Principles: Life and Work
Before I begin telling you what I think, I want to establish that I’m a “dumb shit” who doesn’t know much relative to what I need to know. Whatever success I’ve had in life has had more to do with my knowing how to deal with my not knowing than anything I know. The most important thing I learned is an approach to life based on principles that helps me find out what’s true and what to do about it.
I’m passing along these principles because I am now at the stage in my life in which I want to help others be successful rather than to be more successful myself. Because these principles have helped me and others so much, I want to share them with you. It’s up to you to decide how valuable they really are and what, if anything, you want to do with them.
Principles are fundamental truths that serve as the foundations for behavior that gets you what you want out of life. They can be applied again and again in similar situations to help you achieve your goals.
Every day, each of us is faced with a blizzard of situations we must respond to. Without principles we would be forced to react to all the things life throws at us individually, as if we were experiencing each of them for the first time. If instead we classify these situations into types and have good principles for dealing with them, we will make better decisions more quickly and have better lives as a result. Having a good set of principles is like having a good collection of recipes for success. All successful people operate by principles that help them be successful, though what they choose to be successful at varies enormously, so their principles vary.
To be principled means to consistently operate with principles that can be clearly explained. Unfortunately, most people can’t do that. And it’s very rare for people to write their principles down and share them. That is a shame. I would love to know what principles guided Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs, Winston Churchill, Leonardo da Vinci, and others so I could clearly understand what they were going after and how they achieved it and could compare their different approaches. I’d like to know which principles are most important to the politicians who want me to vote for them and to all the other people whose decisions affect me. Do we have common principles that bind us together—as a family, as a community, as a nation, as friends across nations? Or do we have opposing principles that divide us? What are they? Let’s be specific. This is a time when it is especially important for us to be clear about our principles.
My hope is that reading this book will prompt you and others to discover your own principles from wherever you think is best and ideally write them down. Doing that will allow you and others to be clear about what your principles are and understand each other better. It will allow you to refine them as you encounter more experiences and to reflect on them, which will help you make better decisions and be better understood.
|January 6, 2018
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