To Revisit When Starting a New Job

After starting at and helping to start companies multiple times, I’ve noticed a few writings and lectures that I tend to revisit each time. Even when not moving to a new group, I tend to watch or read these every few months. The beginning of this list came out of a question from the wonderful Jane Kim.

I read Ray Dalio’s Principles (which are conveniently located online, now) to remind myself of the unapologetic beauty of truth in action and truth in words. The pamphlet is a bit heavy-handed with the imperative advice, but I find it compelling nonetheless.

I watch Laura Savino speak about the power of words and think about choosing the right words for how I want to interact with others. Increasingly, I catch myself nearly using a word that connotes more or less than I mean. Taking moments to think of better words, and watching people react to exact words, has been enlightening. It’s also spurred a desire to learn more languages.

I watch Bret Victor speak about invention-based mindsets and think about challenging implicit beliefs and biases. More than just challenging bias, it’s about defining what exactly could be better built into our mindset, or better pulled out of it. He makes a call to widen the gap identified by Ira Glass (below), and widen human capabilities.

I peruse code I have released in the past year and find the worst piece. I think about how, exactly, I would make it better now, or how to avoid it completely. I go back through my code and find the piece that had the most positive impact and think about why, exactly, it had that impact. Those two pieces are not mutually exclusive, but I hope they are.

I read Valve’s Handbook for New Employees as the most organic and captivating on-boarding document I have even encountered. It’s a fantastic bundle of rules and history brimming with hidden gems. I read Netflix’s Culture Deck as the most idealistic version of a workplace guide. It has influenced most of my workplaces, directly or indirectly.

I watch and listen to Sarah Kay captivate with perfect timing, pure enthusiasm, and plenty of emotion. Her first poem is a near-perfect piece of performance, in my opinion. It reminds me that delivery is immensely important to the success of your message.

I listen to Ira Glass talk about the gap while creating and think about the importance of maintaining that gap. In my experience, a great swath of developers and tech workers allow that gap to close very quickly; meeting their own expectations and readily defending their work as the best possible. I remind myself that better work should always extend my grasp and I should know where to find it.