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Observations and opinions on navigating work and life

April 09, 2019

50 (for now!) principles, about life and work in general, that I have said to myself in the past, and wanted to codify.

  • Never underestimate the importance of the people around you, and the impact you have on them.
  • If you fight the good fight and you fight it for the right reasons, people will appreciate you for who you are.
  • Don’t burn any bridges, because you never know when your paths will cross again and in what capacity.
  • No (wo)man is an island. Decisions that you make, have a far broader impact than just yourself.
  • Listen to the other voices in the room and build out the decision tree to formulate/translate your own thoughts. If you have a differing opinion, voice it, because you won’t always be asked for it.
  • It is easy to criticize and not that easy to empathize. Before criticizing decisions other people made, first think of what kind of assumptions might have been made to come to that conclusion, and that might help with empathizing.
  • Don’t be a yes (wo)man and don’t be a no (wo)man either. Others like minds that poke holes in theories, with rational arguments, but do not like someone who is always a contrarian, for the sake of it.
  • When you present a problem, make sure you have a possible solution to go with it, even if it is nascent/half-baked. If you always bring only problems, and no solutions, it isn’t helpful to anyone.
  • Always be positive and energetic around your team. Positivity is contagious but negativity even more so.
  • Have conviction in what you believe, based on gut instinct or facts. Have confidence in your own decisions and stick by it.
  • Don’t fall for the buzzwords and the shiny toys. As per Occam’s razor, the simplest solutions are often the right ones.
  • When in doubt or confusion, seek help. Spinning wheels, twiddling thumbs or presenting face-time, in an effort to look productive, while headed nowhere, is a waste of time and effort.
  • As much as it is a cliche, no question is a dumb question.
  • Always try to build something of “true” value. People you work with along the way, as well as end users, will always know and appreciate the significance of a maker who cares.
  • Multiple choices have diminishing returns. Marie Kondo the options, so that you can make a decision faster and more efficiently. Follow the principle of Essentialism. Instead of dispersing your energy in a 100 directions, focus all that energy in 1 direction.
  • Know when the juice is not worth the squeeze. This is with respect to holding positions in a discussion/argument, effort being put into building something out, etc.
  • Don’t make money the sole measure of success. Money makes certain things simpler, but makes other things more complicated. Invest in good projects and healthy relationships as a priority, and money will find its way.
  • Perfect is the enemy of good. Don’t procrastinate to deliver on a result. If you aren’t embarassed of what you shipped, then you are probably too late. Avoid paralysis by analysis.
  • Don’t compete in a rat race. Even if you win, you are still a rat.
  • Don’t wing your career. It isn’t something that you can just do on the fly. Be deliberate about the skills you lack and the direction you need to take, while making the important decisions.
  • Inspire and inform people around you. Inspiration comes in all shapes and forms. It isn’t always an a-ha moment.
  • If you have achieved a modicum of success, give back to the community. The social fabric binds the sanity of the collective.
  • Don’t silo and hide information from other people. Being transparent will help you and others achieve their tasks and objectives much more efficiently.
  • If your subordinate outshines you, don’t be petty or vengeful. Them achieving that success is a measure of your mentorship/leadership abilities.
  • As a general rule, don’t discuss politics, religion or race at a workplace.
  • Always be open to new ideas and differing points of view. You may or may not agree with them today, but they might help shape an opinion on a completely different topic, some other time.
  • Take ownership and accountability of things you are responsible for. If someone trusts you to do something, you need to be accountable for that.
  • Task determination and execution should be as decentralized as possible. The more the concentration of decision-making capabilities, the more the bottlenecks and points of failure.
  • Different people have different strengths and weaknesses. If you find out what these are for individual people, your value-add increases drastically.
  • Increase diversity of thought in your decision making process. You agreeing, all the time, with a bunch of other people, who have no differing opinions, serves no purpose.
  • If you truly believe in something, give it your all.
  • Always be hungry and curious for learning. If you do not have the knowledge, be a sponge.
  • You are unique and, by extension, your perspectives that you bring to the table are unique. Dismiss any feelings of “imposter syndrome” you have and seize the opportunity. Carpe diem.
  • If you are stuck with a problem, trying to jackhammer it, for extended periods of time, might be completely unhelpful. Letting it sit overnight, and seeing it with a fresh set of eyes and neuron connections, might help facilitate the solution.
  • As General Patton said - “Do everything you ask of those you command”. Don’t try to pass off some grunt work to someone else, just to shirk responsibility, if you yourself would never want to do it.
  • Professional life is a fine balance between being a one-trick-pony and a jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none.
  • Be greedy with your ideas and frugal with your implementations. Ideas can be cheap, your time isn’t.
  • If you are building a product or designing something, be your own first customer. Try to understand and predict what kind of pains a first user will encounter.
  • Before jumping into any assignment given to you, ask all the right questions prior to starting it. Taking a step back and applying some critical thinking to the problem at hand will only move towards a positive outcome.
  • Don’t be too attached to an idea. An idea held too long without rationale is just an ideology.
  • If someone isn’t agreeing to your point of view, it could be that you are not conveying your idea clearly enough, rather than the other person being intransigient.
  • While making your argument, don’t be polemic or pedantic. People don’t like being attacked or talked down to.
  • Less is more. Some people like to pad their words with jargon and fancy sounding terms for no apparent reason, but it just reduces the potency of their point and you will tend to lose interest in what they have to say.
  • If you notice problems/issues, see what you can do to solve it rather than resorting to complaining.
  • If a lot of people are complaining about something, rather than joining them, think about how it can be solved. Opportunities abound where inaction lays.
  • When executing a plan, always have a plan B. No plan survives the first contact intact.
  • If you do not know something, admit it rather than making an elaborate excuse to cover up your lack of expertise. You will be respected for your honesty.
  • Don’t lose touch with reality. Always make an attempt to feel the pulse of the community around you, below and above you.
  • A job is about 3 things - security/peace of mind, money/financially rewarding and learning/being challenged. Many times, you can find at most, 2 out of 3 at a place. If you find all 3, consider yourself lucky.
  • Don’t be afraid of failure - not every project or endeavor can be successful. If you haven’t failed at anything, you haven’t tried to get out of your comfort zone and tried anything worthwhile yet.