Principles

Oct 28th, 2017
5 min read

Principles are ways of successfully dealing with reality to get what you want out of life.

After reading Principles by Ray Dalio I’ve decided to make more of an effort to define and document the principles that guide various aspects of my life. For more context, I recommend watching the short TED talk of Ray explaining the book and how principles have impacted his organization Bridgewater Associates. Even better would be to read the book but I fully understand not everyone has the time to read a 600 page book 😃.

Ray splits his principles into two categories: life and work. Eventually, I’ll probably be able to distill mine into just two but as I’m just starting out I’ve found it easier to brainstorm with more categories. The four categories I’ve chosen are:

  1. Life Principles
  2. Coding Principles
  3. Love Principles
  4. Business Principles

This is a living document. It will change and evolve with me.

Life Principles

  • Life is too short to be unhappy.

  • Focus on improving your strengths instead of making up for your weaknesses. It can be very valuable to level up weaknesses but don’t let your primary time be devoted to something you’re naturally weak in.

  • Never stop asking yourself questions and regularly vet the questions you’re asking. Whenever you plateau is the perfect time to reassess what questions you’ve been asking yourself.

  • Success means something different to everyone. To me, it means the steady progress towards a predetermined goal. Don’t judge people for what they decided to pursue/make progress towards.

  • Do what’s right not what’s easy.

  • Discipline can get you practically anything you want in life. Training willpower and discipline is very high leverage.

  • Your level of income will seldom exceed your level of personal growth. The more you learn, the more you earn. Especially if you focus on learning what the current marketplace needs and values. You don’t get paid for the hour, you get paid for the value you bring to an hour.

  • The best time to start something new is NOW.

  • Take ownership for everything. Even if you think an outcome is not necessarily your fault, take responsibility. You’ll grow and be better for it.

  • “Not To Do” lists are usually more important than “To Do” lists.

  • You can make up in effort what you lack in skill. When I was in sales someone could be a better closer than me but if I did more presentations and hustled harder I could easily outsell them. Some skills do just require time to develop but never underestimate the power of effort.

  • DIP. DIN. DOM. A lesson from my father… Do it properly. Do it now. Do one more.

  • Create the habit then buy the thing. Never buy the thing to try to create the habit. Example: improve your golf game/swing before buying fancy clubs. Or, start exercising regularly in your house/outside before buying the gym membership.

  • It’s up to you to decide what you want out of life. Make sure the life you’re leading is one chosen by you and not society, your parents, or your mentors.

  • It’s okay if you have an addictive personality. Use it as a strength instead of a weakness. Figure out what things are beneficial to be addicted to and focus on those things.

  • Stop putting people on pedestals. We’re all just humans with faults and issues. No one’s perfect. It’s important to have role models but never let them discourage your current state of affairs or progress.

  • Figure out what motivates you and leverage it. Constantly re-evaluate if what motivates you has changed. When I was younger money and recognition motivated me more than anything. Now I’m more confident and financially sound I’ve discovered not letting people down is a much more powerful motivator.

  • Celebrate wins!

  • Burnout is real. Plan in relaxation into the weekly/monthly/annual schedule.

  • Pain is an indicator for a need of reflection. If you’re unhappy or in pain you need to diagnose why and do something about it instead of just complaining.

  • Getting to the right answer is more important than who came up with the right answer. Ego is the enemy.

  • You shouldn’t be upset if you discover you’re bad at something. This is a good thing! You now know what tasks to delegate/hire contractors for.

  • Always be growing and evolving. I personally derive a lot of happiness from improving at whatever my current passion is.

  • You can have your cake and eat it too. It just requires a bit of creativity.

  • Be careful who you listen to. Weight peoples opinions based on their ’believability’. Have they done X or Y successfully at least 3 times in the past? If not, how good is the advice they’re giving?

Coding Principles

  • You can never be your own QA person. Get different eyes on it before shipping.

  • You’re either testing manually or you write tests. Computers are faster than humans. Write tests.

  • Care about your craft. Avoid working with people who don’t.

  • Take the time to name variables/classes well. They are the language of your system/application and will make your job either a pleasure or a living hell.

  • Maintain an issue/bug log for how you overcome anything that stumps you for more than a few hours. Getting stuck on the same issue more than 3 times should be a huge red flag.

  • Prototype before listening to hype. Use a tool and actually evaluate it instead of listening to the religious dogma of various communities.

  • Find a baseline for evaluation. Build the same tool/app in different languages/frameworks in order to get a better comparison of their merits.

Love Principles

  • When you know, you know, you know? Trust your gut when it comes to relationships, it’s almost always right.

  • You can love someone but hate something they did/do. It’s important to be clear about that distinction when communicating.

  • Show appreciation 2x more often then you think you need to or should. Hand written thank you cards are an incredible way to connect with people.

  • Breakups are a good thing! They’re an opportunity for you to evaluate what went well and what didn’t and what things you’re looking for in a partner.

  • If you’re really bummed about a breakup it can be very therapeutic to talk about what went wrong with someone else.

  • Define your non-negotiables. Traits that your partner must have. Don’t be overzealous. This list should probably not be greater than 5-10 items. Example of one of mine: must like dogs 🐶.

Business Principles

  • Never give friends investment advice because then if things go south they may not be your friends anymore 🙃.

  • Management works in the system; leadership works on the system.

  • Make sure your company has a good ‘product guy’. Working at a startup without someone who has a clear vision of what should be built is no good.

  • Everything takes longer and costs more than you think it will. Multiply whatever your estimates are by 1.5x.

  • Culture is everything. Create a culture of excellence. People will rise with the standards of the organization or they will get let go.

  • Meetings without action items and responsible parties at the end or essentially a waste of everyones time.

  • Weight the cost of someone context switching and not being able to do work before asking them to attend a meeting.

  • Communicate needs and wants to superiors. It’s much more expensive for them to replace you than you think. If you express your concerns/needs and your manager is smart they will work with you to get you what you want. Conversely, constantly ask your people how they’re doing and if they have projects that are engaging.

  • Strive for an idea meritocracy. It’s a system that’s best for the organization. Truth matters more than who is right.

  • What gets measured gets done. Make sure you’re measuring progress for mission critical components.

life
business
love
principles
Spencer

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