A few principles for work life
Inspired by my main pastime, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and Ray Dalio's brilliant book, Principles, I want to touch upon a few of my own principles for work.
I've been teaching a lot of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu recently and I've found that in a sport full of different movements, techniques and combinations (there's a reason it's called human chess, after all), it's important to work on the basis of principles rather than try to explain each move and combination in excruciating levels of detail.
For example, if you are defending, protect your neck and keep all limbs tightly together, like a grilled chicken. If you are attacking, try to keep your opponents back flat on the floor so you can apply pressure. There are lots of principles like this, and once learned, people can apply them to all sorts of different scenarios.
Working life is similar, you can boil down most decisions and actions to first principles, retaining focus on the goals. Here are a few principles that I like to use that may help you.
To have an early impact, work out what your manager doesn't like doing and take that off their plate
A quick strategy to make an instant impact in your role is to work out what your manager doesn't like doing, and/or needs the most help doing, and work to help alleviate some of this burden.
Not only will this help your manager out tremendously, you'll also help prove your value to the organisation early on in your tenure.
Be candid and transparent in your feedback
In my opinion there's nothing worse than people dancing around a point. Whilst I appreciate some people want everything to be sugarcoated, I see this as detrimental. This is detrimental as it typically takes much longer to get to the point (and is therefore inefficient), and it can also be detrimental to the person receiving the feedback.
A worked example here could be someone who needs to use a better tone during their customer communications. If you end up dancing around the point, they may not actually understand that you're telling them they need to improve their tone. Alternatively, if you say to them "Your tone with customers on X, Y and Z interactions wasn't customer-centric enough", then there is no ambiguity about what you mean when you deliver the feedback.
Radical transparency and candor is a gift
Hire for attitude rather than experience or current ability
I've hired for a number of positions across two different scale-ups, and something that I've found first hand through my own hires, as well as second hand through watching colleagues hire in other parts of the organisation, is that it's always best to hire on attitude.
Give me the person who is hungry to learn, has grit, and is willing to put the work in, over the person who has more experience and has done the role before but won't put the work in, every single time.
It's easy to teach people a product, a process, or a methodology. It's much harder to teach someone the willingness to put the work in.
Don't be afraid to tackle the big issues
Sometimes people like to try to improve by 1%. That's fine, and if you improve by 1% at regular intervals then over time, you improve considerably. You have to eat a meal one forkful at a time after all.
A potential issue here that I've seen arise, however, is that people then avoid the big issues. Why not shoot for 20% improvement rather than 1%?
Elon Musk famously did this when he stated that SpaceX was going to build rockets for a fraction of the price NASA does. At the time, NASA and other industry experts laughed. Turns out Musk was right and SpaceX is now a leading space exploration company. Not only are the rockets cheaper, they're also reusable.
Had Musk looked to make rockets 1% cheaper and abide by the existing logic / status quo, SpaceX would not be where it is today.
To see real progress, start asking the big questions. How can you 5x, 10x your north star metric in the next 12 months?
Don't ask a question if you aren't prepared for the answer
This sounds obvious, but it's amazing how many people will blindly ask a question without considering the potential answers beforehand.
To illustrate this point, I've seen people fall amiss of this principle in two areas:
Asking a colleague how they are;
Asking for anonymous feedback and then trying to find out who submitted it.
For the first scenario, this can backfire. It's a great question to ask but if you ask it at a certain time in someone's life, you may get an honest answer back. Be prepared for that.
For the second scenario, if you ask a question of someone but then are shocked by the answer and want to find out who said it, not only does this make the whole concept of anonymous feedback redundant, but it also shows that you are asking the question wanting a certain type of answer. To be clear, I don't mind taking actions after receiving feedback on this instance, but you have to accept all answers that come back, and expect some negative answers when you are putting the questions together.
A general life principle. Be kind to others. You never know what they are going through and society is appearing to become more and more divided and as a result toxic. Social media and the news corporations only amplify this negative culture, putting fuel on the fire.
Everyone is on a unique journey with their own struggles. It's never a competition, and being unkind doesn't get you anywhere.
Having given it some thought over the past month or so, this will be my last TechMusings article for a while.
Whilst it has been fun to work on and refine my writing skills, I've also been a firm believer that if you don't have anything valuable to say, don't say it. There has been a proliferation of opinion pieces on the internet and I feel like some of the recent ideas that I've had have been done to death and therefore my personal discourse wouldn't add a whole lot to the discussion.
I'm sure I'll revisit TechMusings in future on an ad hoc basis when the mood strikes, but the fortnightly cadence will currently result in a lesser quality of writing.
A huge thanks to those of you who have subscribed and those who have offered words of encouragement along the way, it's greatly appreciated.