March 28, 2022




20 Military Strategy & War Concepts, 5 Razors That Simplify Decisions, 3 Mental Models To Achieve More In Less Time & More

At a glance

Welcome to the 50 new friends of the Mental Models, Concepts, and Frameworks newsletter who have joined us since last week!

Highlights of this newsletter:

  • 20 Military Strategy & War Concepts
  • 5 razors that simplify decisions
  • 3 Mental Models to achieve more in less time
  • First Principles Thinking 101
  • Second-Order Thinking 101
  • Satisficing vs. Maximizing: The two alternative modes of decision-making
  • The Jeff Bezos Regret Minimization Framework
  • The Appeal to Credentials Fallacy
  • Occam's Razor
  • Hanlon's Razor
  • The Man in the Car Paradox

20 Military Strategy & War Concepts

Let's start with Strategies.

1/ Forming Alliances

A strategy executed pre-War, involves creating mutual defense agreements with other countries that say, "If you are attacked, I will leap to your defense (and vice versa)'.

As the saying goes, 'strength in numbers.'

2/ Cold War

Involves covert conflict carried out by non-physical (fighting) means, such as spies, surveillance, special operations, or puppet regimes.

These activities aim to gather valuable intelligence and special advantages that can be used to exert pressure on the enemy.

3/ Crippling

Removing a critical ability from the enemy to cripple their ability to defend or retaliate, then exploiting the weakness created.


- Destroying power stations, pipelines, or dams

- Bombing airfields or destroying telecommunications

4/ Blitzkrieg

Make lightning attacks (with tanks), overwhelming the enemy with speed and concentrated fire-power.

The basic principle is to bombard a designated weak point (schwerpunkt) in the enemy defense, followed by feints and probes to find a breakthrough point.

5/ Scorched Earth

A strategy used by defending armies that consists of destroying buildings, factories, fields, and the like during a retreat.

The purpose is to prevent valuable assets from falling into the hands of the enemy and thus contributing to its resources.

6/ Trench War

A defensive strategy used when the superior firepower of a defending force compels the opposing forces to "dig in" to the ground to gain protection and sacrifice their mobility.

Common when the defense system of each is stronger than the attack force of the other.

7/ Siege War

Used when an enemy has fortified positions that seem impossible to penetrate.

Involves surrounding an area with the goal of driving out the enemy forces by deteriorating their defenses and cutting them off from reinforcements and vital supplies.

8/ Terrorism

Acts of violence against civilian populations intended to cause maximum fear to achieve a political or military objective.

Often a strategy of choice in asymmetric war, where the weaker side seeks to create maximum impact with a relatively small force.

Now, let's look at some principles for success.

1/ Confusion

Confuse the enemy so they do not expect what you do next.

Involves deliberately breaking past patterns to make the opposition's predictions wrong and their counter-moves counter-productive.

2/ Demoralization

Drain the opposition of their morale so they do not want to fight.

One of the main demoralizing forces is unexpected defeat or a stronger than expected defense.

This can happen when a weaker enemy outsmarts a stronger one with a superior strategy.

3/ Discipline

Instilling strict discipline in an army through training, culture, and elite communication.

Involves knowing the likely actions of the other side and having counters ready to their moves.

Not being aroused by trickery and sticking to the initial plans.

4/ Division

Involves separating the enemy into small units that are more easily defeated.

Large, coordinated forces are difficult to defeat, but separation removes coordination and communication.

Dividing attention also makes it more difficult to plan strategically.

5/ Distraction

Involves concentrating the enemy's attention—through attacks, explosions, and troops—in a direction you want them to look so as to conceal your true goals.

The result is gaining a strategic advantage in a critical area elsewhere.

6/ Erosion

Drain the enemy of their energy and will so they no longer want to fight.

Make them move large distances. Force their moves over difficult terrain. Cut off their food and other supplies. Use guerilla methods.

Tire them until they just want it all to end.

7/ Fear

Invoke fear or terror in the enemy so they seek to avoid you and become weaker.

If the enemy sees that you can destroy them utterly with little loss, then they will fear you.

This can be achieved through displays of overwhelming military might and destruction.

8/ Intelligence

The side that has the most information wins.

Intelligence about the opponents strategy lets you make effective tactical decisions and avoid fatal decisions.

Includes the supply of disinformation in order to trick them into making the wrong decisions.

9/ Overwhelm

Involves immediately demonstrating far greater force than the enemy to overwhelm them and leave no chance for a counter-attack.

Strength can be held in several dimensions, so it is important to use superiority directly against the opposing weakness.

10/ Provocation

Involves purposely making the enemy angry so they act emotionally or impulsively.

