5 Non-Negotiable Values for Your Company’s Culture


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Over the course of my life and my career, I’ve been a part of a lot of teams.

While all of these groups espoused their “values” as these overarching, altruistic shared principles, only a select few actually embodied them.

My stance, which I’ll lay out in this post, is that values need to be not only one of the first things that you craft and commit to inside of any collaborative unit, but they also have to serve as the non-negotiable nucleus of how you operate.

Why Values Matter

Values are not rules. Values are not laws. Values are also not suggestions.

Values are ideologies that govern how a person or collective is supposed to think, reason, and act. All that values are, and all they need to be, is like a silent coach who’s always sitting in the corner ready to provide a framework for how things are done.

In the context of teams, values have to become the barometer for how additional members are chosen, evaluated and ultimately held accountable.

But this only works if you set these values in stone, communicate them, and actually adhere to them.

To effectively guide thinking and behavior, values have to be simple but not cliche and unique but not so abstract that no one knows what they mean.

Unless reiterated throughout everything you do, abstract concepts like values can easily become just a “nice to have.” When this happens, you will lose the life force that makes you who you are.

If they’re too vague or generic, people won’t take them seriously; they’ll say “these are just feel-good affirmations we post on the wall to look good when our clients stop by.”

There are five core values that I hold personally and that I make sure the people I work with are aware of and also exhibit. This is not an exhaustive list; these are just seven of the most prominent.

Value #1: Prioritize yourself but care for others like you would yourself.

The classic analogy is that if you don’t put your own oxygen mask on, you won’t be able to help others. So this value recognizes that self sovereignty and autonomy is critical, but that ensuring others are just as well taken care of is just as important.

The underlying premise here is that hierarchies and preferential treatment is ultimately destructive. Some of the most toxic dynamics I’ve been a part of in the past were pyramids where certain higher-ups were treated differently than junior people. These cultures breed superficiality. The level of EQ and empathy you must have to care for another as though they were a relative or friend is extremely high; but it’s this degree of consideration that elevates a team from a group of people to a family of brothers and sisters.

The reason that we want to care for others like ourself is because there’s an inherent trust and devotion that will automatically develop when people feel as though you legitimately care about their well being and success. If someone on my team tells me they’re feeling stressed and anxious, I don’t just wish them well and head on my way. Without taking on that energy, I’ll literally take it personally as though it were me. Someone else will not suffer alone on my watch. So it’s a matter of checking in with that person directly every day for the next three days, maybe sharing a link to a meditation I like, etc. If you make this value central to your operational philosophy, you’ll enable more connected relationships among more devoted teams.

Value #2: We only accept wins gained through total transparency and truth.

Another way to say this is “we live congruently and with maximum integrity.” I’d rather miss out on something I wanted by being totally truthful than gain it under false pretenses, despite the consequences. Why? This is a slippery slope. If you bend your morals a little bit to take a tempting bait — let’s say it’s winning a huge $20k account just to tell one lie, eventually that client will become unsatisfied having been set up with false expectations, but more importantly, it makes it easier to go a little bit further, a little bit further, the next time around. Soon, deceit becomes the norm. That’s an awfully shaky bridge to build anything substantial upon.

One common example where we see this value being violated often is in the social media guru space where it’s common for people to exaggerate, exacerbate or extrapolate in their sales messaging. I even did this for a while because I felt such pressure to pump up my offer higher and with bigger claims that I started veering from my truth; which consequently led me to uncover this value since I was feeling increasingly out of integrity.

Make sure that everyone you bring on board has impeccable character, but understand also it starts with you. Step back, look at everything you’re doing, and objectively ask yourself if you’re operating in total truth through every function of your business. Exercising maximum transparency — even to a fault — will get you further in the long run even if you have to miss out on instant gratification wins in the short-term.

Value #3: Our strength and discipline cannot be questioned.

If you don’t show up with strength every day, the reality is that you’ll be beaten both by the world at-large and others who are gunning for the same prize you’re after. Discipline — which means doing what you have to to regardless of how you feel about it — mixed with resilience, which is ruthless persistence are two things you can control and instill among your team against the backdrop of a world full of variables you can not control. If we can’t stay resilient or resolute, we’re vulnerable. And if we aren’t disciplined, we become distracted. So, these have to remain constants at the start and as you scale.

One thing I’ve noticed around this point is that as organizations grow larger, they also become softer. It’s very rare that you see a large enterprise where the founder’s mentality of grit and hustle and ferociousness — if it ever existed in the first place — is still active within the company. It’s very rare. Once you understand that business is a battleground and not a stroll through a field of flowers, you realize that the only way to win is to stay alive and fight longer than anyone else. That requires tremendous strength of mind and body, and the ability to focus on whatever it is you need to do in order to succeed. That means sacrifice. That means accepting that the world is not fair. It means being able to see what you need to do, then executing and getting it done – at all costs. There’s got to be no length to which you are not willing to go, and no competitor team that’ll work harder than yours.

