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My Guiding Principles (and why you should have your own)

Last Edit 12/11/2019

When starting a company, one of the keys is to decide on your vision and guiding principles.

While your vision is your North Star, your guiding principles act as a compass.

These should explain how you make decisions, and should define how you approach everything you do at the base level.

If you've read Ben Horowitz' What You Do is Who You Are, this idea should feel familiar.

When you are up front about these things, you find employees and partners that want to work with you and form a natural fit. You make your work more meaningful. You stay true to the reason that you built your company in the first place.

What is the point of working hard to replace the people who are currently in power if we are going to follow in their footsteps and make the same mistakes they did?

Our Guiding Principles

Be Human First All issues are people issues

Be World Positive Bias to making the world better

Be Light Speed
Fast is more important than right

Be Systems Focused Systems that model reality win long-term

Be Human First

All issues are people issues.

When we are approaching a problem, we should always keep in mind that there are humans on all sides of the problem. Our customers, users, competitors, clients, partners — each is an individual with different needs, but all are human. And even more so, all are humans that exist in a certain period of time, effected by a certain reality and past. All of this understanding can help us think about the way we approach problems and how we work.

When we are solving problems, we have to keep this front of mind.

Be World Positive

Bias to making the world better

We can always think about how to make each project more world-positive. We should always think about the outcomes of our products, and if they are pushing the world towards the place we want it to be. And what is that place? We should always consider carefully what the outcomes of our solutions mean for our planet (universe?) and all of its inhabitants.

Be Light Speed

Fast is more important than right

When you're making decisions, we have a tendency to overthink and try to perfect every step. The value of perfecting a single step might be close to 0, where the work involved might be very high.

Instead, we should move quickly so that we can explore more of the solution space and see where our time is best spent.

Be Systems Focused

“Systems that mirror reality win long-term”

Everything we do is part of a system — there are feedbacks and incentives built into everything we do. When those feedbacks and incentives model reality without the complexity, that creates a product or business that will win (i.e. provide the most value) long term. Long term, the best systems will always prevail.

When we misunderstand/mismodel reality, that causes problems. When we add unnecessary complexity, that causes problems. Make every system as simple as it can be, and no simpler. Make every system as realistic as it can be.

Bonus 2 more that didn’t make the cut

I limited our list of guiding principles to 4, as processing list items gets considerably worse beyond 5.

There are two others that I considered.

Be Remarkable

I think that this is a significant competitive advantage in our current world. Having something that is worth remarking about — something that really sticks out to the user, that they are excited to share with their friends and colleagues — that is a significant advantage. In the end, I felt that this was accurately described by “be human first” and “be systems focused”

Be Energizing

This follows from “be human first”. We need to consider that the people we are working with have limited output, and our work is highly influenced by our feelings. How energized we are is a significant factor in our output and can be a significant competitive advantage across a team or organization. Too often, we are unaware of our own energy levels and how our work and habits effect those levels, and even more often, we are unaware of how our tone, speech, and non-verbal cues are effecting the energy of the people we are working with.

When we focus on this, we supercharge our ability to make change happen.