Intuition Is Data

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Every creative and entrepreneurial venture starts with an idea. If you’re honest, the idea is almost always more of a question. Or many questions.


In order to take action, you’ve got to make guesses about the answers. We call those assumptions.

Some of your assumptions will be spot on, others will be wildly off.

The most important thing you can do in the early days is not try to succeed as fast as possible, but try to answer the most important questions as fast as possible. To replace assumptions with data. The faster you can make that transition and start to build around data over delusion, the better off you’ll be. And the more likely your success becomes.

But here’s the funny thing about data.

Some of it is hard, meaning it’s quantifiable. You can plug it into a spreadsheet.

But some of it is soft, really soft. No way to plug stomach spins or intuitive hits into Excel. And because we like to be able to point to “why” we make decisions, especially decisions we might be judged for making down the road, we often ignore those soft data points. Because they don’t provide good cover.

Don’t. Do. This.

Two reasons.

One. Hard-data lies. It’s always old, incomplete or fake.

The reason the S.E.C requires every statement about a company’s future to include some variation of “past performance does not imply future results” is because it’s true. It doesn’t. People change, times change, circumstances change. The container of variables that made past outcomes possible will never be the same.

Which is why…

Smart investors don’t bet on past performANCE, they bet on past performERS.

They know much of what’s in the business plan is dead wrong. So wrong, in fact, that the vast majority of the world’s most successful companies over the last 25 years have had to entirely “pivot” models, products and markets in order to avoid crashing and burning. Smart investors don’t bet on hard data, they bet on the belief that the right team will be able to replace assumptions with data before they all run out of money. And even then, more often than not, they don’t.

So, very often…

Spreadsheets are the primal brain’s attempt to create a pre-emptive rationale for failure.

“Dude, the numbers were good, I did what I did based on them. Who knows why it bombed?”

Except that YOU knew.

Which brings us to reason two…

Deep down, there will always be a million little data points that don’t fit into a tool or app or chart or spreadsheet. Feelings, intuitive hits you get that say, “something ain’t right,” or “fix this” or “that person is full of it” or “hell yes.” Your brain processes millions of bits of information all day, on a level you’re not aware of. That data and the visceral intuitive reports your body and mind give you are every bit as valuable and valid as the supposed hard-data.

Because it’s about nuance, subtext, authenticity, the deeper truths. Those moments that lead us to cry “the signals were right in front me” after everything blows up, or watch someone else do the thing you seek to do first, because they were willing to own their intuitive data that, once acted upon, made an opportunity “obvious” to all.

So, here’s my invitation.

Stop ignoring soft data. It’s no less valid than the supposed hard-data. Reconnect with your intuition. Allow yourself to feel it again. Even if you’re not quite sure what to do with it yet. Feel it.

Intuition is data.

Just because you can’t easily quantify it, doesn’t mean you should toss it. Many of the greatest works of art, achievements, ventures and adventures have arrived on the ether of intuition. Often in opposition to “the numbers.” 

I’m not advocating for abandoning hard data. Just elevating and integrating soft data.

Which leaves me with a question…

What’s your gut, your heart, your non-linear data-center telling you about that thing on your plate right now?

The one you’re aching to start or create or grow or join? The one that’s keeping you up at night?

Can you even feel it any more?

If not, find a way to create enough stillness to reconnect with it. For me, mindfulness is the way in. It helps cultivate enough stillness for intuition to bubble through the surface.

For you, it may be movement or writing or nature or whatever else works. Find your unlock and reconnection key.

And once you do, once you start to feel that deeper data set emerge, then the question becomes…

What will you do about it?


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38 responses

38 responses to “Intuition Is Data”

  1. Jonathan says:

    Jonathan, I couldn’t agree more. To me, intuition is the instantaneous and simultaneous synthesis of experience, data from this life and maybe past lives (this is tipping my hat to cultures who believe this) which allows you to see things and make decisions others are not able to. I often use my intuition, or see that rises to the fore around all kinds of decisions. I also have to say that I don’t always follow it, much to my regret at times.

  2. “Spreadsheets are the primal brain’s attempt to create a pre-emptive rationale for failure.”

    Jonathan, this quote from you has paved the road for me this morning, a return to sanity I desperately needed. And your words about intuition mirror my own experience, which is why I have been at war with one particular spreadsheet for months. Now I finally understand why…

    Thank you so much for this refreshing post today!

  3. Jonathan says:

    As far as what is on my plate, my intuition is telling me that the most important thing in my life is to pursue my spiritual development which will have the most positive impact on my life, career, people I love, friends and others.

    My decision criteria on a daily basis is whether what i am doing or thinking or feeling is an old habit or grist for the mill re. my commitment.

  4. Keena says:

    Jonathan, this is absolutely right on. I read a quote that of the top 100 CEOs in the world (about 5 years ago at least, when I first read it), 100% cited intuition as their “secret weapon” in business!
    And trusting my own intuition with this, I am putting the finishing touches on a new program and book which will “help entrepreneurs fix their business issues BEFORE they happen”! 😉 it’s called Your Business Chakras.
    Thanks for bravely posting on such an important topic in business!

