A culture of idea meritocracy begins with principles

The founder of Monster.com shares important life and career lessons based on six principles for success.
Written by Vala Afshar, Contributing Writer

"Be excellent at the job that's at the center of your life." And for Jeff Taylor, serial entrepreneur and founder of Monster.com, that job is being a great leader. A gentle guide to his grown children. A fully present parent to his younger children. And a committed coach and champion to the teams he leads.

The secret to success, he says, is putting fame in its proper context. And Jeff's perspective about fame is unique, as he shared during his first conversation with Karen Mangia, VP of Customer and Market Insights at Salesforce

Anyone can find FAME following Jeff's model:

  • F: Think like a Free Agent.
  • A: Train like an Athlete.
  • M: Prepare like a Marketer.
  • E: Engage like an Entrepreneur.

After FAME and fortune, then what?  A question Jeff asked himself repeatedly in the post-Monster.com days. A question you may have considered as well after achieving a major milestone.  Jeff sums up his answer in a single word: principles.  

"When was the last time you wrote down your principles?" Jeff probes. "I'm talking about the principles by which you live and you lead.  What I learned when I transitioned from running my own companies to working for someone else is that your principles can only guide you when you are crystal clear about your principles."


Ray Dalio is founder, co-chairman, and co-chief investment officer of Bridgewater Associates. 

As GM & Chief Customer Officer of Principles, a Ray Dalio Company, Jeff is immersed in cultivating a culture of Meaningful Work + Meaningful Relationships on a daily basis. That's the formula his boss, Ray himself, set as the benchmark for his company's culture. 

Ray Dalio is founder, co-chairman, and co-chief investment officer of Bridgewater Associates. He started Bridgewater out of his two-bedroom apartment in New York in 1975 and under his leadership, the firm has grown into the fifth most important private company in the US according to Fortune Magazine. Ray detailed the principles by which he lives and leads in his best-selling book of the same name. He summarizes his cultural construct as: Radical Truth + Radical Transparency = Idea Meritocracy.

Dalio dreamed of a culture where the best ideas win. Taking the best and making it better begins with an understanding of each person's unique working style coupled with consistent feedback. Making what he's learned available to others is core to his leadership legacy. 

"Two of the most valuable leadership principles I've learned from Ray are to fail better and to struggle well," Jeff explains. "We all fail. We all struggle. It's a question of what we do with failures and struggles that matters most. I've come to understand that a painful mistake is a puzzle. As you solve your puzzles, write down what you discover. Because those discoveries point you toward your underlying principles."

After reflections and revisions through the years, Jeff arrived at these core principles:

  1. You are the CEO of your own life. You have the power to decide how you want to live.
  2. If you are nervous, you are in danger of learning something.
  3. Eighty percent of success in life is indeed showing up, so go to the party.
  4. If you coast, you only coast one way: Downhill.
  5. If you got to a meeting, you might as well run it. Put yourself in the position of crafting ideas rather than responding to someone else's.
  6. Don't go to the waiting place, go to the loud, noisy place. The noisy place is where things are happening.

Jeff revisits his principles regularly and encourages other leaders to do the same. Particularly when feedback he receives seems to conflict with one or more of his core principles.

"Triangulate with other believable people," Jeff advises. "There is very little you do by yourself in the modern world. I've received over 25,000 individual pieces of feedback in the nine years I've worked here. And what I've learned to do is to hear the feedback without reacting. Then to look for the kernel of truth in that feedback. And then to test my hypothesis about what I might need to adjust with other believable people. I take the same approach when I'm testing a new idea."

Defining your principles is made easier through the free Principles You Assessment. "The assessment helps you understand yourself, understand others, and helps others understand you," Jeff shares. "And the Principles in Action App offers more development resources, including a Digital Coach where you can pose situation-specific questions and get advice."  

Karen Mangia is vice president, Customer, and Market Insights at Salesforce. Her work focuses on strategies for personal and professional success, and she regularly works with executives, managers, and future leaders at companies of all sizes globally. She launched two new books in 2020: Listen Up! How to Tune In To Customers, And Turn Down the Noise and Working From Home:  Making the New Normal Work For You  - both from Wiley. She has been featured in Forbes and regularly writes for Thrive Global and ZDNet. Committed to diversity and inclusion, she serves on her company's Racial Equality and Justice Task Force. She is a TEDx speaker and the author of Success With Less, a book that chronicles her own personal journey through a life-threatening health crisis. Her high-impact keynotes help organizations to access the future of work via innovative insights around the voice of the customer.

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