In the course of my reading books, articles, blogs etc, shockingly how I never came across the “Razors and Rules”, or maybe I did; but just never showed articulate concerns or let’s say, it didn’t strike a chord. But many thanks to George Mack for sharing about razors and rules in a twitter thread.

According to wikipedia, In philosophy, a razor is a principle or rule of thumb that allows one to eliminate (“shave off”) unlikely explanations for a phenomenon, or avoid unnecessary actions. OR in simpler terms, is a rule that cuts out conclusions that have a poor (low) probability of being correct. Below are some of the rules of thumb that simplify decisions.

This post is coined from a twitter thread by George Mack, I liked it and thought to share it with you all.

Razors and rules of thumb

Bezos’s Razors:

  • If unsure what action to take, let your 80-year-old self make it.
  • If unsure who to work with, pick the person that has the best chances of breaking you out of a 3rd world prison.

Bragging Razors:

  • 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.
    • The map is not the terrain.

Checkhov’s Gun:

  • When telling a story, if it’s non-essential – don’t include it.
  • ”If you say in the 1st chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the 2nd or 3rd chapter it absolutely must go off. if it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there”.

Discomfort Razor:

  • The more uncomfortable the activity, the more likely it will lead to growth.
  • The more comfortable the activity, the more likely it will lead to stagnation.
    • 1000 uncomfortable hours > 10, 000 comfortable hours.

Elon’s Law:

  • If you have a project, combat Hofstader’s Law by setting a ridiculously ambitions deadline.
  • Even if it takes 3x longer than the deadline, you’re ahead of everyone else.
  • Elon Musk missing his super human deadlines is a feature rather than a bug.

Hanlon’s Razor:

  • Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.

Hitchen’s Razor:

  • What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.

Hofstadter’s Law:

  • It always takes longer than you expect, even when take into account Hofstadter’s Law.
  • Every project costs 2x (twice) as much and takes 3x (thrice) as long – even when you factor this into your projections.

Joe Rogan’s Razors:

  • If unsure what action to take – ask what the hero in the movie would do.
  • If you’re intensely passionate about something and nobody around you is interested in it – assume the scale of the internet might help you find them.

Luck Razor:

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

Munger’s Law:

  • Never allow yourself to have an opinion on a subject you can state the opposing arguments better than the the opposition can.

Naval’s Razors:

  • if you have two (2) choices to make and it’s 50/50, take the path that’s more painful in the short term.
  • If a task is worth less than your ambitious hourly rate – outsource it, automate it or delete it.

Newton’s Flaming Laser Sword (Alder’s Razor):

  • If something cannot be settled by experiment or observation, then it is not worthy of debate.

Occam’s Razor:

  • Simple assumptions/explanations are more likely to be correct than complex assumptions.
    • Avoid Occam’s Duct Tape:
    • Someone who approaches a problem with a ridiculously number of assumptions.

Schwarzenegger’s Rule:

  • Never need to monetize your artistic pursuits. You won’t have to sacrifice your inner joy and vision for a payday.
    • Arnold made millions from property and D2C bodybuilding guides so he never had to say yes to acting gigs he didn’t like.

Skinner’s Law:

  • If procrastinating on an item, you only have two (2) options:
    • Make the pain of not doing it greater than the pain of doing it.
    • Make the pleasure of doing it greater than the pleasure of not doing it.

Taleb’s Surgeon:

  • If presented with two seemingly equal candidates for a role, pick the one with the least amount of charisma.
    • The un-charismatic one has got there despite their lack of charisma.
    • The charismatic one has got there with the aid of their charisma.

Walt Disney’s Rule:

  • If struggling to think clearly about a subject, draw it out.

Here’s Walt Disney’s drawing he made in 1957 of the Media Empire he wanted to build. It’s iconic

Disney Walt's drawing (Razors and rules)
Photo credit: Pinterest

So after researching and reading about razors and rules of thumb, I came across two more fascinating razors below.

Hume’s Razor:

  • No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle unless that testimony be of such a kind that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endeavours to establish.

Sagan Standard:

  • Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
    • This standard is a reformulation of Hume’s razor; in other to prove something incredible, the evidence must be equally incredible.

This list is not comprehensive of all possible razors and rules, again, they are rules-of-thumb rather than formal tools. 

With love from TheLastGoodManClick here to access more contents from the blog


    • Thelastgoodman Reply

      Yeah! Learnt a lot from the piece.

  1. I learnt a lot from this piece.. Keep doing the good work.

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