Pick Partners With Intelligence, Energy and Integrity

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  • Pick business partners with high intelligence, energy and integrity.
  • They need intelligence or they’ll head in the wrong direction. They need energy because the world is full of smart, lazy people. And they need integrity or you’ll have a smart and hard working crook, who’ll eventually cheat you.
  • People may be energetic on some tasks but not on others. Put them on the right tasks.
  • Integrity is what someone does, despite what they say they do.


Pick business partners with high intelligence, energy and integrity

Naval: In terms of picking people to work with, pick ones that have high intelligence, high energy, and high integrity, I find that’s the three-part checklist that you cannot compromise on.

You need someone who is smart, or they’ll head in the wrong direction. And you’re not going to end up in the right place. You need someone high-energy because the world is full of smart, lazy people.

We all know people in our life who are really smart, but can’t get out of bed, or lift a finger. And we also know people who are very high energy, but not that smart. So, they work hard, but they’re sort of running in the wrong direction.

And smart is not a pejorative. It’s not meant to say someone is smart, someone else is stupid. But it’s more that everyone is smart at different things. So, depending on what you want to do well, you have to find someone who is smart at that thing.

And then energy, a lot of times people are unmotivated for a specific thing, but they’re motivated for other things. So, for example, someone might be really unmotivated to go to a job, and sit in an office. But they might be really motivated to go paint, right?

Well, in that case they should be a painter. They should be putting art up on the internet. Trying to figure out how to build a career out of that, rather than wearing a collar around their neck, and going to a dreary job.

And then high integrity is the most important because otherwise if you’ve got the other two, what you have is you have a smart and hard working crook, who’s eventually going to cheat you. So, you have to figure out if the person is high-integrity.

And as we talked about, the way you do that is through signals. And signals is what they do, not what they say. It’s all the non-verbal stuff that they do when they think nobody is looking.

Motivation has to come intrinsically

Nivi: With respect to the energy, there was this interesting thing from Sam Altman a while back, where he was talking about delegation, and he was saying, “One of the important things for delegation is, delegate to people who are actually good at the thing that you want them to do.”

It’s the most obvious thing, but it seems like…  you want to partner with people who are naturally going to do the things that you want them to do.

Naval: Yeah. I almost won’t start a company, or hire a person, or work with somebody if I just don’t think they’re into what I want them to do.

When I was younger, I used to try and talk people into things. I had this idea that you could sell someone into doing something. But you can’t. You can’t keep them motivated. You can get them inspired initially. It might work if you’re a king like Henry V, and you’re trying to get them to just charge into battle, and then they’ll figure it out.

But if you’re trying to keep someone motivated for the long-term, that motivation has to come intrinsically. You can’t just create it, nor can you be the crutch for them if they don’t have that intrinsic motivation. So, you have to make sure people actually are high-energy, and want to do what you want them to do, and what you want to work with them on.

Integrity is what someone does, despite what they say they do

Reading signals is very, very important. Signals are what people do despite what they say. So, it’s important to pay attention to subtle signals. We all know that socially if someone treats a waiter, or waitress in a restaurant really badly, then it’s only a matter of time until they treat you badly.

If somebody screws over an enemy, and is vindictive towards them, well it’s only a matter of time before they redefine you from friend to enemy, and you feel their wrath. So, angry, outraged, vindictive, short-term thinking people are essentially that way in many interactions in real life.

People are oddly consistent. That’s one of the things you learn about them. So, you want to find long-term people. You want to find people who seem irrationally ethical.

For example, I had a friend of mine whose company I invested in, and the company failed, and he could have wiped out all of the investors. But he kept putting more and more personal money in. Through three different pivots he put personal money in until the company finally succeeded. And in the process, he never wiped out the investors.

And I was always grateful to him for that. I said, “Wow, that’s amazing that you were so good to your investors. You didn’t wipe them out.” And he got offended by that. He said, “I didn’t do it for you. I didn’t do it for my investors. I did it for me. It’s my own self-esteem. It’s what I care about. That’s how I life my life.” That’s the kind of person you want to work with.

Another quote that I like, I have a tweet on this. I think I read this somewhere else, so I’m not taking credit for this. But I kind of modified it a little bit. Which is that “self-esteem is the reputation that you have with yourself.” You’ll always know.

So, good people, moral people, ethical people, easy to work with people, reliable people, tend to have very high self-esteem because they have very good reputations with themselves, and they understand that.

It’s not ego. Self-esteem and ego are different things. Because ego can be undeserved, but self-esteem at least you feel like you lived up to your own internal moral code of ethics.

And so it’s very hard to work with people who end up being low integrity. And it’s hard to figure out who is high integrity and low integrity. Generally, the more someone is saying that they’re moral, ethical, and high integrity, the less likely they are to be that way.

It’s very much like status signalling. If you overtly bid for status, if you overtly talk about being high status, that is a low status move. If you openly talk about how honest, reliable, and trustworthy you are, you’re probably not that honest and trustworthy. That is a characteristic of con men.

So, yeah, pick an industry in which you can play long-term games with long-term people.

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