Jonathan Cutrell

My values

Cultivate Understanding

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.

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.

Optimize for the Long-Term

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.

Written by Jonathan Cutrell, Director of Engineering at PBS and podcast host at Developer Tea. You can follow him on Twitter at @jcutrell.