Insights on business,
life, and leadership —
right in your inbox!

First Principles

April 2, 2024

In Peter Thiel’s book Zero to One, he emphasizes the importance of principles over formulas.

He writes, “The single most powerful pattern that I have noticed is that successful people find value in unexpected places, and they do this by thinking about business from first principles instead of formulas…” 

Whether your involvement is with a business, a community organization, a school, or a church, it’s vital to think about WHY you do what you do even more than HOW you do what you do. When you are guided by clear principles, it simplifies your decision-making process. 

We have several new folks on the ADDO team, and they are incredibly talented. The reality is that we look much different than we did a decade ago, which is a good thing. Healthy things grow, and things that grow change. Our processes are better. Our outcomes are better. 

However, many of the principles that led ADDO to where we are today have not changed. Below are three of those:

1) Influence that Leads to Action

When asked to define leadership, John Maxwell has famously said, “Leadership is influence, nothing more nothing less.” I believe Maxwell’s definition is half right. If leadership is nothing more than influence, then why do we need the word leadership at all? Why not just use the word influence?

I believe leadership is influence that leads to action. We have witnessed time and time again that beliefs impact behaviors. Effective leadership moves people from belief to care to action. Think about it. We all believe that there are certain animal species going extinct, but this belief doesn’t move us all to action. What moves people? When they actually care. Effective leaders are able to influence beliefs in a way that impacts behavior. 

2) Every Vision Starts with a Burden

ADDO is the Latin word for inspire, and we exist to inspire people today to impact tomorrow. One way we do this is by helping individuals and organizations identify, clarify, and communicate their vision. Each vision starts with a burden. Consider these questions: What ticks you off? What injustice do you see? What could be better in your neighborhood? What would make life easier for those you care about? 

Our burden led us to high school students. Abraham Lincoln said, “The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next.” In order to have a lasting positive influence on the future, we knew we needed to reach young leaders while they were at a young age. This is why we partnered with Chick-fil-A to create Chick-fil-A Leader Academy. Through this program we have been able to impact hundreds of thousands of high school students all over the country, and ten years later, we are seeing the fruit of lasting impact.

3) Business is a Vehicle to Change the World

I know a lot of people who are passionate about making a difference, but too few of them see business as a mechanism to do that.

Business is not just a way to change the world—I believe it’s the best and most effective way to change the world.

John Mackey, the former CEO of Whole Foods, said it this way: “This is what we know to be true: business is good because it creates value, it is ethical because it is based on voluntary exchange, it is noble because it can elevate our existence, and it is heroic because it lifts people out of poverty and creates prosperity.” 

Business is about so much more than making money. Businesses are vehicles of change, and they have the power to do immense good to their local communities and the world around them.

Even as our business changes, these principles guide the way we think about the work we do. 

Whether you are a business, a school, a church, or a nonprofit, identify the principles that are guiding lights for you; then use these principles to leave a lasting positive impact beyond the four walls of your organization.


Insights on business,
life, and leadership —
right in your inbox!