Principles by Ray Dalio

I got a copy of Ray Dalio’s Principles for Christmas this year, and I’ve been keeping it very near to my desk over the past six months. The book is a list of the rules that Ray has come up with in his personal and professional life over the past 40 years as the founder and CEO of Bridgewater Capital, one of the most successful and important investment firms in the world.

Dalio made the podcast rounds last year after his book came out, showing up on Tim Ferris’s and a few others. Then I started hearing his book mentioned by others about how good it was, so I decided to put it on my Christmas list. It’s as good as gold.

The book is three parts: the first, a brief biography and history of Bridgewater; the second is his life principles, and the last, almost half the book, is his work principles. In the intro, Ray invites the reader to skip past his bio and get right into the core of the book, which I gladly did. The physical book itself is laid out very well as well, black and white and red colors, with not one but two ribbons (black and red) to be used as bookmarks.

The center of the book has a summary of the life and work principles for easy reference, about 20 pages in total. A lot of thought has gone into the layout, and they’re grouped together in a orderly and consistent fashion. One can either skip to the principle one’s most interested in, or do as I did, and read straight through. I actually started with parts two and three before finishing part one.

But enough about the book itself.

Ray’s Principles have a couple of overarching themes, the two that most struck me were around his ideas of radical transparency and automating your decision-making process. The concept of radical truth comes from the principal of ’embracing reality and dealing with it,’ which he says is ‘invaluable for rapid learning and effective change’. He uses a type of OODA-loop for planning, executing, gathering feedback, and planning the next iteration, for which this is valuable. But the impact of this transparency in work and personal relationships is important as well. It’s also about being open-minded, both to avoid convincing yourself that you are right, and to accept feedback from people who are more ‘believable’ about certain topics that you. This topic of believability comes up in many principles, and is most relevant when it comes to settling disagreements.

The sections under the section titled ‘to build and evolve your machine’ are my favorite, and are ones that I keep coming back to in my day-to-day life. It’s helped me to step back and focus on my life and work as a system, allowing me to do a sort of meta-analysis around my daily habits and routines, and around the business processes that I take part of at work. As someone involved with a small business, the ‘perceive and don’t tolerate problems’ principle is one I’m taking very seriously. There’s a lot of leadership and management stuff in here as well that I’ve tried to incorporate as well.

I’ve been treating Principles as sort of an operating manual. It serves as a workbook for thinking about the way that I interact with colleagues and how I approach my job. I’ve been trying to get buy-in with my team, and have considered buying everyone a copy in order to do so. Dailo has given a great gift to the world with this book, and I cannot give it a higher recommendation.

You can get a digital copy of the book via the IOS app.

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