I’ve never resonated with personal “operating principles.” It feels too rigid. I tend to think that for life to be interesting, I have to be manipulating it all the time. However, I do enjoy the practice of putting pen to paper on how I’d like to live my one wild and precious life — and perhaps more crucially, why. Such is the core question I’ve been stalking for years in my writing: how do modern humans assemble satisfying, interesting, beauty-filled lives?
I don’t think it’s by living with no strings attached. Nor do I think it’s by optimizing to win someone else’s game. The blessing and curse of modern life is that an unprecedented number of us are now able to assemble our life signifiers, satisfaction sources, and meaning-makers a la carte.
Which is a task I'm not convinced any of us are capable of "completing." However, at the personal and relational level (ok fine, "operating"), I've found value in recording the recurring themes to how I like to be a human in the world:
I value self-sufficiency really highly and pride myself on being able to do hard things — they just need to be hard things that I chose. I want to come to my own conclusions from first principles, even if it comes at the expense of others’ understanding of me and my motives. I care more about being “famous among friends” and competing with myself in pursuit of excellence than I do about gaining wide recognition. I want to fully own the outcomes produced by my playing infinite games alongside players with mutually-aligned incentives.
I’ve always thought that feeling big things is the whole point of life. I understand that a lot of people disagree with me. Let me clarify: I don’t think all feelings are created equal — I weigh feelings of enduring pride far heavier than short-term satisfaction. But I’m still motivated first and foremost by feelings: connecting with people, building trust, the satisfaction of following my curiosity, and moving both hearts and minds. Focusing on feeling isn’t hedonism — it’s following what gives me natural energy, which leads to satisfaction, and thus, endurance.
Two meanings: 1) an extreme amount of benevolence and 2) a hyper person who happens to be benevolent. Both are character compositions that I aspire to. I was raised in rural California and resonate strongly with Stewart Brand’s vow of conservation, which says that signatories should aspire to “leave everything better than they found it.” This applies to people too: “any love I made you feel is yours to keep.”
The creator of The Muppets had a simple post-it note above his desk that read: “Not writing is worse.” For some reason, this really stuck with me. I’ve long struggled with self-censorship or what I call “editor brain.” One thing that’s helped me is developing a writing alter ego named Dolly that I embody anytime I don’t know what I’m trying to say and know whatever I do say is going to be bad. This is a useful trick because I usually figure out what I think by simply writing more. For me, writing is an exercise in trying opinions on for size. Because of this, I’m religious about freewriting in the morning to clear my head, taking notes during calls, and bullet journalling (messily). For me, writing = thinking.
This is where words fail me. Basically, I believe that some things in life are strongly resonant, yet utterly indefensible. Such things are a big part of what make life feel special. Unfortunately, these same things often decay given too much scrutiny or optimization. Beauty is one of these things. Privacy is another. Penultimately is my taste in people. I think that knowing when not to share, ask for advice, or solicit outside perspectives requires a great deal of self-respect.