In June 2022, after nearly 8 years as Chief Technology Officer and co-founder of Unibuddy and successfully growing it to a market capitalization of over $100 million, I decided to move to a pure board member role and remove myself from the day to day operations. Over the past 18 months since; I've reflected on my learnings and then scribbled, scrapped, and reshaped these ten principles at least a dozen times on a page in my Roam notebook. They're not just words; they're battle-tested weapons that I've constantly refined. I believe they can be a trusty compass for anyone in 2024.
1/ Be intentional about your "being"
What are you bringing to every interaction? Smile and bring energy to every call and meeting, even if you're tired. First impressions and how you make people feel at the end of a meeting are very important!
- Be in the moment. “Forget the future. When and if it comes, you’ll have the same resources to draw on — the same logos.” - Marcus Aurelius
- Choose optimism everyday and behave like an optimist.
- Be playful in conversation, simply exchanging information becomes boring and tedious.
- The best leaders are both demanding and supportive. Be the perfect balance of both.
2/ Self-awareness is your biggest super power
Watch yourself more than you watch others. Mastering yourself is true power. Listen to your intellect that discerns. Avoid the reptile brain and monkey mind that is undisciplined. Watch your emotions, don't act on them. Observe them from the "outside" as if you were floating above yourself.
- Calm minds lead to clear thoughts. Clear thoughts make great decisions.
- As Richard Feynman once said, “the first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.”
- "It’s not a competency if you don’t know the edge of it." - Charlie Munger. Find the edge of your competencies.
- Pour water, not gasoline! Pause when in a tough situation or conversation, and ask, "if we wanted to pour gasoline on this, what would it look like?". Then ask, "what would it look like to pour water on this?"
- Never react to feedback or criticism immediately. Listen and say "thanks, let me sleep on it - I'll come back to you if I have questions."
3/ Be stoic
Expect every aspect of life to be sinusoidal. Everything will never go up in a straight line - if you expect this, it will lead to unhappiness and disappointment. Be stoic. There are no good and bad outcomes, only our perception deems things good and bad.
- Embrace uncertainty. The only certainty in life is that there will be a lot of uncertainty. Trying to avoid it or eliminate it is like a fish trying to avoid water. It is our nature as human beings to live in uncertainty. Embrace it. Thrive in it. Take risks.
4/ Success is about doing the right things even when you don't feel like
Put in the reps and go to the gym even if it's cold or you feel tired. You're never going to feel excited and energised all the time. Discipline is doing what you have to do regardless of how you feel. Put systems in place to force you to do things e.g. schedule a class or session with a personal trainer. Discipline is built by systems. Fall in love with the process, and don't obsess over results.
- Luck is when preparation meets opportunity: "The person who cannot take advantage of an opportunity is no better off than the person that never sees it in the first place. A friend of mine recently learned this lesson the hard way when the deal of a lifetime was offered to them, but they couldn't take advantage of it because they had no cash." - Farham Street
5/ Leverage your uniqueness & align your purpose with it
Naval has written extensively about this. Nobody can compete with being you. Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.
Also, choose work that is aligned with your purpose and ikigai. Seek purpose over pleasure.
6/ Play at the edge of your fear and move past your comfort zone
Never settle. Aim high and set inspiring goals for yourself.
"Don't fear failure — Not failure, but low aim, is the crime. In great attempts it is glorious even to fail.” ― Bruce Lee.
Embrace exhaustion. When you reach your limits, laugh and KEEP GOING. Life is about stretching your limits, time and again.
Constantly strive for marginal gains and continuous improvement.
- Jung’s summarizes, “the greatest and most important problems of life are fundamentally insoluble. They must be so, for they express the necessary polarity inherent in every self-regulating system. They can never be solved, but only outgrown.”
- Read about Sir Dave Brailsford and the story of British cycling - a brilliant example of how marginal gains and compounding continuous improvement over time leads to astounding results.
7/ Be curious and humble
Be interested to be interesting. Listen to those around you before talking and making assumptions.
Strong opinions, weakly held. Experiment to test your assumptions. Work in sprints — don’t aim for perfect or let perfect be the enemy of good.
8/ Choose your health above all else
Sleep, exercise and sunlight are superpowers that solve most problems. There is no need to elaborate on this because there are mountains of data and experts who talk about this- see Huberman, Matthew Walker, etc.
9/ Feed and nurture your relationships and friendships each day
"The most consistent finding we've learned through 85 years of study is: Positive relationships keep us happier, healthier, and help us live longer." (Harvard's longest study of all time)
10/ Be an essentialist
Experiment, choose, eliminate. Less is more. Simple beats complicated. No stress beats stress (stress kills!)
‘If you seek tranquility, do less.’ Or (more accurately) do what’s essential — what the logos of a social being requires, and in the requisite way. Which brings a double satisfaction: to do less, better. Because most of what we say and do is not essential. If you can eliminate it, you’ll have more time, and more tranquility. Ask yourself at every moment, ‘Is this necessary?’ - Marcus Aurelius
“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius—and a lot of courage—to move in the opposite direction.” - E.F. Schumacher
How do these resonate with you? Are you trying to be intentional about any of these principles like I am? Are any of these a key 2024 intention for you that you'd like to start implementing?