Principles

My Aunt bought me the 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens when I was 13, which is probably why I’m the disciplined, stone cold stoic you see today.

Joking, clearly. But I did learn some stuff. One of the central points to the book (in my memory) is that it’s better to be Principle Centered than to center your life on external things like your love life, money, work, or whatever else people deify to try to reach happiness.

Principles don’t waver, and they help guide your decisions, ultimately enriching other tenets of your life. There’s a graphic in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People that looks like this:

Anyway, I’ve been thinking a lot about guiding values and principles lately. I’m not sure where this line of thinking got started, but I think it may have been spawned by conversion optimization, and my dismay at the common line of thought on evil UX practices: “but it works!”

“It works, but at what cost?” I thought.

This brought me to the idea that one needs guiding values to optimize against, or at least to stand as guard rails to amoral decision making. It’s the perfect (only) antidote to unguided data-driven decision making, which can lead you places that don’t feel good.

Similarly, I’ve learned how effective and valuable it is writing down Team Principles in my working life thanks to Scott Tousley. When values are defined and in writing, it helps all parties know how to make decisions and communicate.

Now, I’m reading Ray Dalio’s Principles, and I’m full-on convinced of the importance of clearly stating personal and working guiding Principles.

I took a few Sundays to stew on what I believe, and I wrote them down on a piece of paper I hang by my desk. I’m sure they’ll change or develop in the near and far future, but here they are:

  • Be honest (intellectually & emotionally) with yourself and others.
  • Seek growth (corollary: embrace discomfort)
  • Don’t fear appearing vulnerable, sincere, earnest (don’t hide behind irony) (and don’t be afraid to look stupid)
  • Bias towards action
  • Ask excellent questions and stay curious
  • With creative work, ask “what would this look like if it didn’t suck?” (ex. webinars suck, but why? What would it look like if it was instead awesome?)
  • Life is too short to wear matching socks (don’t sweat the small stuff, or try too hard to appeal to arbitrary dogma)
  • Bring humor into things when possible and beneficial
  • Optimize for Interesting *
  • Value meaningful relationships over objects and ephemera.
  • Don’t isolate or build fortresses *
  • When asking for help, appeal to people’s self-interest *
  • Don’t complain without a solution or skin in the game (i.e. don’t be the critic)
  • Make time for quiet reflection and introspection (i.e. you need balance)
  • Speak truth to power
  • Always be learning & improving
  • Question arbitrary dogma and rules that don’t make sense
  • Leave everyone better than you found them
  • Love the process/problem/plateau.
  • Don’t pursue someone else’s path or agenda (i.e. fuck yes or no)
  • Start & end each day with gratitude
  • Action over perfection (i.e. the decent method you follow is better than the perfect method you quit.)
  • Promise a lot and deliver always.

That’s all I’ve got. Like I said, I’m still working on uncovering the hidden principles that guide my decisions that even I am unaware of. Eventually, I’ll try to split up rules based on different parts of my life (personal, business, marketing, etc.) for further clarity. But here’s my list for now.

Updated: 1/21/2018