Emotion is usually accompanied by a reduction in rational thinking as the desire for war overwhelms logical considerations.=

This can provide a strategic advantage early.

11/ Sacrifice

Make sacrifices of territory, life, or weaponry to confuse the enemy.

The enemy will wonder whether you are giving up from weakness or if it's a ploy or lure to attack elsewhere.

Sacrificing shows determination that is both fearsome and demoralizing.

12/ Speed

Be quicker than the enemy and be able to react fast.

Speed conquers might every time.

It allows its wielder to avoid the attack of the enemy but also to get in effective attacks and then get out again before the opposition can respond.

5 razors that simplify decisions

But first, what is a razor?

Razor's are a tool that "cut" away the complexity from decisions using simple rules of thumb.

Bezos' Who to Work With

If unsure who to work with, pick the person (or people) that would have the best chances of breaking you out of a 3rd world prison.

People who could do this might be described as 'relentlessly resourceful.'

Two dangerously good traits.

H/T - @paulg

Skinner's Law

If procrastinating on a task, you only have 2 options:

1. Make the pain of not doing it greater than the pain of doing it.

2. Make the pleasure of doing it greater than the pleasure of not doing it.

Remind yourself why you're doing the task.

Luck Razor

If stuck with 2 equal options, pick the one that feels like it will produce the most luck later down the line.

Should I stay in tonight or should I go and meet this interesting stranger?

Choose to increase your surface area of luck when you have the choice.

Naval's Razor

If you have 2 choices to make, and they’re relatively equal (50–50), take the path that is more difficult and more painful in the short term.

If the two are even and one has short term pain, it means it has long term gain.

H/T - @naval

Bragging Razor

If someone brags about their success or happiness, assume it’s half what they claim.

If someone downplays their success or happiness, assume it’s double what they claim.

Winners don't feel the need to tell you they're winning, it's dead obvious.

3 Mental Models To Achieve More In Less Time

Hofstadter’s Law

Projects always take longer than expected, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law.

You're generally bad at estimating when things will get done.

The deeper point: We often have a choice of when to call a project “done.”

Use this choice more often.

Elon Musk's Law

If you have a project, combat Hofstader's Law by setting a ridiculously ambitious deadline.

Even if you fail to meet it, you're still ahead.

Isn’t it better to miss an aggressive deadline than a conservative one?

It's no wonder Musk has achieved so much.

Parkinson’s Law

Work expands to fill the time allotted to it.

If you allocate 4 weeks, it will take 4 weeks. If you allocate 10 days, it will take 10 days.

Remember: The sooner you finish, the sooner you can move on.

You also never know when finishing early might help you.

First Principles Thinking

What is "first principles thinking" and how does it work?

First, a definition: First principles are a foundational assumption or proposition. It is foundational in that it cannot be deduced from other assumptions or propositions.

Think of it as the smallest possible building block of a Pyramid.

First principles thinking involves breaking a complex problem into its most basic, foundational elements.

It's starting from foundational truths and building up to see if there is a better solution to an existing problem.

Often in life, we reason by analogy.

We solve problems by looking at how the problem has been solved before and then applying that same solution.

This is effective when speed is the priority, but it falls short when dealing with complex problems that require imaginative solutions.

We need something better.

Enter, first principles.

Here is an example:

Elon Musk wanted to send people to Mars.

The logical first step: obtain a rocket.

The problem: buying a rocket cost $65m and to send people to Mars, you need cheaper rockets.

The solution: First principles thinking.

He asked and answered basic, foundational questions:

What is a rocket made of? Aerospace-grade aluminum alloys, titanium, copper, and carbon fiber

What is the value of those materials at spot price? Just ~2% of the typical rocket price

With this information, Musk knew there was an opportunity to build cheaper rockets.

He didn’t accept the “truths” he had been told about the cost of a rocket, he reasoned using first principles.

The result? SpaceX cut launch price by a factor of 10x.

So, how can we establish first principles ourselves?

There are two main methods that both aim to boil problems down to their most basic, undeniable truths.

1. Socratic questioning

2. The "Five Whys" Method

When should we use first principles thinking?

When dealing with complex problems in need of imaginative solutions.

When attempting to make 10x improvements to existing solutions.

Second-Order Thinking

What is "second-order thinking" and how does it work?

First-order thinking is when we look for something that only solves the immediate problem without considering the consequences.

Second-order thinking moves beyond the immediate problem and considers the multiple layers of effects and consequences of a given decision.

It looks past the simple first-order effects of a decision and deeply examines the second, third, and nth-order effects.

It is thinking in terms of interactions and time, understanding that despite our intentions our solutions often unintentionally create more problems.

First-order thinking says “it’s a good company; let’s buy the stock.”

