🎧 Why You Should Lean More Into Intuition For Your Decision-Making

Alex Yang
6 min readFeb 19, 2024

Today I’m publishing Episode 2 of my podcast How I Decided. — How I Decided To Leave My Tech Startup. My guest is Aashay Mody. I first met Aashay while interning at a startup called Edgi Learning, where Aashay was one of the cofounders. In this episode, Aashay explains how paying attention to his feelings and his intuition helped him in his decision to ultimately leave his startup.

You can listen to the epsisode on Spotify.

Where to find Aashay

Where to find Alex

Episode 2: How I Decided: To Leave My Tech Startup

Building a successful tech startup is difficult. Like, very difficult. 9 out of 10 startups will fail. As a result, tech startups require a lot of dedication, personal sacrifice, and sleepless nights.

These requirements can seem fine and even perhaps a bit glorified if you’re passionate about your startup’s idea and mission. But if you’re no longer as passionate about what your startup is doing? These things can start to become very burdensome.

In this episode, Aashay and I discuss why Aashay left his startup and how intuition plays a big role in Aashay’s decision-making. Here are some takeaways from our conversation that I think are extremely useful for decision-making and just for overall wellbeing:

  • Look for natural pauses in life (for Aashay this was when one of his cofounders at the startup left) where you can just reflect on where you’re at and if you’re enjoying your work. So much of our career is always “go-go-go” and these pauses give you a reminder to take some time and distance yourself from the daily grind
  • When faced with a decision where you‘re thinking of leaving a team or larger organization, it can be helpful to first have an honest conversation with your team members and see if they’re supportive
  • There are no overnight decisions — making a tough decision can be an internal struggle that takes time and that’s ok
  • Aashay shares the concept of the full body decision — what does your head say, what does your heart say, and what does your gut say. If all of those are in alignment you’re probably already decided, but usually those parts are in conflict with each other.
  • Aashay explains why trusting his intuition has been so helpful to his decision-making, and why society undervalues intuition more than logic and data.

Why You Should Trust Your Intuition More

What I found really interesting in my conversation with Aashay is this idea of intuition vs reasoning. Intuition is making decisions with your gut and reasoning is making decisions with logic and data. What was so eye-opening about Aashay is that he really feels that trusting his intuition has helped him in all sorts of decisions he’s made (he’s described this belief in one of his blog posts; highly recommend his newsletter!). So what’s behind his conviction?

Intuition helps us cut through noise. When we rely purely on reasoning, we have numbers and evidence at our disposal, but sometimes it’s difficult to process all that evidence. Using intuition is the solution for that. What we call “intuition” is really a combination of experience, expertise and pattern recognition. Laura Huang at Harvard Business School has found from over 8 years of researching high-stakes decisions that the role of intuition and gut feel “is to inspire a leader to make a call, especially when the decision is risky.” This is really interesting! This reminds me of Episode 1 of How I Decided when my guest Harry mentioned that his biggest takeaway from his decision was to not overthink it. But in our current world where there’s data and numbers galore, it’s easy to overthink it and become overwhelmed by the information that’s out there. The power of intuition is that it can get us over the decision-making hump, especially when we’re paralyzed from making a decision altogether. What’s implied in Huang’s research as well is that as our world continues to collect more and more quintillions of bytes of data in the future, our intuition will play an even more crucial role to help us in our decision-making.

If intuition is so great, then why don’t people use it more? I certainly don’t use it enough. What’s uncomfortable about using intuition is that it can be difficult to explain why your gut is telling you something. Why do you have this feeling? That can often be a difficult question. And I think because it’s a difficult question to answer we assume that our intuition must not be grounded on any sort of substance, just something that distracts us from making the most optimal decision. I felt this way when making my own decision about whether to continue playing college tennis or to start a job. You can read through my article and see just how much I cared about logic and evidence and weighing pros vs cons. It’s obvious that I didn’t want to use intuition at all, even though throughout the decision-making process I was experiencing strong emotions.

What can help with dealing with this aspect of intuition is to try and name your feelings. This is a method suggested by Cheryl Strauss Einhorn and it allows you to acknowledge your gut while also gaining a better understanding of why your gut might be telling you something. In my own decision about college tennis I actually practiced a basic form of this method and just sat down trying to understand the strong emotions I was feeling. After mulling it over for a few minutes I realized that the feeling I had was fear — fear of making the wrong choice and specifically the fear of ruining my professional career if I played college tennis for two more years. Being able to name that feeling was so helpful in my decision making process and also showed me that my feelings were not just some fairy-dust nonsense that was interfering with my decision. Naming our feelings shows us that our gut is a practical tool that can we can use in addition to data and reasoning.

But intuition, just like reasoning, is not a silver bullet. After my recording my conversation with Aashay I came across this really interesting 2003 HBR article called “Don’t Trust Your Gut.” It talks about how intuition was starting to become in vogue for business leaders, almost something like a mystical power that supposedly only the best business leaders had. As a result, many business leaders felt like it was ok to ignore data and just make decisions purely based off of intuition. As you can imagine many of those decisions didn’t go well. The article later explains that using intuition isn’t the problem, it’s relying only on intuition that can lead to danger. What’s consistent in all the research I’ve come across about intuition vs reasoning is that people always advocate for a balance of the two. When you use either too much, you start to experience diminishing returns.

The Intuition — Reasoning Scale

So if better decision-making involves using both intuition and reasoning, we can think of the two tools as opposite ends of a scale where it’s better to stay away from the extremes on either end.

Unfortunately, unless you possess The Force, pure intuition isn’t gonna be too good for you

The first step in beginning to incorporate more reasoning or intuition into your decision-making is to understand your own tendencies. Aashay and I are actually pretty similar people — we both tend to overanalyze and like our quantitative evidence. We lean more towards reasoning. For us, it’s important to trust out intuition more and Aashay already has a good amount of experience doing that.

So think about where you lie on this scale and the next time you have a decision to make, try to use more of the tool that you’re on the opposite end from. If you’re biased towards intuition, try to collect more evidence and data. If you’re biased towards reasoning, try to start noticing and naming the feelings you have towards a decision. Also, a helpful heuristic for me in doing this is to remind myself that I won’t ever overdo it. I will probably never ever overcorrect towards using pure intuition, even though in the moment it might feel that way when I try to use intuition more. Remember, if you have tendencies towards one side you’re just going to correct more towards the middle.

A special thanks to ⁠Ilan Leventhal⁠ for producing the music used in this episode. Go check out his music!

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Alex Yang

How I Decided Podcast | Articles about Career Choices and Decision Making