Over the years, I’ve sought people who work for themselves, not for what others want them to do. Who come up with the best independent opinions they can muster to get what they want. Who stress-test their opinions by having the smartest people they can find challenge them, so they can find out where they are wrong. Who remain wary about being overconfident and figure out how to effectively deal with not knowing. And finally, people who wrestle with their realities, reflect upon the consequences of their decisions, and learn to improve from this process.
Surrounding myself with individuals like this, I learned how important and how liberating it is to think for myself. A lesson leading to reflection and questioning of my beliefs. Through this iterative process, a few key principles have remained true, despite constant stress testing. I call these core principles.
Core principles are foundational beliefs that are the basis for every decision in your life. They serve as a North Star and ultimately, I believe, affect your ability to get (or not get) what you want out of life. I challenge you to do the same. Here are mine.
1. Time is your most precious resource, use it deliberately.
This is by far my most important life principle. It originates from a cost-benefit analysis view of the world. Every choice you make will prevent you from pursuing alternatives. But at what cost? Understanding that basic idea has helped me create healthy habits and processes directly aligned to my goals in life.
2. Truth - more precisely, an accurate understanding of reality - is the essential foundation for producing good outcomes.
I believe that most initiatives (whether projects, products, or relationships) fail because of a disconnect between your assumptions of the situation and reality. Therefore, in order to successfully achieve your intended outcomes one must spend significant energy stress testing your assumptions to ensure they are aligned with reality. It’s hard, really hard. Most people do not do this, and therefore most people fail at what they aspire to accomplish. Also, look up “First Principles.”
3. Simplicity is the ultimate form of sophistication.
Einstein was supposedly famous for saying, “Any fool can complicate things. It takes a genius to simplify them.” I wholeheartedly believe this. You’ll find more success eliminating bad habits come New Year's resolution that creating new ones. Try it. Try improving your life through subtraction. Start with your wardrobe.
4. You are a product of your own expectations.
If you think you can or you cannot, you are correct. Simple as that. Set high expectations.
5. Be antifragile.
This comes from Nassim Taleb’s book Antifragile and to borrow from Mark Manson:
- Often the most influential events in history are, by definition, the least anticipated. These are called “Black Swan” events.
- As humans, we are inherently biased against noticing both the number of random events in our lives and the impact these random events have on us.
- Due to the exponential scaling of technology, Black Swan events are becoming more common and influential than ever before.
- Therefore, we should build up systems (and ourselves) to be “antifragile,” that is, to construct our lives and our societies in such a way as to benefit from major unanticipated events.