  5. Nikhil says:


    After working in a corporate/strategic planning unit for over 8 years (including a short stint in consulting)….I completely agree with you on this one.

    Not a single day in my entire working career has gone without numbers (the top floor folks love fancy reports) dissected in the most creative way…..but when the time is ripe for decision making, they all pause….take a deep breath and ask “What do you think?”

    Most of the BIG financial decisions that i have experienced…(especially the make or break ones) are taken purely on “feel” by grey hair people.

    My Mantra: Perception is Greater than TRUTH!!

  6. Gretl says:

    I agree that intuition is very important but sometimes following intuition can be a problem. I have begun writing a workshop that will be very beneficial. It is about half done but I can’t find any one who will tell me honestly what they think. People offer to look it over then I never hear anymore. It is half finished and on hold because I am not sure of the next step. I want to follow intuition but seem to be doubting myself lately.
    Thank you for your wise words Jonathan.

  7. Pamela says:

    Great big YES, Jonathan!

    Medical science documents that we function as complex, multileveled, open information systems, constantly receiving and sending data, and acting on that data. It is not possible to crystallize all that data into statistics, which are very gross level data trends.

    If we learn how to back out of identifying with the processing unit enough to observe dispassionately, we’ll notice if our awareness is being drawn to specific data. That’s intuition. The data that’s drawing our attention is especially relevant in present time.

    We need a guide to apply statistics meaningfully to the present. Intuition can be that guide, and everyone has it. Yes, some people are naturally more aware of intuition, but all of us can strengthen our relationship with it and use intuition as a silent, trusted partner.

  8. […] Intuition is data from Jonathan […]

  9. Pamela Hay says:

    Jonathan I appreciate how you connect a “spiritual” or metaphysical concept to its application in life and business.

    Discerning intuition from fear thoughts arising from the ego has always been a challenge for me until recently. Intuition appears in a flash with no thought around it. As if out of no where. Sometimes seemingly unrelated, like displacements or substitutions in a dream, yet related. The out of nowhere message comes right after or between the thoughts around the issue being contemplated. It’s a vibe versus reasoning such as “I shouldn’t do this because” or “maybe it’s this” or whatever thought form it appears in.

    Thanks for the great work you are sharing with the world.

  10. Jennifer says:

    Intuition was the very thing on my mind last night as I went to sleep. Specifically, how important it is to me in my work, even though my work entails using science, data, and research to improve marketing.

    I was thinking how intuition is still needed on the front end – someone still has to choose an idea, or take all the data points and turn it into something that will delight.

    And I was thinking about how “good” intuition should be listed as a skill, but how best to prove it lest it become a co-opted buzzword. I often want to include it on my resumé/profiles/about page because I know, I KNOW, that intuition is one of my strongest skills, but because it’s, as you called it, soft data, I can’t point directly to something and say, “There!”. So I keep it in my backpack as one of my ninja skills. 😉

  11. “The most important thing you can do in the early days is not try to succeed as fast as possible, but try to answer the most important questions as fast as possible. ”

    Yeah. I wish more entrepreneurs knew this when they started. If we redefined success as getting answers, versus getting dollars, we’d probably see a lot more Edisons in the world. People would probably be more persistent and less prone to giving up on their dreams so quickly.

    Dollars are important, of course, but they come and go like the tide. Answers, however, shape your life, give it meaning, depth, and mold your character. 15 years of pursuing answers has led to some success for me (and the dollars that go with it), but I had to pursue the answers first.

    Great post. 🙂

  12. Danya says:

    Exactly what I needed this morning. Gracias

  13. I have always valued my intuition in my work, and this post certainly quantifies my feelings about it. Stillness works for me too, but moving around in nature by far is the best plug in for getting to a listening point with my inner guidance.

    On my plate now? I am shifting to a new niche (digital platform development for up and coming celebrity chefs) and was wanting to reach out (in a way I never have) to individuals that I can partner with and ask them questions. I feel compelled to do it, so damn it, I am going to do it. Today. now.

    Thanks for the encouragement!

  14. Thanks Jonathan! I might actually add “past performance does not imply future results” (with a very positive slant toward upward growth) in our Annual Review. When you’re building something completely new it seems like everyone is focusing on your results…which are difficult to produce…because you’re new.

    And, as you’re building something completely new it feels like dancing on the toes of your feet constantly, having to shift your weight at the drop of the hat. So much of that is about “feeling” what’s working and then moving in that direction. Then, when you’re “feeling” wrong about that or something else, shifting the other way.

    It’s a big dance. So, I like the thought of my intuition being the tune I hear and providing the beat of the building process.

  15. Ann says:

    I am an intuitive. It often strikes after a near death experience. Which I have had. Everyone is intuitive. It’s just about tuning your radio dial.

    An easy way to tune in when facing a decision, relationship, or opportunity is to simply quiet your mind and just ask this question.

    Does this give me energy, take it away, or leave me flat?

    If it doesn’t give you energy, don’t go there. If it does, move.

