Damn These Startup Principles!

Happy Birthday 2018.

–          Jason Zweig was once asked how he defined his job. His answer was, “…to write the exact same thing between 50 and 100 times a year in such a way that neither my editors nor my readers will ever think I am repeating myself.” I’ve got nothing on Zweig (apart from slightly beating him in alphabetical order), but 2017 was filled with this theme, seemingly on repeat: revolve – evolve.

–          Dalio’s “Principles” presented his formula that “stress + reflection = growth.” He captured how one should seek stress through outward problem solving (think repetitions, or revolutions), but then take time to inwardly reflect to achieve personal growth (think evolution). Dalio painstakingly wrote down each of his core principles in what is as much a guide to living your life as it is a guide to running a business.

–          Similarly, in Eric Ries’ “The Startup Way,” he described continuous innovation through iterative problem solving, and continuous information through learning lessons at every step of the way. Capturing the mindset Dalio’s stress seeking formula, Ries provides example after example of how to reflect better, all while maintaining a startup mindset no matter how mature the environment around us becomes over time. If Dalio gives us his principles and explains how they shaped Bridgewater, Ries zooms out even further to study how multinational conglomerates and governments can benefit from a revolve – evolve process of innovation.

–          In the broadest example of them all, no one looked both further inward at himself and outward at all of humanity in 2017 than Kendrick Lamar. His album “DAMN.,” opens with the question, “Is it wickedness? / Is it weakness?” If wickedness is to evolve selfishly, then weakness is to submit to a greater power, and to evolve altruistically. The album progresses from “DNA.” about the internal uniformity that makes us all human, to the closing tale of “DUCKWORTH.” about his father having his life spared by a robber who would coincidentally sign Kendrick to his record label years later, thus enabling his career and success. On the surface of society and culture, where we have no immediate control (where Dalio and Ries seek to make long-term differences), Kendrick spiritually reflects on how to exist, rationalize, and evolve our understandings of what it means to be here, now.

–          And so the year ends and we reflect on how we evolved. Was it wickedness? Was it weakness? We have to live the story, and then retell it, capturing the core principles that matter, all while tricking our editors and readers into thinking we’re not just repeating ourselves. To 2018: “So I was takin’ a walk the other day, and…”

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