Personal Blueprint

I recently joined Shopify. One of the practices for new hires is to write a personal blueprint. This is pretty common in the tech industry. At Square we called them Read Mes. At my startup Storefront, we called them User Manuals (how ?). It’s a way to communicate to the broader team and partners how you think and what you believe. Sometimes these are accompanied by more tactical questions such as “what time of day are you most productive?” or “do you prefer slack or email?”. Anyways, I enjoyed the exercise and wanted to share here.

Erik’s Blueprint

  • I value independent reasoning. I believe in independent reasoning. I think it’s important to approach life with a layer of skepticism. I’m an optimist, but a rational optimist. We should all aim to be more chef-like, and less cook-like in areas we care about. Tim Urban from Wait But Why provides more color:

The words “cook” and “chef” seem kind of like synonyms. And in the real world, they’re often used interchangeably. But in this post, when I say chef, I don’t mean any ordinary chef. I mean the trailblazing chef—the kind of chef who invents recipes. And for our purposes, everyone else who enters a kitchen—all those who follow recipes—is a cook.

The Cook and The Chef

  • I value challenging the status quo. We should challenge the status quo and question why things are the way they are. We live with dogma. But we shouldn’t. Many societal norms and rules that exist are subjective and antiquated. I think the line “we’ve always done it this way” is very dangerous. It’s intellectually lazy. In challenging the status quo, sometimes we may fail. That’s to be expected, and welcomed.

  • I value initiative. Often we think more than we act. I know I’m guilty of sometimes thinking too deep on something when I should just take action. We should have a bias for acting sooner with less information. Usually by taking action, we obtain more information and can adjust course. This is a better path than debating and gathering more information before taking action. And most of our decisions are reversible, not irreversible. In his shareholder letter, Bezos writes:

Some decisions are consequential and irreversible or nearly irreversible – one-way doors – and these decisions must be made methodically, carefully, slowly, with great deliberation and consultation. If you walk through and don’t like what you see on the other side, you can’t get back to where you were before. We can call these Type 1 decisions. But most decisions aren’t like that – they are changeable, reversible – they’re two-way doors. If you’ve made a suboptimal Type 2 decision, you don’t have to live with the consequences for that long. You can reopen the door and go back through. Type 2 decisions can and should be made quickly by high judgment individuals or small groups.

  • I value true understanding. We should understand something, not just know something. The well known quote by Feynman rings true:

“There is a difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something.”

Richard Feynman

Our knowledge should not be surface level, we should understand how things work at a fundamental level. And then reason from that understanding. Eg how do payments work? What’s a merchant acquirer?  If you work on payments, you shouldn’t just know of these things, you should know how they work – why they exist, the value they provide, their shortcomings, how they came into being, etc. 

  • I value integrity. We should follow through on our word. I value building long-term relationships. People are only as good as their word. Your integrity is your reputation.

  • I value curiosity. We should explore ideas that we are genuinely curious about. We should ask questions such as “what if…” and “how does this work” to better understand the world around us. Curiosity leads to learning, debate, and progress.

  • I value active open mindedness. We work in creative fields. We are paid for the decisions we make, how well we work together, and the ideas we execute. New information is presented often, active open mindedness is the ability to integrate new information into your world view, and potentially change that world view if the evidence is stronger than your current position. Be open to receiving new information and, as a statistician would say “update your priors”.

  • I believe in the 1% principle. Get 1% better each day. Make progress or improve yourself just a little bit better than the day before. Over the course of a year you’ll make incredible progress. I believe actively seeking challenging experiences. Training for a marathon is challenging. Lifting heavy weights at the gym is challenging. But we grow from these challenging experiences.

  • I strongly dislike “boxes”. I’m a believer in people solving many different types of problems at work. Yes, we need to deliver on the role we were hired for (our “box”), but that shouldn’t be the limit. We should stretch beyond our role “boundaries” and solve problems that we are interested in. And where we can add value. Others call this “thinking like an owner”.