Personal Manual: How to work with me

About this manual

I've been captivated by the recent trend of creating "user manuals" for individuals: documents that share insights into how a person thinks and acts, what they value, and what they dislike. I am even more capitvated by the idea of making these manuals public, serving as a way for anyone to know how to interact with someone.

This is my first take at writing a personal user manual for myself. I hope it helps you as much as it clarifies for me about myself.

About me

I tend to be an introvert. I don't like large events with many people. When I go to them, I tend to stick in a corner, talking with one or two people throughout the event. But, I love to meet new people, one-on-one.

I'm informal. I love pomp-and-circumstance when it comes to entertainment. Hate it when it comes to my life.

I like to work hard and am unapologetic about believing that hard work, grit, and hustle are important and necessary — but not sufficient — qualities to success.

I think success = work output * strategy * luck. You need all three, so I value all three.

I gain energy from momentum and learning.

I hate to lose more than I love to win. But failure and losing are two different things in my book: failure is fine (the vast majority of my professional life is about failure, and that's okay). But losing a winnable game... that's tough.

I tend to work backwards: start with the end-state — your goal — and work backwards to get to the present-day. It's the fastest way to figure out what to do next and why.

My values

I work in startups. Startups often have just a single advantage over competition: speed. Speed is a competitive differentiator for startups. I value speed greatly. Conversely, if you're moving slowly, I get irritated quickly.

I value both giving and getting brutally honest feedback. I try to give it (and prefer to receive it) when it's delivered kindly. I try not to pull punches and I try not to waste time: you should know what I think and why. If not, ask me and I'll be honest.

I believe in learning always. I'm a voracious reader and learner. But I'm highly aware (skeptical, some might say) of the incentives of the author/speaker. For instance, you'll often hear me say "did you see what X wrote about? Fascinating... but I doubt it went down quite like that."

Life is short and there are lots of great things to work on and people to work with. Only work with the best people who trust each other. Only work on the most important problems.

I love Paul Graham's "Relentlessly Resourceful" and try to live up to it.

I believe in strong opinions, weakly held. I go full-force in my beliefs until the moment a more credible argument or evidence tells me I should change. At that point I change my opinion quickly.

My strengths

I'm usually not one for personality tests, but a couple years ago I took the Strengths Finder test, and thought the results were extremely accurate.

Here is what it said my strengths are:

  1. Achiever
  2. Learner
  3. Competition
  4. Focus
  5. Activator

My pet peeves

I really dislike people going slow and being indecisive.

I get supremely irritated by wasting time or playing hide-the-ball. Ask me for what you want, tell me what you need. Be direct, but kind, and we'll have a great relationship.

At my first company, I noticed that the more people we added, the less likely those people were to call me on my bullshit. This is understandable, but frustrating to me. I am typically (and by design) the least experienced person in the room on most topics. I do not want "yes men" or "yes women" around me.