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How a Personal Manifesto Helps You Make Better Decisions

How to distill a set of principles that guide your best work.

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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Last modified: April 21, 2023

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