Second-order thinking says, “It’s a good company, but everyone thinks it’s a great company, and it’s not. So the stock’s overrated and overpriced; let’s sell.”

—Howard Marks

An analogy

You throw a rock into a pond.

The rock is your decision or action.

The resulting initial splash is the first-order consequence.

The subsequent ripples are the second, third, and nth-order consequences.

Everyday examples

Buy small house

1/ Smaller house is cheaper

2/ Can only host a few people at a time -> Fewer spontaneous connections

Choose to live far away from work

1/ Cheaper housing

2/ Time spent sitting increases stress and increases health bills in future

How can we use second-order thinking?

1/ Always ask yourself “And then what?”

2/ Think through time — What do the consequences look like in 10 minutes? 10 months? 10 Years?

3/ Ask, what can you do to minimise the probability and cost of these unintended consequences?

Satisficing vs. Maximizing

The two alternative modes of decision-making.


Picking the first option that satisfies an acceptable threshold.

To satisfice means to not go into “obsession research mode” for every single decision you make.

This typically doesn't result in the very best solution.

Example: In Startups, using customer data to decide your next product feature, rather than planning many moves ahead: shipping products fast and learning.

Application: Decisions where speed is paramount and the cost of a bad decision is bearable or redeemable.


Expending time and effort to ensure you've solved something optimally.

It requires exploration and research to ensure the "best" option hasn't been overlooked, and that you have confidence you've looked at all options.

Typically results in the best solution.

Example: In Startups, designing strategy is a slow, thoughtful process taken from many angles. It's not something you change regurlarly and it's critical to get right.

Application: For the most important decisions that aren't easily redeemable.

Key Lessons

Know when to go slow and know when to go fast.

Don't waste time maximizing unimportant decisions.

When faced with a decision, ask yourself how important the result is overall.

If it's not very important, choose the first option that's "good enough."

Jeff Bezos Regret Minimization Framework

Have you ever regretted a decision?

Don't let it happen again.

How? Use the Jeff Bezos Regret Minimization Framework.

When deciding, ask yourself, which action would my 80-year old self most regret not having taken?

Be good to your future self.

The Appeal to Credentials Fallacy

When someone dismisses advice by stating that whoever gave it doesn’t have proper credentials, so their advice must be wrong or unimportant.

Here's why you should never make this dismissal again:

First, a definition.

Credentials are any qualification, degree, or achievement that demonstrate suitabilty to comment on something, generally because they imply expertise.

For example, having a PhD could be viewed as approporate credentials in the scientific field.

So, why is this dismissal problematic?

It's problematic because credentials ≠ expertise.

Just because someone doesn't have tangible proof of their expertise in a field doesn't mean that they don't have expertise in that field.

You can be an expert without credentials.

Society has become obsessed with credentialism.

This is the phenomenon of over-reliance on credentials in situations where they aren't relevant or necessary.

Remember: You can pay for credentials but you can't pay for expertise.

One is bought and one is earned.

Advice should be treated on logic and merits, not on the source.

Dismissing advice because of who it originates from is a fallacy.

To avoid using this fallacy, you should focus on addressing arguments rather than the credentials of those who made them.

Occam's Razor

Definition: Simpler explanations are more likely to be true than complicated ones.

We tend to come up with complicated narratives to explain the world around us.

However, explanations with the fewest moving parts are more likely to be true.


This is simple maths.

If one explanation requires the interaction of three variables and the other the interaction of thirty variables, all of which must have occured to arrive at the conclusion, which of these is more probably true?


Doctors looking for the fewest possible causes to explain their patient's symptons, and giving preference to the most likely causes.

A patient shows up to a doctor with horrible flu-like symptons.

Are they more likely to have the common flu or Ebola?

When should we use this model?

Any situation where we need to preserve time or energy.

Simplicity increases efficiency.

Hanlon's Razor

Definition: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity (tiredness/stress/laziness/ignorance/shyness).

Evolution makes us presumptuous mind readers.

We assume actions by others' that harm us come from bad intentions. In reality, most of the time, people's behaviour has nothing to do with us.

Generally, circumstances dictate behaviour. Remembering this will leave us peaceful.


Your boss sends a blunt email. You assume she was being rude.

In reality, she's had a disastrous day, is fighting tight deadlines and simply didn't have time for nicities.

When should we use this model?

When someone is rude.

When someone is upset.

When someone misunderstands.

When someone does something unexpected.

The Man in the Car Paradox

No one is impressed with your possessions as much as you are.

You think you want an expensive car or fancy watch. In reality, what you want is respect and admiration from other people.

You have the mistaken belief that expensive stuff will bring it.

and that's it, thanks for reading!

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