Personal Constitution



Thursday February 22, 2024



In the spirit of the book Principles, with a goal toward increased productivity through self-awareness and accountability, I cement here a personal constitution. I publish this publicly for all to read that I might benefit from their feedback.

Foundational Principles

Improvement through self awareness. As perhaps Socrates said, “an unexamined life is not worth living”. To add my own twist: an examined life refines what’s worth living for. Like a chef with a fine palette, a self awareness acquired through reading, personal coaching, cognitive therapy, and above all journaling and hearing yourself talk, refines

Trust thyself: I can’t grow unless I test my opinions. “Success in life is the result of good judgment. Good judgment is usually the result of experience. Experience is usually the result of bad judgment.” Tony Robbins Alberto Savoia teaches in The Right It: Why So Many Ideas Fail and How to Make Sure Yours Succeeds the YODA framework - Your Own DAta. Only your own data is trustworthy. Intuition gets me to the point of knowing what data I need to collect. After intuition, there’s my opinion about what might happen, someone else’s opinion about what might happen, someone else’s data, and my own data. With limited time and the infeasability of collecting omniscient data (discussed in How to Decide: Simple Tools for Making Better Choices (Annie Duke)), I want to collect as much data as I can from other people’s mistakes by reading and learning. My value to the world, however, will come when I recognize that for a problem at hand that there is either data gathered via the Aristotlean methold of empirical evidence or Socratic method of reasoning by degrees. Judgment is used to determine whether data is worth being collected. In absence of data, “If we have data, let’s look at data. If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine.” Jim Barksdale, CEO of Netscape (Trustworthy Online Controlled Experiments: A Practical Guide to A/B Testing). I will be unafraid to share my opinion, even if perceived as stupid or wrong.

Assume Kindness, Give Kindness, Give and Seek Forgiveness. In a multi-cultural world, it’s hard to know what word might offend someone. I learned this by learning “Honduran” Spanish. The word for “Wednesday” in one culture might be a curse word in another. Inadvertantly, if I’m to share an opinion with the best of intentions, I may offend someone unwittingly due to the way I shared it or the way they interpreted it. Everyone communicates differently. Assume kindness means to assume they don’t intend harm. Give kindness means to speak with good intention. Giving and seeking forgiveness is the process of recognizing that in assuming or giving kindness, I’ll fall short but I can recover and let things go. Regardless of culture, we’re all human and want good feelings. We can operate in a way that cultivates these good feelings - a universal language.

Vulnerability is recognizing weakness, which is the foundation of true, enduring strength. As discussed in Dare to Lead and Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team, teams fail when they’re not vulnerable, vulnerable in the sense that they’re self aware to share their strengths and weaknesses and ask for help in their weaknesses. A toxic environment is one that fails to recognize weakness, because like a limp knee that causes first hip, then shoulder issues appear. A powerful Christian teaching states, “I give unto men weakness that they may be humble;…for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” (Ether 12:27). From this point of view, weakness is actually a gift. It’s a gift to rely on God (in my opinion, which is most often found in the goodness and grace of others) and ask for help. The Alcoholics Anonymous group recognizes the power of asking for help.

Principled Behaviors

Opinions deserve to be dissected, and everyone is filled with biases. Challenging Opinions: Put out opinions, and challenge others’: “Strong opinions, loosely held” is a mantra in tech and means something different to everyone. I interpret this as “everyone has an opinion, most choose to let the most dominant opinion run the conversation”. “strong” means you recognize you actually do have an opinion, even if you don’t care. By sharing an opinion, you’re putting it out there to be challenged. Being willing to change it with new evidence is “loosely-held”. It’s demonstrated in Elon Musk changing his opinion of how to design Starship while talking to a reporter. Speak, be open to challenges, and adjust. If I don’t challenge opinions, I’m at risk of “I told you so” syndrome later, except you didn’t tell them and instead you inflate your internal ego and did nothing to solve the problem.

Challenge theory, challenge data collection. As discussed in Scientific Freedom (Donald Braben), peer review is dying and failing the scientific process. As discussed in The Coddling of the American Mind (Jonathan Haidt, Greg Lukianoff), cancel culture is crushing open and free discussion, opinions and movements usually driven by cognitive distortions. As demonstrated in The Quest for Cosmic Justice (Thomas Sowell), there is usually strong contra-evidence to very dogmatic political beliefs about “how things should be”. If we reason with evidence like Sowell, challenge our beliefs like Haidt/Lukianoff, and seek to establish real, empirical truth like Braben, we’ll approach problems like Duke by considering all possibilitys, evaluating costs, and challenging internal biases. Data collection is difficult, and the procedures by which you collect data and draw conclusiosn from it must be challenged so that inferences can

If I have an issue I’ll bring it to the problem first. If I have a conflict (see next section) with someone, I seek to resolve it behind closed doors first. It takes two people to resolve a conflict. If the conflict cannot be resolved behind closed doors, or repeatedly re-occurs despite my best efforts, I’ll proceed to a more defensive stance, which often resolves in me processing it through journaling.

If I sense an issue, I seek to reassure those around me. I’ve been in several great organizations, and several toxic organizations. Once, 2 weeks after joining a team I interviewed everyone on the team. I could tell immediately that 6/12 were incredibly dissatisfied even if they didn’t say it. One of them went so far as to tell me they hated their boss. Within a year, 5/12 had left the team to go somewhere else in the org. On another occassion, I joined a team and within one week of joining, one person asked me to unionize. Again, a lot of discord. Within 6 weeks 10 of the 20 data scientists in the company were fired, including the disgruntled. In a third cirucmstance, a lot of disgruntled employees foment amongst themselves, each trying to solve their problems with management. Management doesn’t recognize even direct requests for changes in behavior. In all three of these circumstances, I work quickly to bring up the issues. I speak directly with management. I speak in the first person, keeping confidences, and only doing so usually at my own personal risk. I try to resolve what I have experienced, and what I have control over. Sometimes, people don’t want to change. Usually this results in failed organizations, but not always. In all three of these circumstances, I have witness failed organizations. The first was in a large organization where the manager got a horrible “do not recommend” rating from their peers. The second was an organization that lost all of its remaining data science talent. The third was an organization that lost multiple long-tenured teammates, even key leaders, that went on to get top jobs at other top companies. Belief: if talent gets a great job at a great company elsewhere, the company is doing something wrong.

My Conflict Style

Conflict, to me, isn’t a dirty word if two people have good intentions. It becomes dirty when both parties have bad intentions. It’s at its worst when one has good intentions and the other has bad.

As the youngest child of peaceful parents, my conflict style is to observe and self-reflect.

How I’ll Fail

After doing a ton of work on myself, I’ve grown to an awareness of how I operate. There are past scars.

I’ve been told I’m stupid before.

I’ve been fired before. This leads

I hyperfocus on the negative.

I reason by extremes.


Bryan lives somewhere at the intersection of faith, fatherhood, and futurism and writes about tech, books, Christianity, gratitude, and whatever’s on his mind. If you liked reading, perhaps you’ll also like subscribing: