The Three Principles that Guide Your Life
You will have many principles that guide your life: principles you learned from your parents, and others you learned along the way, principles that have been ingrained and proven. Many have become second nature dictating how you think and what you do. In this article I pose that our top three principles, those which occupy most of our time, take most of our resources, and bring us the most joy or the most pain, will ultimately define our life successes, failures, and destiny.
Moreover, if you are a leader, an entrepreneur, or a business owner, these three traits usually become the three spoken or unspoken forces that shape your organization. For example, I believe one of Elon Musk’s top three life principles is: “Nothing can stop me.” As a result, he and his companies are reaching the moon (literally – SpaceX). His companies, Tesla being one of them, have pushed the envelope of vehicular innovation. This guiding principle has brought Elon much success and much pain—because as he admits, he is a workaholic. Another leader familiar to us is President Trump. One of his top three guiding principles might be: “Apply maximum power to win every battle.” This has brought him much success, but it has also made many enemies for him.
Below, I want to share with you a few people’s guiding principles as I see them. Some people you will know; some you will not. I also want to share mine with you, then invite you to discover yours. Most people have not sat down to write and discover their guiding life principles. What I have here is only my observation of a few people I will comment on. Finally, I propose that as we become aware of what our guiding principles are, we must be proactive to adjust them if needed.
Why the top three, and not the top five or top ten? I believe there are tens of principles that we apply to manage our life, but only two or three are the most prominent, and therefore the most impactful.
Here are some examples of people’s guiding principles from my perspective to illustrate my point.
President Trump – 1) Apply maximum power to win every battle. 2) Results and loyalty are most important, not people’s feelings. 3) Feverishly search to achieve better deals.
President Obama – 1) Find the middle ground to create a better world. 2) Appeal to the higher self in others. 3) Have a balanced family and professional life.
Elon Musk – 1) Nothing can stop me. 2) I work hard to bring to life out-of-this-world ideas that astound people. 3) Profit will come. Reach for the stars in the meantime.
Alan Mulally – Alan was Boeing’s CEO, then Ford’s CEO, a successful leader who in 2008 led Ford to come out of the recession without needing government subsidy. Alan preaches about these three principles and teaches that these three have led him to success over and over in his professional life. They are to have a: 1) Compelling vision. 2) Comprehensive strategy. 3) Relentless implementation.
Amazon – The online retailer that so many of us are addicted to. 1) Provide an amazing customer experience. 2) The customer is always right. 3) Push beyond all norms to amaze the customer.
John (not real name) – This is a friend who is in his mid-40s who has owned his own business. These guiding principles have led him to make a lot of money, but not have the most loyal staff. 1) Obsessively maximize revenue and watch every penny. 2) People work to serve the business goals. 3) Conservatively grow company.
Mark (not real name) – A doctor who owns several healthcare facilities. This is another success story I was recently introduced to. I had the opportunity to observe his organization’s one-day onboarding for all of their new employees. It was all about one topic: how to make patients happy. 1) Create a profitable business model. 2) Maintain an intentional effort with customer service. 3) Have a laser focus on company culture regarding customer service.
Tony (not real name) – 42 yr old man who has struggled to make it professionally. 1) My kids are my world. 2) My life is terrible because of others. 3) Work the least I possibly can so I can see my kids the most I possibly can.
Nancy (not real name) – Doctor and head of a non-profit ministry. This is a success story that has been stunted. The leader does not listen because she has a belief that she knows best, and no one can speak into the organization she built. 1) Go big for Christ. 2) Inspire/Urge others to come along. 3) I don’t think we can improve on what I have already built.
My Top Three Principles
As I thought about my top three guiding principles, I observed that I attract people and leaders around me who have a similar bent. I also noticed how the organizations I lead tend to have the same overall ideals. They are: 1) Honor people, and grow others and myself. 2) Dream big. 3) Engrain our culture with solid principles. These sound good, and because of them I am blessed to have with me wonderful people who have joined me on a quest to impact lives. But as I self-reflect and compare my guiding principles to some of the leaders and companies, who for example have put the customer in their top three ideals, I wonder if an adjustment needs to be made. I think awareness of our three guiding principles will help us even if we cannot or do not want to change some of them. Another way is to hire people who have complementing ideals that differ from our own, as long as there will not be a clash.
What are yours?
I invite you to work on yours. What are your top three guiding principles? They can be positive or negative. Discover the top three ways you live and lead, and see if they should be changed. Within your top three modi operandi are the keys to your life’s journey.