How a Personal Manifesto Helps You Make Better Decisions

Do you have a framework for making decisions? How do you know which opportunities to take and which to pass on? Can someone take a look at your work – how you lead, write, talk, collaborate – and see what matters to you?

In Louder Than Words, I wrote about the value of having a personal manifesto (or team manifesto) that can guide your work and help you do work that is personally meaningful and uniquely valuable. It’s not supposed to be an in-depth playbook, but is more of a set of guiding principles by which you make decisions and invest yourself in your work. It helps you in three ways:

  1. It reminds you of your core values, and what you’re unwilling to compromise for short-term gain.
  2. In a complex world, it gives you a simple set of rules by which to live.
  3. It shows others what matters to you, and helps you be more consistent in how you approach your work.

I also realized recently that I’ve never made my own personal manifesto public. (So, it seems fitting that I’m posting it on the one-year anniversary of the release of Louder Than Words.) It’s always a work in progress, but I review it regularly to remind me of what matters and what I need to do about it.

My Manifesto

Bring your passion. Brilliant work is the accumulation of a lot of small victories over apathy. Don’t seek your passion, grow it.

Be ordered. Your daily personal habits and rituals determine your destiny.

Do what works. “Coolness” is overrated. Don’t aspire to be cool, aspire to be effective. Chasing trends is chasing your own tail.

Be fiercely curious. Never get stuck because of a knowledge gap. Ask questions and seek answers until your next move is clear.

Run your race. Don’t worry about what others are doing. You aren’t accountable for their work, and they’re not accountable for yours.

Be real. Make things you love for people who will love them. Invest yourself fully into your work. Don’t aspire to serve everyone.

Stand firm. Don’t try to change the world. Do try to change something. Don’t be afraid to offend – your scars are marks of honor.

Let go. A hundred years from now, you’ll be dead and no one will remember that thing you’re stressed about today. Don’t let circumstances control you.

Choose love. In any situation, ask “what does love demand of me in this moment?”, regardless of how difficult or unpopular the decision might be.

I encourage you to take some time to consider your own manifesto. If you want, feel free to publish it somewhere and link to it in the comments below. If you’d like to see more examples of manifestos, I posted some here.

Challenge: Come up with one tenet that could be a part of your manifesto. If you’re willing, post it below as a comment.

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14 Comments

  1. Derek Dibbern

    Risk Failure. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Whats the worst thing that could happen? If you are not ready to fail, you will surely do nothing original.

    Reply
    • Todd Henry

      “If you are not ready to fail, you will surely do nothing original.” This is a difficult, but profound truth. Thanks so much for sharing, Derek.

      Reply
    • Todd Henry

      Love this! Thanks for sharing.

      Reply
  2. @kylereed

    Here are mine:

    -Give to others more than I take
    -Be patient for the future, focused on the present, and better because of the past
    -Never think you have it figured out
    -Always wonder why
    -Only I can take myself where I want to go

    Reply
    • Todd Henry

      Love this – thanks, Kyle. “Give more than I take” is one I should consider adding to mine.

      Reply
  3. Gigi Johnson

    Make mundane things play
    Make dreaded projects BIG and Challenge to make Special
    Listen to Anxiety and push past
    Listen to Anger — it signals what I believe strongly
    Be Grateful daily
    –thanks!

    Reply
  4. Ana V. Ramirez

    Be me.
    Do no harm but take no shit.
    Remember my why.

    Reply
  5. Tasker Smith

    Question: there is overlap between values of my personal life and working life – but some feel in conflict. Ex: Sunday morning waffle hour with my kids isn’t a time that I value being fiercely productive. What are your thoughts on creating a personal manifesto apart from a work manifesto?

    Reply
    • Todd Henry

      I think that’s totally appropriate, and maybe even necessary in many cases. I think there will be some overlap, but enough uniqueness in each that it’s a worthy exercise.

      Reply
  6. Ken Wilson

    “Leave it better than you found it” is a principle I try to adopt both personally and professionally.

    Reply
  7. Gianina Gabriel

    This was the perfect task for figuring out exactly what matters in my business and life. I included Be Real, Be Ordered, Run Your Race, and Be Fiercely Curious from yours. These were some I added:

    Play: Use my imagination to delight others, and encourage them to dream and play in their lives. Find time to play and be inspired by the small things.

    Confidence and Intuition: Make choices from confidence and intuition not from desperateness and guilt. Sometimes choosing to wait is better than going against your gut feeling.

    Be Fair: Be fair to myself before I have the demand so I am not cutting projects down to the wire. Not sacrificing my own mental and physical health for the product. Be fair to others and be fair in production of product.

    Be Honest: Be honest with the customer, truthful about the product and process and be honest with myself and others around me.

    Reply
  8. Taryn

    Learn to understand the ways that your body communicates to you, also known as your intuitive senses: our entire bodies are designed as incredibly efficient discernment machines if we treat them decently. So learn to pay attention to the subtle shifts in your body the same way you heed the red flags that pop up in your mind. Getting in touch with your intuition might be the closest thing to a “life hack” I’ve ever found; listening to and understanding what the tight feeling in your throat or the sudden twisting in your stomach means can save you a lot of pain, torture, and agony.

    Reply

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I'm Todd Henry.

I'm Todd Henry.

I write books, speak internationally on productivity, creativity, leadership, and passion for work, and help people and teams generate brilliant ideas.

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