First Principles: A first principle is a basic, foundational, self-evident proposition or assumption that cannot be deduced from any other proposition or assumption.
In other words, a first principle is your own undeniable, unarguable and unwavering truth.
Questioning assumptions, analysing results and changing a course of action is all a part of life, business and any endevour — but your first principles are different. They don’t change, because they are your fundamental truths.
Let’s take a fictional non-for-profit organisation called Writers Collective that’s purpose is to empower writers, any way they can.
We care about writers. Writers should be empowered to write freely and openly about anything they see fit.
That is their first principle.
As long as every action they take as an organisation tends towards their first principle, they will be successful. Their success entirely depends on that first principle. If that organisation starts shifting resources into providing support for videography or they start partnering with organisations that interfere with writers’ freedoms, in order to stay afloat, they’ve lost their way and have failed. They need to go back to basics, back to the foundations, back to first principles.
This is the same for you. You as an individual have first principles that could be anything. Maybe you haven’t sat down to think about it, maybe it’s always been implied, maybe you have no idea. Take the time to think about it. What are those foundational things for you that will never change?
Do you like travelling? Do you like painting? Do you like presenting? Do you like leading?
Dig a little deeper than that. Those are all surface level interests. What’s the foundation of them?
If you’re in a rut, that’s another word for indecision and ambiguity.
If I’m a person that loves animating, loves writing, loves filming, loves spending time with friends, loves making people laugh, and I’m struggling with which one I should pursue — I’m thinking about it incorrectly. My first principle may not be any of the aforementioned interests, it may be that I love telling stories. The foundational statement that I may need to tell myself is:
The story is the most important thing, and I need to do anything in my power to tell amazing stories.
The medium becomes obsolete. Video, writing, animations, talking — all irrelevant. The foundation of my drive, my northern star, my first principle is telling an amazing story.
You can always go back to that first principle. I’m working at News Corporation X, is this aligning with my first principles? Am I telling amazing stories? Am I improving my craft? Are there better opportunities I could take that tend towards my foundation?
Yes or No, then Action.
Every decision becomes easy when you go back to your first principles. You’ll never again be in a rut as you’ll always have your northern star guiding you. So what’s the most important thing to you? What’s your unwavering truth? If you know that, that’s all you need. And if that’s all you need, you can get started today.
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Here’s another article that I think you’d like — It’s 8 Tiny Things You Can Do To Immediately Improve Your Life In Less Than 3 Minutes
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