Thinking through the Pen & Mug team values.
A lot of cool design studios and agencies and other businesses that I look up to have some sort of “code” or list of values or even a sweet poster series of purpose statements. So, naturally, I've spent some time daydreaming about what that would look like for Pen & Mug.
At first I scratched together a list of 20+ things that I believe in and that I’d like to think Pen & Mug “stands for”, then boiled that list down to 6 concise statements that felt the way company values should feel. Then I sat with those statements for a few weeks, tweaking them here and there as I went, and realized that I could group and simplify them even further into just three words.
Serve. Grow. Share.
This is the boots-on-the-ground work. (Or sometimes “boots-on-the-chair-across-from-me” work.) It’s also the attitude (ideally a positive one) with which that work is done.
Service requires skill, flexibility, and a good sense of humor. I also think of service as working with people, rather than positioning yourself as the inaccessible creative wizard behind the curtain.
Service requires listening, saying "yes" to people, and finding clever ways to work within limitations. It also means saying "no" to other people so you can better serve the ones you’ve already said "yes" to (the trickiest part for me personally).
Not necessarily “bigger” or “more” – but stay in motion. Stay curious, and follow curiosity up with action. Learn, adapt, improve.
One of my favorite ways I’ve heard this said is Andy J. Pizza’s illustration of “slaying the dragon,” where the “dragon” represents some huge lofty goal. In short, you can’t wait to begin your quest until you’re ready to slay the dragon at the end of it, because you’ll never “know” that you’re ready, and you’ll just prepare and prepare and never actually leave town. Instead, start your quest now, and the journey will shape you and toughen you and prepare you to slay that dragon at the end of the road – perhaps a “dragon” you hadn’t even expected.
The other big thing for me here is balance. It’s important to put in the work, but it is also important to rest. It’s important to be available to the clients and friends who count on me, but it’s also important to get away from my devices and be present with the people around me. It’s important to daydream and make plans, but there are also less glamorous steps that need to be taken to get there. In different ways at different times, balance has consistently been something I need to be intentional about (and reminded of), and prioritizing balance has been huuuuugely critical to growing well, rather than growing out of control.
It is caring, I'm told.
One of my favorite wisdom one-liners is: “When you have plenty, build a longer table not a higher wall.” One brings communities together, the other divides them. I’d sure rather my legacy be the table.
Another way I’d written this sentiment before I had a single-word format to follow for these values was this: “Be a connector.” Bring people together, and build others up. Credit your collaborators and your inspirations. Cross-pollinate, share ideas, and build community. Compete, then shake hands. Give some time and/or talents and/or dollars to a cause that matters. It’s all better for community, and better for business in the long run.
Pen & Mug