Work With People Who Have These 3 Key Traits

I recently re-listened to Naval’s ‘How to Get Rich (Without Getting Lucky): Every Episode‘. It’s a 3.5-hour podcast where Naval and Nivi discuss every tweet from the original How to Get Rich (Without Getting Lucky) tweetstorm

There’s a section where Naval discusses his 3-part checklist that he will not compromise on when it comes to working with people. And that’s what this article is going to be about. I will start each part with a quote from Naval himself and then discuss each of them.

High Intelligence

“You need someone who’s smart or they’re heading in the wrong direction and you’re not gonna end up in the right place.”
―Naval

High intelligence can manifest itself in many ways. A million people can all be uniquely smart and I think recognizing this variability is important. Just because you don’t think and act like a particular really smart person doesn’t mean that you aren’t really smart in your own way.

But having ‘high potential’ or being ‘highly capable’ isn’t enough. It’s just one part of the equation. Because capability and potential can only be realized through action. 

You’re looking for people who have high intelligence and demonstrate the ability to learn, pivot, and adapt. Because intelligence is only one part of being a great builder.

High Energy

“You need someone high energy because the world is full of smart, lazy people. We all know people in our lives who are really smart but can’t get out of bed or lift a finger.”
―Naval

This Naval quote made me stop and think. One of the most important differentiating factors for whether intelligence translates to success is high energy. This has always been my bottleneck and it’s something I’m improving at. 

High energy is part mindset, part action bias, and part personality. There is a direct correlation between high energy and getting things done. It enables hard-work and will often be the deciding factor in the level of one’s success. 

“And we also know people who are really high energy but not that smart. So they work hard, but they’re working in the wrong direction.”
―Naval

So you’re looking for high enough intelligence to learn, adapt, and grow. Then, they also need high energy so that they can work hard, build things, and make stuff happen. High intelligence combined with high energy makes for a driven and very capable individual.

High Integrity

“Then high integrity is the most important. Because otherwise if you’ve got the other two, what is you have is a smart and hardworking crook who’s eventually going to cheat you.”
Naval

As Naval says, high integrity is the most important trait on this list. This is because the potential downside of a smart and hard-working crook can have devastating consequences. You don’t have to worry about this with high-intelligence/energy or high-energy/integrity people.

How to Spot High Integrity

High integrity is very important. So how do we spot it? Naval says we can through signals. 

“So you have to figure out if the person’s high-integrity. The way you do that is through signals. Signals are the things that they do, not the things they say. It’s all the non-verbal stuff people do when they think nobody’s looking.”
―Naval

So, take note of how they treat people. Pay attention to how much they talk about people behind their backs. Watch for discrepancies between the things they say and the things they do. 

“As I grow older, I pay less attention to what men say. I just watch what they do.”
―Andrew Carnegie

It’s important to remember though that just because people aren’t always consistent with their words and actions, it’s not always malicious. Sure, there will be people out there who are intentionally trying to deceive you; and we should be wary of that.

But often, the reason that people struggle to keep their word or stick to their commitments is discipline. They say that they want to because they do want to. They just can’t stay disciplined enough to actually do it. It doesn’t mean they’re a bad person or doing it to spite you.

However, discipline, social consistency, and honoring your word are all key factors for integrity.

All Together

“Pick people to work with who have high intelligence, high energy, and high integrity.”
―Naval

This is the goal. You want to work with people who are high intelligence, energy, and integrity because they will make your life easier.

High intelligence means that they can learn, adapt, and function autonomously. 

High energy means that they’re willing to work. You’re not going to have to nag them to take action, it’s in their very nature. 

Then, of course, high integrity is what ties everything together. If they’re high integrity, you can trust them. Trust is crucial in any relationship. It is the foundation upon which everything else is built. 

Again, I’ll reiterate that I took the majority of these quotes from a small section of Naval’s (link): How to Get Rich (Without Getting Lucky): Every Episode. It’s a 3.5-hour collection of thoughts, tips, and advice. I would definitely consider checking it out.


There you have it!

If you enjoyed this piece, I wrote another piece that was inspired by Naval called ‘Why Doing The Right Thing Is Always The Best Option.’

What do you think about this list? Are there any other key characteristics that you would add? Let me know what you think in the comments!

To keep up to date with what I’m doing, follow me on Twitter @evanPoker and Medium @evanwolfson33.

As always, thanks for reading!

7 comments

  1. I also struggle with the second point. Knowing what do to through by showing the right kind of intelligence, and just getting stuck in and doing it are two very different things! Like you, I am also working on this, to be more conscious of where I’m spending my time, and taking productive action.

    Too many times I see the right choice, tell myself about it, and turn in the wrong direction anyway.

    Thank you for sharing this.

    1. Hey Hamish!

      I find it interesting how often my gut reaction is correct. The worst is when you know the right thing to do only to overthink it and talk yourself out of it. It’s a fine line!

      I appreciate the comment – it’s always nice to know that others can relate. 🙂

  2. Love this blog post, Evan! SO much great info and advice in here. Thank you for sharing.
    Integrity is of the utmost importance in EVERY relationship – but most definitely when it comes to work!

  3. I couldn’t agree more. Without energy and integrity, intelligence is just wasted. Whereas without intelligence, well, then the sad reality is that things move very slowly. But still, I prefer people with integrity and energy but lower intelligence than the other way around. Signals is also an interesting word here: They are actually part of an implicit language, going far beyond mere words.

    1. Hey Fomtriok!

      Glad to hear it! And yea, I’m happy that you keyed in on that. Signals is a huge part of this concept!

      I appreciate you stopping by and sharing your thoughts. 🙂

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