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Weekly 3: Value your values

Summary: Identify what you value. Don’t worry about culture at the beginning of your company. Hire pe

Idea Journal Weekly 3

January 13 · Issue #69 · View online
We combine 3 ideas to help you think differently and be more creative.

Summary: Identify what you value. Don’t worry about culture at the beginning of your company. Hire people based on shared values.
(~5 min read)
Note: Idea #1 is taken from a previous issue, and we’ve included it here because it fits well with the current theme: value your values.

#1. To find out what you value, look at your actions
Author and entrepreneur Derek Sivers writes on his blog that, no matter what you say to yourself or to anyone else, “your actions show you what you actually want.”
But what about the people who say they want to create a business, or learn a new language, or quit their job?
From Sivers’ perspective, if they really wanted those things, they would have already started.
He suggests 2 reactions to this observation:
  1. Stop lying to yourself, and admit your real priorities.
  2. Start doing what you say you want, and see if it’s really true.
#2. “You don’t create a culture.”
Authors and entrepreneurs Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson write in their book Rework that you can’t just create culture in a new company.
Instead, culture happens over time and is the “by-product of consistent behavior.”
For example, if you encourage people to share, then sharing will be part of your culture. If you reward trust, then trust will be built in. If you treat customers well, then treating customers well becomes your culture.
Here’s what’s not culture: it isn’t a foosball table or trust falls; it isn’t a set of policies; it isn’t the company picnic or holiday party; and it isn’t a slogan.
As Fried and Heinemeier Hansson point out, those are just objects, events, and words.
Culture is action.
You can’t force a culture into existence, so don’t stress about it too much when you’re just starting out: “Like a fine scotch, you’ve got to give it time to develop.”
#3. If you don’t click with someone on shared values, is the relationship worth it?
Ray Dalio, founder of the hedge fund Bridgewater Associates, argues that once your company is more mature and you’re in the position of hiring multiple people, values become critically important.
In his book Principles, Dalio writes that Bridgewater uses the following 3 factors, in order of priority, to decide whether someone is a good fit with the company:
1. Values are deeply-held beliefs that motivate a person’s behavior and determine their compatibility with other people.
2. Abilities are the different ways that a person thinks and behaves. For example, some people naturally focus on the details while others are drawn to the big picture; some think logically with exceptional organization, while others think more creatively.
3. Skills are simply “learned tools,” like being able to speak a foreign language, close sales, or write computer code.
When making hiring decisions, most people choose skills and abilities first, and then values – or they may overlook values altogether.
For Dalio, that approach is backwards.
Most skills can be learned in a relatively limited amount of time (e.g., becoming more proficient at writing software), and often change in worth – today’s most in-demand computer programming language may be obsolete in a few years.
But a person’s values and abilities aren’t likely to change very much over time.
When you’re choosing people for long-term relationships, Dalio recommends that you focus on values first, abilities next, and then skills.
To maintain Bridgewater’s culture, Dalio and his colleagues look for people who are both highly capable, and who also care deeply about the following shared values:
  • Being open-minded and willing to explore “harsh realities including one’s own weaknesses”
  • Being willing to do the good but difficult things
  • Embodying a drive for excellence
  • Feeling a sense of ownership
  • Having meaningful relationships and meaningful work
  • Practicing radical truth and radical transparency
Nobody will share your exact point of view on everything, but there are people who will share your most important values and the ways in which you express them.
And given the importance of values in both personal and professional contexts, if you find that you can’t align with someone on shared values, “you should consider whether that person is worth keeping in your life.”
Quote of the Week
“I would define values, first of all, as a set of things you will not compromise on … I think everybody has values, and I think a lot of finding great relationships, great co-workers, great lovers, wives, husbands is finding other people where your values just line up. And then the little things don’t matter. Generally, I find that if people are fighting or quarreling about something, it’s because their values don’t line up. Because if their values lined up, the little things wouldn’t matter.”
- Entrepreneur and AngelList CEO Naval Ravikant in an interview on The Knowledge Project podcast
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