Principles: Life and Work written by Ray Dalio. When I picked up the book I was thinking what an successful Hedge Fund Manager would be speaking of principles. You know when you are young you are more reckless, rash and irresponsible but as you age you become mature, gain wisdom and then midlife crisis occurs and then you start evaluating your life and try to tell yourself that you had values and you had lived a very life following principles and all the so called rules of society. But this book does not chastise you about your failure to implement principles but instead impart you a different vision and perspective to understand the significance of having principles in your life and work. These principles would constantly be evolving throughout your life journey.
Ray Dalio challenges the usual norm of our thinking :
While most others seem to believe that learning what we are taught is the path to success, I believe that figuring out for yourself what you want and how to get it is a better path.
While most others seem to believe that having answers is better than having questions, I believe that having questions is better than having answers because it leads to more learning.
While most others seem to believe that mistakes are bad things, I believe mistakes are good things because I believe that most learning comes via making mistakes and reflecting on them.
While most others seem to believe that finding out about one’s weaknesses is a bad thing, I believe that it is a good thing because it is the first step toward finding out what to do about them and not letting them stand in your way. While most others seem to believe that pain is bad, I believe that pain is required to become stronger.
He belittles about his success in the following manner:
Yes, I started Bridgewater from scratch, and now it’s a uniquely successful company and I am on the Forbes 400 list. But these results were never my goals—they were just residual outcomes.
He explains us why and how human beings are capable of success and how to make progress:
The most important quality that differentiates successful people from unsuccessful people is our capacity to learn and adapt to these things.
Unlike any other species, man is capable of reflecting on himself and the things around him to learn and adapt in order to improve. He has this capability because, in the evolution of species man’s brain developed a part that no other species has—the prefrontal cortex. It is the part of the human brain that gives us the ability to reflect and conduct other cognitive thinking. Because of this, people who can objectively reflect on themselves and others —most importantly on their weaknesses are—can figure out how to get around these weaknesses, can evolve fastest and come closer to realizing their potentials than those who can’t.
Reality + Dreams + Determination = A Successful Life
It is a fundamental law of nature that to evolve one has to push one’s limits, which is painful, in order to gain strength—whether it’s in the form of lifting weights, facing problems head-on, or in any other way.
Pain + Reflection = Progress
How big of an impediment is psychological pain to your progress?
He warns us about one of our major flaw and how it can damage us:
People who worry about looking good typically hide what they don’t know and hide their weaknesses, so they never learn how to properly deal with them and these weaknesses remain impediments in the future.
He elaborates how our decision making process can lead us to our final goals or not:
Why people who are interested in making the best possible decisions rarely are confident that they have the best possible answers.
People who overweigh the first-order consequences of their decisions and ignore the effects that the second- and subsequent-order consequences will have on their goals rarely reach their goals.
How much do you respond to 1st order consequences at the expense of 2nd and 3rd order consequences?
Successful people understand that bad things come at everyone and that it is their responsibility to make their lives what they want them to be by successfully dealing with whatever challenges they face.
How much do you let yourself off the hook rather than hold yourself accountable for your success?
In summary, I believe that you can probably get what you want out of life if you can suspend your ego and take a no-excuses approach to achieving your goals with open-mindedness, determination, and courage, especially if you rely on the help of people who are strong in areas that you are weak.
I don’t believe that limited abilities are an insurmountable barrier to achieving your goals, if you do the other things right.
The book is divided into three major parts-
1) Part 1 is about the purpose and importance of having principles in general.
2) Part 2 explains Ray Dalio’s most fundamental life principles that apply to everything he does.
3) Part 3, explains his management principles as they are being lived out at Bridgewater.
Part 3 is very deep in contentwise and very practical approach to manage people in company. He provides us with 210 management principles which we can read and reread multiple times to imbibe it in us.
It is very interesting that his last 210th principle is:
Don’t try to please everyone. Not everyone is going to be happy about every decision you make, especially the decisions that say they can’t do something.
Ray Dalio still insists that his list of principles is continuosly growing and one day he will write about his investment principles in which we are all interested so that we make Money. Ray Dalio’s approach is that one should constantly reflect some of the key questions in one’s life and answer them truthfully. He says
If you can’t do these things, you should reflect on why that is, because you probably have discovered one of your greatest impediments to getting what you want out of life.
This book is like a textbook and not an easy read because I think it should be reread to get the most of this book. I would recommend this book only to those people who are capable of truthful reflection and who can repetitively do this process of reflection.