  16. Kevin Rhodes says:

    Boy, Jonathan, did I ever need to hear this today! This is that troublesome, “act like a grownup” risk/reward issue – kind of like the birds and bees talk, which the parent thinks is rational and necessary, and the kid is going, “Huh?” We’ve got something we want to do, and sooner or later, either we’ll be poster children for why you should listen to your heart or for why you should never, ever go there. How do we assign risk/return odds to THAT? Creation is risky because it requires faith. We can’t control it. It puts things in motion and we don’t know where they’ll end up. That’s what pivoting is about, right? Intuition invites us to faith, and either our faith is going to be rewarded, or we’re on the fast track to disappointment and despair. It’s a long drop from the pinnacle of inspiration; we rarely fall as hard and fast as we do when our faith lets us down.. So we do our research and spreadsheets and we listen to those intuitive hits, and when the chips are down, if our gut says yes, we’re going for it. I mean, what are we saving it for? More unlived life?

  17. Yeah, it is. We’re learning a version of this lesson: our group went a little too ‘conversion’ focused, and what wound up happening was that there was a ‘coldness’ or a formulaic-ness to our stories and videos. We wanted to change that, and did.

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      Interesting – I’ve been doing more of than in my media creation, too. I want to feel it to believe it

  18. Thank you, Jonathan. Your message hit me right in the solar plexus! Making important decisions is about so much more than crunching the numbers. I’ve often learned this the hard way which is probably why your message resonates so clearly with me.

    This has inspired me to reach out to someone that I’ve been postponing for days (i.e. ignoring my intuition). I’m setting aside the fear and doubt to move forward with what my gut it telling me. Hallelujah! I already feel lighter. 🙂

  19. This struck a chord with me, as I was debating intuition with a colleague last week. She claimed product management, or the art of knowing which products would sell, is… well, an art, or intuition. I countered by saying that intuition is nothing more than experience. Over years, you build up knowledge that acts on you in ways you may not understand, helping inform today’s decisions. So it is not intuition but experience, or in your post, data. I sometimes feel that my best decisions were based on intuition, but when I stepped back to analyse them, I discovered very clear factual bases for those feelings. The more open we are to emotional intelligence, and cues we cannot easily explain, the more useful our hard data will be!

  20. Phil says:

    Beautifully written and sooo spot on. Albert Einstein was quoted as saying ” The Intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind a faithful servant, we have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift”
    Intuition is incredibly powerful and is the basis of the work I do with people, teaching people to access and importantly to follow their intuition and the results are incredible.

    Thank you for sharing this valuable insight into the power of the “soft” data.

  21. Rick Lugash says:

    Kind of like the old sweepstakes rules: ‘You must be present to win!”

    This was a fantastic piece, Jonathan. Stillness allows me to turn the volume down in my head and listen for the ‘knowing’ in my gut. Problem is where my heart fits into all this.

    Thank you for the inspiring moment in my day.

  22. Wonderful post! What I am learning is that every time you listen to your intuition, your heart and soul, and take action based on it, you open up a path to receive even more messages. They have always been there; the voice in my head has just drown them out.

  23. Scott Asai says:

    For thinkers, this is easier said than done. For feelers, this is invigorating. Decisions are tough. I think it comes down to learning from your mistakes, being willing to take risks when necessary and waiting even when it might not make sense. It’s similar to the IQ vs. EQ theory. Hard data may prove logic and provide reason, but intuition can defy rational thinking and end up being a better overall decision.

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      Agreed. Which is why I’m not arguing that intuitive data should supplant hard-data, but rather this it simply deserves a seat at the table.

      • Rob says:

        …and what’s resonating from this is that intuition and facts are sitting together at the table, sharing the food, and not sat on opposite sides fighting…

  24. Scott Asai says:

    Also, as a coach it’s about helping the client come to his/her own decision and most of the time that entails finding their “gut” and going with it!

  25. Rachel says:

    Wow! Thank you. Thank you! This is a subject I want everyone to shout off the mountaintops.

    I find it so challenging and scary to follow my intuition. As you said, there is no safety there. No where to point the blame.

    Intuition and feeling are like closeted members of our culture. May we all start to trust them and out them and accept so much more that is here!

  26. Chong Lee Khoo says:

    “When you’re the janitor, reasons matter. Somewhere between the janitor and the CEO, reasons stop mattering.”

    Steve Jobs, Fortune, 3 May 2011

  27. I saw an interesting Tv program once about how experienced workers in customs actually used a lot of intuition and was most successful that way at stopping drug smugglers.
    But as it turned out the intuition was built from years of learning and gathering facts. So if you are a fan of facts over gut feeling – your gut feeling probably also comes from facts.

    Thanks for a most interesting post

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      No doubt, one feeds the other. Just on a more subtle level than most of us are aware of.

  28. Venkatesh says:

    Fabulous article. Some times we have go beyond data. Many a times I have found that deep silence reveals solutions to intractable problems.

  29. thomas says:

    Thanks, I need to try to expand more with my thinking and on my ideas, now I’m trying to set up my online tennis service now and will continue to follow you. Great stuff here.

    Happy New Year from kobe, japan.

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