I write to think. What’s written here is to formalise my thinking. I believe it can help others understand me better and that’s why I share it, and by sharing it I spend more time thinking about what I share. This aligns with one of my core principles to Be who I am 100% of the time, what you see is what you get!

🤔 Who I am

I’ve gained insight into myself through feedback and personality tests, consistently being authentic in all aspects of my life. Early on, DISC assessments identified me as highly directive, but I’ve noticed these profiles evolve over time. A later test done via Insights/Myers-Briggs identified me as a ‘directing motivator.’ This “motivating” trait developed in response to my work environment, emphasizing the importance of teamwork over individual effort. Organization isn’t my strongest suit, and so I’ve learned that high throughput can be achieved by leveraging strong strategic (& thus) motivational vision with carefully applied effective processes. This approach helps me concentrate on productivity and in a team setting minimizes unnecessary conflict.

At the end of 2023 as part of a reflective end of year exercise year compass I started to deeply think about where I want to get to. I’d been (re-)reading up on OKRs for my team and decided to set my own OKRs for the year. To help me do this I felt it important to refine my principles, I’ve always felt they were important for a team, so why not me! Ray Dalio has a nice worked exercise book to help you uncover your own principles which I have started doing. My plan is as these develop to add them here, so that I can live my first principle, being who I am all of the time.

My Values

My core leading values are to create something new, I like to be at the edge where new things are made. That has been building new things, whether they are tech, or scoping projects or helping to set up teams. I like to get things set up in a way that they are ready to be taken forwards. This leads me to my next value to help others, I’ve always been blessed to have been helped by others and I find real joy in helping others get to that AHA! moment. It’s usually as simple as helping folks think through things or connecting the right people or team together. Most importantly my last leading vales is to have a thriving family, I adore my kids and I wish I had more time for them. What’s most important for me is that they are set up for success as they will undoubtedly have a larger impact on the world than I ever will.

In my lagging values, to a degree I don’t particularly care the final destination my career takes me to. I don’t need to be a CEO of a big company. I was once asked would I prefer to be a small part of something big or a big part of something small, my answer is most certainly the latter. At a micro level that’s my family, but at a macro level I’ve no need or desire to become a millionaire, I’ll be quite happy to be a thousandaire. This said I don’t intend to live a peaceful life, I am happiest when I’m out of my comfort zone, to the point I’m uncomfortable when things are too “safe”, it’s usually a sign I’m not learning (the right things). Lastly, I don’t really care if I’m liked or loved (beyond my family), my network of people I truly call friends is very, very small. I tend to over index on “getting things done” and can often be more interested in what people are doing as opposed to who they are, to a degree I wish this was different but its just who I am!

My Principles

My principles are drawn mostly from education both formal and through work and built out from my personal experiences.

The ones I have documented so far are

On how to invest time

On enabling authenticity

On Learning

On how to invest time

We have a limited amount of time on earth, and every time we meet it might be the last. How should we carve out this time? What follows is some things that guide me.

Always Understand Why

I’m a strong disbeliever in “busy-work”. Most of the hard work we need to do is not activity, but understanding why we need to act. This fits into three categories, career goals, work itself and learning.

For me in a work context this aligns with what I term “the red thread” principle, which is basically any bit of work aligns upwards in some form to team mission, which ladders into organizational goals and ultimately company strategy. I find that taking the time to articulate this significantly helps drive bottom up alignment and ultimately breeds more autonomous teams. When work does not fit the red thread it’s often a clear indicator that either strategy is incomplete (and that’s worth thinking about!) or we should question why we are doing something. There are many great resources that help build and drive this, personally I’ve found good strategy / bad strategy by Rumsfeld to be useful in formulating strategy, amplitudes north star framework and a lot of the writing of John Cutler useful in thinking about different time horizons. As we break down a problem or strategic goal I find Amazons working backwards process as outlined in Shipping Greatness to be the most effective way to stay focused on why. With career goals it’s something I’m currently spending a bit more time reflecting on at the moment (as of 2024). I’ve been lucky to date to be in jobs that naturally keep me learning and pay the bills. I’m beginning to reflect and consider what is the exact type of learning that I’m looking for.

