10 Principles About Work I'll Teach My Kids


I've always wanted to start writing down some of my principles of life, work, etc. for the benefit of me thinking about them clearly but also in some way imparting them or at least sharing them with my kids.  I've thought that if I take the time to right them out, I'll have to think clearly and articulately about them, what they mean, why I have them, and how that may matter to my family and others. I've been inspired by reading Ray Dalio's "Principles"  which is chock full of really useful material and is quite thought provoking, for work and life.  In that vein, I wanted to capture principles I've had in my work and share them you with. Yes, being not too far off from my "child" years I recall not totally having an open mind and listening well.  Being an orphan now, of what wisdom I did receive, I cherish it greatly and perhaps my daughter (7) and son (5) will listen with an open mind and heart.  My hope is they'll take them and use ones that are useful, shed the rest, and replace others with ones that work well for them.

I welcome feedback in the comments section! What are some principles you have in your work that makes you more effective, efficient, or have more meaning in the work you do out there?


First, lets define what I mean by a principle so we're set: I think of a principle as the next tear up from "values".  Values are what we feel as people, families, organizations are "intrinsically good" or "good in and of themselves".  We see these as what exemplifies the "Good Life" and they are the bedrock of how we see the world and interpret our relationships to ourselves and others.  Principles are kind of the "operating system" or sets of rules and structures that can help us work and live more meaningfully, effectively, and deeply, for ourselves and across our relationships.  They are the "how" to apply our values, in some ways.

Top 10 Principles I'd Share With My Kids

  1. Seek Fulfilment - To be fulfilled (applying oneself to a meaningful aim or pursuit), our lives must have work that is meaningful and in doing that work, we having meaningful relationships.
  2. Know Your Mission - Meaningful work comes from applying oneself to an aim you believe in, is a Mission of sorts.  Whether is living radical customer service in your first retail job or working in the non-profit you started to help families grow businesses in Africa, or something in between.
  3. Continuous Improvement - Just as you are improvable and one of the greatest satisfactions in life is continuously improving oneself, so too is work.  Work is always improvable and the most satisfaction you and your relationships in work will get is when you work hard to achieve your goals and continuously improve yourselves and the organizations/processes you work in.
  4. Pursue Excellence - As an addition to principle 3, pursue excellence in work and in life.  Excellence can be described in many ways and the object is the pursuit of excellence, not necessarily achieving the idle.  That you are always pushing, growing, challenging, and overcoming is the process.
  5. Do Good Work With Others - The rewards and results of work are vastly more achievable and to a higher standard, when you work together with others.  The "Whole is greater than the sum of the parts".  You will find this show up in so many ways.  You'll see great things happen when you and people work very well together and you'll see some of the worst work happen when people are toxic or don't work well together.  Remember this when you feel as though you want to do it all yourself. While that's possible, it may not happen in the time that’s needed, to the quality that's needed, or to the standards of your customers, peers, or managers.
  6. Be Brutally Honest - Hard work and hard problems require brutal honesty about how to do it, why, where, when, and with him, and in identifying and remedying problems that may surface.  Start with yourself, be brutally honest with yourself first, then with the group.  If everyone is transparent (a prerequisite of honesty), then being honest and open will come easy.  The superior results should speak for themselves.
  7. Understand that everyone is wired differently (this is a Ray quote here).  People will always have different perspectives on reality and often will have different interpretations of those perspective.  Right or wrong, understand they'll be different first and foremost.  Then find ways to solve problems together with this understanding.
  8. Effectiveness in your work and endeavors will trump efficiency any day.  Take it from an Industrial Engineer that is ALL about efficiency.  Doing the right thing first then in the right way, is best.  Doing the wrong the in the right way or in an efficient way is STILL the wrong thing.  This Principle is pretty similar to the "Think Smart, Work Smart, then work Hard" sort of thinking.
  9. Respect Yourself, Others, and the Work - Respect all forms of work and the people doing it.  There is no "better" or "worse" only qualified and unqualified.
  10. Work comes in many forms and does not necessarily equate to livelihood and income.  Imparting your labor, expertise, and time to a meaningful aim can and should be unpaid at times in your life, otherwise known as volunteering or service to you community, country, or world. Understand that work can take a variety of forms and that you should endeavor to be capable in several different ways and means of work.  This is a risk diversification strategy to have multiple ways to receive payment for your work but also so you can have deep perspectives on that work across a variety of domains and applications.  I believe doing so will ultimately raise the quality, effectiveness, and efficiency of all your work because you'll have so much learning/expertise across disparate applications that you'll create new connections and ways/means of doing things that you otherwise would not had you stuck to a narrow vocation and specialized to the nth degree.  I also think this will enable you to be economical mobile across time and space in your life.  The world can and will continue to change rapidly and you want to have a variety of options for 1) if you so choose to make a change for any reason or if 2) the world changes enough that you need to transition to something different, you can.
  11. Work Is Not Synonymous With Success

I know I only said 10 in the title, but that last one is really important!

What are your work principles? How have they helped you build an effective operating system in your endeavors?  I hope some of these principles are interesting and inspire you to use them or write down your own.

Thanks for reading!