The Mongol Doctrine: Savagery Works and the Hard Lessons of History

Marvin Liao
3 min readMay 14, 2024

I listened to Joe Rogan discussing Dan Carlin’s excellent podcast on Genghis Khan and the establishment of the incredible Mongol empire. So many people were killed that the carbon footprint was reduced by 10 percent. Basically they killed 10% of the world’s population. 40 million people. A very distant descendent, Tamerlane took a stab at this horrific record by doing the same thing hundreds of years later, killing 5% of the world’s population.

Unfathomable today as this carnage was mainly done with blade, spear and hand to hand violence unlike in our modern day industrial age of bullets and missiles.

So why do I recount this gruesome history? Well it’s the history of man and empires. People are brutal and ruthless and those who birth empires are even more so. It’s relevant to our modern day age. We see this at geopolitical level and even our business level. And there is no place in the world where empire builders thrive like America.

Quoting fictional media tycoon Logan Roy of the dark business drama “Succession”:

“I don’t like being outside the U.S. for too long. There’s a mercilessness I miss. Yeah, living with the safety catch off, f-cking without a rubber. Everywhere else feels so soft.”

Reality provides its own characters. Bill Gates, aka Saint Bill of philanthropist fame was incredibly ruthless when he ran Microsoft, he crushed competitors completely. The line of companies he destroyed is a very long one. Long enough that Microsoft fell under Antitrust investigation by the US government.

People forgot how brutal old business tycoons were. Folks like John D Rockefeller of Standard Oil, Andrew Carnegie of Carnegie Steel, JP Morgan, Jay Gould, Henry Ford. All pretty awful humans who built massive empires.

In our modern day we have Larry Ellison of Oracle, Marc Benioff of Salesforce, Sam Altman of OpenAI, Peter Thiel and his PayPal mafia. All brilliant business people. Yet no one should make the mistake of crossing these people.

I’ve been reading about Ray Dalio of Bridgewater Hedge fund fame. The world’s biggest hedge fund. I loved his books “Principles” and “The Changing World Order” and listened to many of his podcast interviews. He comes across as this wise, kind older intellectual sharing his wisdom.

But in the book “The Fund”, he comes across as an egotistical, narcissistic and overall horrible human being who bullies and runs roughshod over his staff. A cult leader in all but name. I know of the anti-business and anti-rich tendency of the media and society but if even 1/10th of the stories are true Dalio is not a man worthy of following.

Reality is there are very few saints out there. As Tai Lopez says: “Empires are built on blood, sweat and violence”. Even in the technology industry in Silicon Valley. In general, it’s a meritocracy and people tend to be more win-win and abundance minded.

Like everywhere, there is a dark side very few people see or talk about. I’ve also seen some pretty awful things while working here. I’m not perfect either and have done some things I’m not always proud of. I acknowledge this. I do wonder sometimes if I would have been more successful if I was more ruthless and vicious. But I have some lines I can’t cross and a code I follow. I prefer to sleep well at night.

Business empires are started and run by people. And people by nature are flawed. But that does not mean we can’t try to aspire to be and do better. Especially if you are trying to play the long game.

But we all need to be aware that there are those ruthless and even sociopathic people out there. And that is why you need to become strong, rich and self sufficient yourself to counterbalance these people. Evil wins when the good people do nothing.

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Marvin Liao

Ever curious: Tsundoku, Reader, Aspiring Shokunin, World traveller, Investor & Tech/Media exec interested in almost everything! www.marvinliao.com