Value #4: We go against the grain and think radically outside the box.

One thing that all of the top-tier brands in the world do is to make possible was previously thought impossible. My consumer BCI startup is on the cutting edge, a real frontier market. For us, innovation is in our blood. And it’ll never done, it’s an infinite game. We’re never not iterating, we’re never not building.

The energy Steve Jobs injected into Apple, even despite so much push back from those around him was evidence of his motivation to create products 100x more intuitive than anyone else.

Ferruccio Lamborghini could’ve settled to be an ultra-successful tractor trailer manufacturer but he pushed beyond those limitations and is now known for something above and beyond the legacy he would’ve left — or not left — had he stuck with that status quo.

Look at Elon today. You can love him or hate him, but he’s never stagnant in what he does. After Neuralink and SpaceX and Tesla which he’s continuing to innovate on, there’ll be a new level, and then another one after than.

Start thinking like a serial status quo breaker. The marketplace is becoming more competitive because more people are providing more surplus for buyers; the bar has been raised and enough to meet expectations is no longer enough to win. So the fact is, a 10x mindset is actually the only way to win.

Value #5: We leave ego at the door – this is an idea meritocracy.

This one is simple to say, much harder to do in competitive environments. The greatest teams — and greatest teammates — operate outside of ego. As a result, the focus is on the work and the results. Nothing else matters. Ideas are shared and disposed of collectively. And it’s always about the project, not the person. Egoless teams are also detached from the way things have been done in the past. All that matters is what works now.

If you can find a core group that’s committed to building something great, and who can go beyond biases and individual agendas, you will have a powerful machine that 99% of teams just don’t have. Too many people are stuck in politics, pursuing their individual agendas. Again, superficial hierarchies reinforce toxic patterns where seniority for some reason nullifies or prevents genius from rising to the top among others.

So, the teams I work in, and the people I work with, must leave ego at the door.

Now, it’s okay for you to think you’re the best at what you do — but don’t go to battle against those on your side; you want to aim that ammo outward at your competition. It’s also okay for your team to develop an identity — sports teams do this with their mascots and their uniforms. They have a collective ‘ego identity’ to drive home their devotion to the group. That’s fine; but as soon as someone becomes selfish on the court, it shows.

You should also be selfless and self aware enough to recognize that if you have a LeBron on your team, paradoxically, there are times where you want that person to take the reigns and be selfish — if they didn’t, it would be detrimental to the unit. The key here is to know one another so well that every member knows every other members genius. The best teams are teams of individual ace operatives who do what they do better than anyone else, but who also understand how what they do contributes to the group at-large. These are the type of people you want to work with. These are the type of teams that really get stuff done.


To tie this back to the beginning, you might’ve noticed that all five of these principles are definitive statements of how it is. They’re written in an active, action-oriented tone — “We do this, we will do that,” they’re not empty, bland phrases like “customers rock” or “work hard.”

Also, recognize: creating your values is relatively easy; upholding and applying them to unique situations as they come up at work in real-time – hard. But the reason you need to be thinking about this is because you need to stand for something or you’re fall for anything.

I’ve heard ‘many an entrepreneur’ tell stories about how they skipped values and skipped culture during blitzscaling and paid steep prices later – whether people stealing from them, lack of communication, or rogue actions down the road. Any of these poses ruinous risk to the asset you’re trying to build. So, start with culture and values now. And when you’re living and breathing your values throughout everything you do, you’ll simply attract those same kinds of principled people. These are people who will become purveyors of your values among your organization — not because you had to teach them, but because they already have them too, and by virtue of you emanating that energy yourself, and making your stance known, others become empowered to do the same.

Grab your copy of my book, CONTENT CAPITALIST, set to release April 16. It’s on pre-sale now.

Michael Becker
Michael is an entrepreneur, creator economy expert, and author of CONTENT CAPITALIST. In his 10-year B2B SaaS career, he’s worked with global enterprises and new startups, helping lead to four acquisitions including Emarsys’ half-a-billion-dollar sale to SAP. In 2018, following a personal awakening, he created New Earth Knowledge™, which he grew to 60k followers before exiting in 2023. Michael holds a BA in Communications from Butler University and resides in Dubai, UAE. You can follow him on Instagram where he shares minimalist insights and illustrations, @officialmbecker.


  1. Great points! I find the focus on values as a non-negotiable core particularly important. This aligns with recent research showing strong links between employee engagement, retention, and company values. For example, a Sogolytics study found that employees who find purpose in their work are 37% more engaged and 74% more likely to stay with their employer. This study shows purpose-driven work is a key driver of engagement and retention, even beyond salary incentives.

    Would love to hear your thoughts on how to integrate purpose-driven work into your company values.


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