“I am not going to talk about religious beliefs, but about matters so obvious that it has gone out of style to mention them.”

Some years ago I started writing down a list of things I believe and try to apply in my professional life.

I’ve decided to post them up in the open because if you ever work with me, or think about working with me, knowing them might give you a sense of what motivates my words and actions.

I refine these all the time and add to them occasionally. They are not listed in any particular order.

These I Believe

  • True feedback is a gift.
  • Leadership is not about having all the answers. It’s about knowing how to ask good questions, and how to go about answering them.
  • I’d rather crash and burn with people I trust and care for than make bank with psychopaths.
  • Winning only real when shared.
  • Eventually, whatever else happens, I will tell you the truth.
  • Everything is harder and takes longer than you think. If it doesn’t, that’s called luck.
  • People can be effectively motivated by fear and ambition, but in unreliable ways. People motivated by hope and empathy deliver more consistently, creating fewer risks. They are also more pleasant to work with.
  • Shit rolls downhill. Be a shit umbrella, not a shit funnel.
  • When you’re young: Be humble. Ask questions. Do your homework. When you’re older: Try never to stop.
  • Loyalty at work: team before individual. Loyalty beyond work: be a mensch.
  • It’s great to be the best. But you don’t always have to be the best to win. Knowing what winning looks like, and when to stop, feels more like success.
  • Not making a decision is a decision.
  • If you can’t commit to a decision, commit to an hypothesis and action one.
  • Continuous improvement is the compound interest of execution. A little better every time feels incremental but adds up in spectacular ways.
  • Occasionally you might want to manage a family like a team; but never ever try to manage a team like a family.
  • Sameness is efficient in the short term but dangerous in the long term. Diversity breeds diversity and protects your blind side.
  • Work with people you have fun disagreeing with.
  • The best tool is the one you can get everybody to use.
  • We keep recycling the same truths in different packaging. Reach for the source, but respect the fact that we all have different tastes in learning.
  • Speaking plainly is hard and worthy of the effort.
  • Empathy turns gold into platinum.
  • There is always an exception. Just be careful when believing that you are it.
  • They might, or might not, remember how you screwed up. But they’ll never forget if you made it better. As long as you don’t let it happen again.
  • Every person I meet has something to teach me.
  • Intentions matter, but actions build trust over time.
  • Facts can coexist with other facts. In other words, more than one thing can be true at the same time.
  • There are no more telling metrics than those we explicitly ignore, or implicitly avoid.
  • It costs little and pays highly to be generous in our interpretation of others.
  • It’s not a plan unless you’ve written it down.
  • Rewarding vulnerability leads to growth.
  • Any sufficiently advanced skill is indistinguishable from genius.
  • You can lose my respect but you shouldn’t have to earn it. Let respect be our starting position.
  • If it feels hard it is hard. Find the frictions, smooth the course, and you’re more likely to get it done.
  • You aren’t nearly as important to them as you might feel like you ought to be.
  • Nobody will follow a person without a plan. This is especially crucial to remember when you do not yet have one.
  • Provocation is a tool of attention. Nuance is a tool of action.
  • Excepting submarines, spaceships and cathedrals, most everything feels less impressive from the inside looking out. And even those had scaffolding once.
  • Being kind, and being nice—not always the same.
  • It’s far better to check than to estimate. But if you can’t check, estimate.
  • Actually, it’s not always nice to be right.