Jonathan Cutrell

My values

Prioritize High Leverage

I see this value as a balancing value to "grit." While some people prefer hard work and action-orientation, I would much rather take my time, work on building systems and holistic approaches.

This means I may avoid or delegate things that are not high leverage.

Leverage is dynamic, though; in a given situation, a mundane task may have high leverage, where in another context that same task may have little to no leverage at all.

Optimize for the Long-Term; Always Be Ahead Of The Ball

When you optimize for the long-term, a lot of other problems naturally resolve.

Optimizing for the long term means valuing:

  • People over products
  • Character over skills
  • Trends over spikes
  • Norms over exceptions
  • Teaching over showing
  • Philosophy over tactics
  • Habits over heroics
  • Smooth over fast
  • Data over anecdotes
  • Impact over hype
  • Causes over symptoms

This isn't intuitive because it can be scary. You might have to give up short-term wins that would prevent long-term growth.

Being optimize for the long-term doesn't mean you ignore the short term. It means you change the short term in light of the long term.

Invest First In My Closest Relationships

I keep a close community. I actually believe this is important for my mental health. While some people prefer many relationships of varying depth, I would rather have deeper, fewer relationships.

My first investments in life are always into my closest relationships; usually, this means family, but not always strictly blood relatives.

Growth Through Learning

While I value Competence, I also value the changes that occur as a result of learning. If competence is static, learning is dynamic.

I may learn something in one arena that helps me grow in a totally different arena. I become a better programmer by being a father, a better father by being a pilot, and a better pilot by podcasting. This holistic approach to learning and growth is critical for me.

Peace in Place and Person - Go Happy

“Don’t put them on fast, Daddy. Put them on happy.”

Our son Liam has started saying this about a few routines we do together. In this case, putting his clothes on.

He’s approaching 3 years old now, but sometimes teaches me lessons I'd expect from a much older, wiser person.

When we read a book to him before bed, my wife and I sometimes have the urge to speed through. To complete the task, move on to the next thing.

This constant rush because we feel there is something more important to get to. Something is always next, always around the corner.

Liam seems to know something that I feel deeply: that happiness is very often about slowing down on purpose. Happiness is about being here, now.

Read the book slowly, emphatically. Read every word, see every picture, enunciate. Give life to your moment, no matter how mundane.

Don't go fast. Go happy.

Giving Is Sharing; Sharing Is Giving

I've always enjoyed giving to others, but it was only recently that I realized that it's not just a philanthropic reward my brain is seeking. My greatest value is when I am able to create community by sharing what I have in that community.

While I understand the value of giving to others based on need, I personally value the community that is created when you blur the lines between sharing and giving.

Cultivate Understanding In Context

I've spent a lot of my life learning.

At one point, I believed I might stay in academics.

But another side of me wanted to pick up a guitar and tour around the country, expressing my deepest feelings. (For the record, this did not happen.)

Cultivating understanding isn't just about academics, nor is it strictly about feelings.

Understanding is about an integrated picture, accounting for all dimensions of the truth.

Wisdom, feeling, intuition, data, experience, logic - all are a part of understanding.

The secret: Having understanding often leads you to realize how little you know, and how reliant you are on experimentation, collaboration, and iteration.


This is a value I only recently was able to put a specific descriptor to; I grew up thinking I loved "learning" or "academics." But in fact, what I'm drawn to is competence. With the same origin as competition - I see this as a method of competing against my own standard.

I enjoy doing things that I am able to become competent at, but I very much don't enjoy things I can't build competence in.

This might sound universal, but in reality there are plenty of things people enjoy doing with little to no competence. (The prime example for me is karaoke. I would rather sleep.)

Written by Jonathan Cutrell, Engineering Manager at Guild Education and podcast host at Developer Tea. You can follow him on Twitter at @jcutrell.