My Operating Principles
May 2019 | Written from my creaky Oxford bed
The last year has been my most testing to date. Life threw a number of curve balls at me, exposing and validating some of my worst fears and insecurities.
During it all, it has been immensely challenging to resist falling into the comforting arms of anger, pettiness, and selfishness. I have not always been successful in avoiding these feelings and their associated behaviors, especially this year. However, this has helped me discover which positive and negative behaviors I am predisposed to when tested, which feel right or wrong, and which feel like facets of my personality versus cracks.
Have a base level of respect for each and every person, regardless of their status, wealth, success, knowledge, or lack thereof. Grant this liberally. Grant exceptional respect conservatively, and do not grant this by default or by surrogate markers such as conventional success. This extends to other living creatures, such as pets and wildlife.
On Forgiveness and Patience
Try to understand the motivations behind others’ actions. Before resorting to anger or frustration, fully play out the scenario from their perspective. Forgive mistakes, especially those caused by inexperience, fear, or accident. Spare others shame when possible.
On Life Allocation
Spend your time on things that may improve society. Determine your focus by combined factor of your skill, interests, and the impact. Keep this North Star across decisions. Be objective if you are not the best person to tackle this problem.
Understand your predispositions: towards anger and frustration in the face of perceived betrayals, towards grudges, sensitivity in characterizing your flaws, over-sacrifice for unworthy causes, and temptation towards conventional signs of success.
On Personal Sacrifice
Sacrifice liberally if you can improve someones basal happiness or health. Be careful when sacrificing to improve someone’s career or material success. Sacrifice liberally for your chosen life allocation.
It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.
On Ethical Behavior
Have no tolerance for intentionally unethical behavior in yourself or others. You know when your motivations are fueled by something insidious. You will feel tempted to act unethically numerous times - this is fine, accept the feeling as human nature - but do not act on it. The definition of ethical is relative and variable, but a good guidance is the motivation behind the action.
On Social Responsibility
It is socially irresponsible to not optimize your life for improving others’ happiness. This can be on the micro or macro scale: you can be a fantastic friend, partner, or parent; you can help develop a cure for a horrible disease.
On Human Health
Health is the base for every other human accomplishment and goal. Remember the fear and helplessness associated with disease and optimize to reduce this.