Last year, I read Principles by Ray Dalio, which enumerates principles Dalio used throughout his life to drive decision-making. It heavily influenced me to guide my business and personal decisions.

More recently, I read Good to Great by Jim Collins, which describes the characteristics of great companies (as opposed to good companies).

There are many commonalities between these books. They both describe principles and characteristics of what drives a company or life to success.

I wanted to do the exercise to gather my thoughts and enumerate the principles that influenced me the most.

It’s about the who, not the what

The most important in your life or business is the who, not the what. “Good to great” shows that all great companies care about the “who” before doing anything. Great companies were not producing anything initially: they focused on whom to hire and whom to fire.

The very same principle is true in our personal life. Our relations and interactions with others shape our decisions. Our friends and life partner can accelerate our lives or be a weight we have to carry until we die. It’s essential to select the persons you build a relationship with and help you drive you to success.

“Good to Great” makes the metaphor of a bus: before you even start driving the bus, make sure you onboard the right people inside the bus. When a careless, underperforming employee is on the bus, they will not help to drive it in the right direction (this is even more true if the person is an executive). When your partner is not supportive, this will put you down, affect your well-being not support your personal growth.

One final note is that the “right” people are not whom you agree with constantly. The “right” people will support your professional or personal growth and drive you to success. You need disagreement (either at work or in a relationship); it is crucial to be open-minded, discuss different opinions, value their merits, and move forward.

Embrace reality

We all love to fall for lies and distort reality so that it fits our vision of the world. It’s easier for us to live in our echo chamber and believe that we are “killing it” rather than face the harsh reality that we are not as good as we thought.

Whether in your professional or personal life, it’s crucial to face the facts, no matter how brutal they are. The earlier you diagnose a potential issue, the faster you can address them and move forward.

The recent economic crash demonstrates how people love to cuddle themselves in an echo chamber and avoid the hard reality that businesses are not viable. It’s common to find people unhappy in their friendship or romantic relationship without realizing they are not in the right place.

This principle is reinforced by the “who before the what” principle. When the right people are on your bus, they will help you face some harsh realities. The wrong people will ignore these hard truths and continue business as usual, only to drive the bus in the ravine.

Culture and discipline are essential

The culture of a company is essential. And it always starts at the top. Employees in a company mimic what their leaders do. When leaders are not embracing a solid culture, employees begin to be all over.

Company culture and values will shape who will be on the bus (e.g. who will apply for a job and who gets hired). Today more than ever, some companies put strong culture and values statements, and some employees apply (or not) to a job because of them. Setting up the culture and values of the company is a challenging task, and that is also why some companies are failing.

Discipline and accountability are also essential and must start from the top. If an executive fails to deliver, they should be held accountable and driven by the example.

Your company is a team, not a family.

It’s essential to have the right people on board (see “who before what”) and to be radically honest if one person is not performing as expected for the team. Your team should be the winning one, not the losing one, and for that, you need A-players. And you need A-players at every position on the field.

I have seen companies with more than half of the people not adding real value. When such companies lay off the right people (e.g., non-performing ones), they often operate better because the poor performers no longer drag the high performers.

Identifying the right team is really hard, either when hiring or firing. But it’s essential to assemble the best team: you cannot win the Superbowl when your players are slow or do not know how to pass the ball.

It’s all about love

I firmly believe that what drives people is love. In the end, love always wins. Love does not mean that everything is all roses. It means caring, supporting, and giving a damn about something or someone. Love for what you are doing and who you are with. And always act for the best interest of the person or business you love.

Love does not mean accepting everything. Love can (and should) be tough sometimes. After all, who never had a strong argument with a colleague or partner? It’s normal, and you have this argument because you care and love the topic/person/cause. But in the end, the love and passion you have is a component that makes you discuss opinions, make decisions, and drive to succeed.