With learning goals I’m also getting sharper, not all learning needs to be “in work” (however it is a great place to get most of your learning given the natural time commitment). For example, I’m currently building an automated chess set, and so that is driving me to learn Computer Aided Design (for our 3D printer) and basic electronics (to control motors and electro-magnets from a raspberry pi). The learning is stickier because I have a clear goal/why and focusing on it keeps me on track.

Invest time to maximize the long term

I like to dabble and experiment. But my long term goal is to have a sustainable source of income that does not require my attention. So I will continue to spike and play with business ideas and projects that I think will help me get to a place where I can build a small business. I’m not looking to build the next Google or Apple. I’d rather avoid using debt to fund this. I want to be the digital equivalent of my grandparents and great-grandparents and have a business that can generate revenue with little to no input from myself. This is so that I can maximize the time I have with my children and hopefully one day my grandchildren, and importantly invest in their passions.

Invest Continually in Family

One of my weaknesses is I don’t spend enough time learning about others, because I’m more interested in getting shit done. To a degree that’s understandable in a work context, but for me my family is a part of my life that will always be with me.

For this reason I like to ensure I always have one activity going on with all the kids and myself. This is because I am naturally drawn to activities and when I share activities with the kids I spend time with them, and we learn more about each other.

A simple view is to drop down to the activities that the kids want to do (video games & youtube!). However, this is not my intention, I want them to “invest in their passions” and so part of that is enabling them to discover these and if possible join them for a part of the ride.

On Authenticity

Its tiring enough being me I don’t have time to be someone else. While perhaps my over all principles cover this there are a few that I believe are more tightly coupled with just being me.

Be who I am 100% of the time

In an office space you will probably hear me laugh. I am a big characture and I wear my heart on my sleeve. I will obviously adapt to situations (like I will wear a shirt to dinner) but the underlying person is the same. The reason this principle is importnat to me is that I believe the best outcomes can be achieved when people trust each other. The easiest way I believe to build trust is to be genuine. I do struggle with pausing long enough to truly try to get to know people, but I believe by being myself 100% of the time it reduces the hurdle that could be removed by building familiarity (faster).

All dimensions matter

I have two sets of values that form trios that matter to me.

  1. Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose
  2. People, Product and Technology

I have to a degree, over indexed on Purpose and Product. This is because my principle starting with why usually drives me to the top of the funnel and my weakness to “get going” leaves me to think the other two will resolve themselves naturally. This in my experince is not true. While we may believe with enough will power and detrminiation, we can carve out autonomy beware that in many dysfunctional organisations this simple is not under your control. Be very wary to ensure you will be able to build the trust that truly enables this. It might not even be with your boss, but needed at several reporting levels up! Mastery is also at risk, while purpose might be clear the standards that you set might not be met, the ways of working messy. For example, I strongly allign with mission focused cross-functional teams where the overhead of inter-team communication is minimised. I find working in functionally split orgs hard, so while the purpose is clear mastery of cross functinal capabilities is missing, and so it can mean it’s not for me.

Similarly, with an overfocus on Product, I’ve seen eye watering technical debt to the level that moving fast is simply not possible for the tech team. I’ve also been in situations where my senior leadership has had alternative world views on how to get the most out of our team and their motivations. This clash of carrot vs stick and top down versus bottom up is often not possible to change and so understanding if all the components of my trios is in place is important to me. As a leader, it’s impossible to be authentic if you know the org that leads you doesn’t believe in the values you aspire to. Don’t hang around to make excuses for others, we have enough of our own inadequacies to deal with!

On Learning

As with everyone, I have a unique learning style. I prefer to learn by doing. This upsets others as they can see me as gun-ho, but I’m just trying to explore the terrain as quickly as possible. To others that see me moving slowly its probably because I’ve rushed in too fast before and I need to sense check where I’m headed. In either sense, I prefer brutal honest feedback than cheer-leading.

Seek Out Truth Seekers

I’ve learnt that I make mistakes. But Ive also learnt my urge to move fast can be complimented naturally by those who move slower than me. My belief is their slowness helps me, and I believe I help them move on faster. This pairing is hard to find, typically the people I seek are experts in their field that are prepared to share their knowledge in human-readable-formats and I see that they hold themselves to a standard. They are diverse and each are great at something. Often they don’t even know they are good at the things they are good at. I’m lucky that I have a rolladeck of folks who know more about, technology, science, product, project management and people than I do. My expectation is they enjoy fighting their corner, put simply they have backbone. I hope that the challenge I give them strengthens their convictions and together we make better decisions.

Fail Fast, Repeat Mindfully

In personality tests, I have repeatedly shown over the years to be a high red. To a degree that softening, but early tests showed me to be up there with Micheal O’Leary and Stalin. Now Ive also worked with Hi-Reds and observed their failure modes. The failure mode I observe is this, “We tried that and it didn’t work”. It feels like a good litmus test, but in reality many fast trys are not thought out well enough. This doesn’t mean, dig deep and think stuff to death, if anything I think doing is often the best discovery. But when that discovery fails we can limit ourselves by saying we won’t do that again, instead we should identify the failure modes and try-try again (if that’s what you want).

Stop, reflect, and explicitly redirect.

In life, I implicitly position myself to learn certain things. This positioning is usually based on what feels good or to tactically adjust for a current irritation. This often works well. How-ever what can happen is that the learnings I thought I’d have is not a pronounced as I would like and more often than not I need to learn alternative things. As such for larger changes I now take a little longer to think them through, and try to force myself to see multiple paths before picking one. This is not to get away from trusting my gut, but to make sure that my choices are fully conscious and rational. I need to do this for two reasons

This is for two reasons 1/ Natural Growth & Path Changes: I’ve learnt that my path evolves. Early in my career I really enjoyed coding (like really enjoyed it) but when I felt I have “cracked” it to a degree I lost interest. I still find joy in it, but I moved to a higher level. I moved on to machine learning, then onto using ML to build products and then leading teams to define product success and ship ML products. Each of these areas is “fun”, but as I plan my next evolution its worth reflecting on “where am I headed” as opposed to “where am I now” so that learning choices have the most impact.

2/ Your learning a different lesson that what you signed up for: Often when we make a change, what we learn is not what we expected to learn. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s important to recognise and decide. With some fore-thought and second order thinking these alternative learnings will be less of a surprise. And when you are “in it”, its worth asking, even thought I didn’t choose this, “Is this the learning I want to make?” And while I rebase, “How can I extract as much learning out of the current situation as possible?”

My Goals

I (currently) have the following high goals. Keep an eye on my rambling to see what I’m doing.

Purpose :: I will have placed deliberate effort to help uncover a 5-year purpose area or eliminated at least 4 significant candidate areas from consideration

Baz Lurmans lyrics (sunscreen)

“the most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t”

resonated with me in massively in 1997 and still resonates with me today. But now I’m older than 40. I’ve been lucky to be meandered to where I am today, but realise I’ve now built up a range of skills and experiences that might just help something bigger than myself. I want to decide where to focus and grow it for the next while.

Connection :: I will have developed/deepened a shared pastime with all 5 of my kids and partner

My family is an integral part of who I am. The kids are growing up fast. I want to make sure I set an anchor point, something that we can always come back to, and something that they may one day give on to their kids. My Mum gave me a love of swimming and cooking, and my Dad airplanes and science.

Mastery :: I will have tinkered with and or built with my hands 4 projects that I’m proud of and will blog about.

Since becoming a manager I’ve lost some of my mojo. This is because my energy went from playing with technology and systems, to how to guide people and shape teams. I like building things, but realise I need time and focus. I intend to overlap this goal with other goals around purpose and connection.

Mind & Body :: I will have a weekly routine in place that steadies my mind and allows me to rejuvenate my body.

Body and mind need dedicated time. I’m lucky to have a good routine of sea swimming and cycling. I do reasonably well keeping up with meditation. But I’m a sucker for bad habits, building on the book “the power of habit”, I intend to ensure my good habits stick and continue to make small changes to continue to accelerate this change.