I'm very proud of a small book of advice I wrote for my for my younger cousins.
I've pulled some excerpts to show here, as the philosophy they endeavor to impart is also a reflection of how I approach my work.
2014-2015 - 75 Pages
None of this advice is sacred or without fault, and, as I am sure you have realized by now, neither is any other part of our wide world.
“You know how advice is. You only want it if it agrees with what you wanted to do anyway.” - John Steinbeck
Maintain a critical perspective of yourself and the forces acting upon you.
For many people, a critical perspective is not something that they need to consciously think about, let alone consider a priority in their day to day lives. Most of the time we only think critically when consciously challenged. If someone gave you a test that contained a passage and asked you to write a critical response, chances are you would know what to do. In the rest of the world however, most people follow their guts. We flit from one idea to the next, caught in the flow of our own activities.
It is always possible to make something “better”, but in a process to improve, you have to understand when to give up, when to keep it complex, when to keep it simple or ... whatever.
I frequently stumble with this challenge. The first time I try anything I almost always overcomplicate it. Luckily, I have a few mechanisms that help me recognize encroaching complexity. For example asking “what would my mom do with this?”. If my answer lasts more than 1 or 2 seconds to consider I have made a monstrosity and must now hack at it with an axe and reduce it to something that makes sense.
Understand and evaluate “value” constantly.
Value is one of those loaded words that means something different to everyone in every context. In fact, I've found that most of the time when someone uses the term “value” they are really using it as a stand in for whatever else they mean. Even if you have an inkling of what someone means in a given current context, I guarantee that there is another interpretation of “value” that also applies and shifts the perspective of the issue entirely.
At work we constantly juggle ‘business value’, ‘engineering value’, ‘aesthetic value’, ‘functional value’ and every other type of value that can be feasibly defended by an executive. We pass ideas through all of these ‘values’ to better articulate our own perspective and in so doing teach ourselves to better defend our position.
Tinker with everything. Following in the thought that everything is malleable / a piece of kit (by everything I mean everything everything and not just some things everything). If an element or system doesn’t work well, chances are you should consider tinkering with it. Don’t be too afraid of the status quo, the possibility of making something better usually always merits some sort of investment.
Respect the status quo, but not really. The world is constantly in flux and the things you take for granted now, your identity for example, may not be your identity at some later point. [...]