenced more by human stories than statistics

When looking to influence, lead with the names and faces, not statistics

People will be more motivated when they can relate to real humans

Illusion of Attention

Our tendency to be confident that we notice everything that takes place in front of us, when in reality, we often see only what we are focusing on

Remember this video?

Let go of the dangerous illusion that you perceive everything

Strategic Misrepresentation

The tendency to falsely assert our ability to complete a task when we believe our false assertion is required to receive the opportunity

Example: Bending the truth in job interviews

Don't go on what people claim; look at their past performance


Our tendency to think too much and cut off our mind from our intuition

When should we listen to our head and when to our gut?

Head: When faced with a new, complex scenario where we have no expertise

Gut: When faced with practiced activities or familiar questions

Deformation Professionalle

The tendency for people to solve problems using their areas of expertise

Examples: Armies think of military solutions first. Engineers, structural

This becomes hazardous when people apply specialised proccesses in areas where they don't belong

Illusion of Skill

The tendency to falsely attribute success to skill, forgetting the critical role luck plays

In some fields, skill plays the critical role in success: Pilots, Lawyers, Accountants

In others, luck becomes more important:: Entrepreneurship, Business, Investing

Feature-Positive Effect

The tendency to place greater emphasis on what is present rather than what is absent. Absence is much harder to detect than presence

We realize if there is a war, but we do not appreciate the absence of war during peacetime

The same for good health


The tendency to showcase the most attractive features of something, while downplaying or hiding the less attractive

Examples: Company earnings reports, real estate images, internal company meetings

Remember: You can learn more from the 'leftover' cherries

Intention-to-Treat Error

In reputable studies, participants should be analyzed as belonging to whatever treatment group they were randomized into, whether or not the treatment course was completed as intended—this helps avoid bias

"Once randomised, always analysed”

News Illusion

The tendency for news to distort our mental maps of the risks and threats we actually face

News is created with gripping stories and sensational “facts” to capture our attention

Instead of news, we should read timeless content: background articles and books


We underestimate our ability to become persuasive speakers or writers through dedicated learning

We aren't born persausive, we study to become persausive

Those who can persaude effectively can start a movement. It follows, anyone can start a movement

6 Principles of Influence - CLASSR

6 universal principles we can use to persaude or influence, particularly in marketing, but can be used in any business setting to win hearts and minds

See Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini for more

Commitment & Consistency: Once we make a choice, we work to behave consistently with that choice in order to save face

Liking: We agree with people we like, and others agree with us if they like us

Authority: We are more likely to say “yes” to others who are authorities

Social Proof: We look to other people to provide us with the correct actions to take. The more people we see taking an action, the more influenced we are

Scarcity: We want something more when there is very little of it

Reciprocation: We want to repay favours from others

A Crowdsourced List Of The Best Resources On The Internet

And finally, for those of you who missed it last week, I shared a list of the best resources I've found over the last 7 years across a broad range of topics including:

  • Being effective
  • Communication
  • Learning
  • Reading
  • Startups
  • Wealth Creation
  • ...and lots more!

You can find it here.

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