Ray Dalio: Why Principles?

Ray Dalio: Why Principles?

Ray Dalio on his book Principles: Life and Work

Also see his favorite books here

Reality works as reality works. In order to be successful, you need to know how reality works and operate by principles for dealing with it that get you what you want.

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I'm now at a stage in my life where I want to pass along the principles that helped me be successful rather than to be more successful myself. For that reason, I'm passing along a way of being with oneself and others that has been the reason behind my and Bridgewater's successes and can work equally well for most anyone.

To understand why I want to pass this along, imagine if you felt that you had discovered a cure for one of the greatest diseases plaguing mankind and you didn't want it to die with you.  That's how I feel.  I feel that it is my responsibility at this stage in life to pass along the principles that helped me.  It’s up to others to assess them and decide what to do with them.

If you haven't yet read and judged Principles for yourself, I suggest you scan some of the assessments made by others, including those of some of the most successful people in the world in a wide range of domains, which you can find here: https://www.principles.com/endorsements/, so you can get an idea of the value of what you're missing.

Principles is all about having clarity and alignment of principles and actions—alignment with yourself and with the other people who are important to you.  By having good principles, and having them clearly articulated and regularly connected to one's actions so that one's actions are consistent with them, one will operate effectively. Further, by comparing one's clearly-articulated principles and actions with others' principles and actions, one can see where alignments exist and where they don't. Misalignments can then be worked through if people understand the art of thoughtful disagreement and have protocols for resolving disagreements in idea-meritocratic ways. When alignment of great principles exists between one's individual actions and one's collective actions, extraordinarily effective work and extraordinarily effective relationships result.  Without this alignment, dysfunction exists.

So what are those principles that work best?  Though that is for each person and each organization to decide for themselves, in Principles I explain those life and work principles that worked terrifically for me and my company.  Since there are different principles for each type of situation encountered, there are a lot of them in Principles, which is why it is typically used as a reference book—i.e., whenever a particular type of situation arises, the user looks up the principles about how to handle that type of situation and reflects on it. But I'd like to highlight some of the most important ones:

1) Idea-meritocratic decision-making is best type of decision making.  Operating in an idea-meritocratic way—i.e. a way in which the best ideas determine what is done without egoistic attachments to one's own options—is extremely powerful.  Conversely, one of the greatest tragedies of man is when people hold on to wrong opinions and make bad decisions based on them because they're biased to believe them.  Once you realize that the most important thing is for you to make the best decisions possible and that they don't have to come from you, you will open yourself to learning and better decision making.

This idea-meritocratic decision making can be done individually in making one's own decisions or collectively in making the group's decisions.  To make it work as well as possible people have to 1) put their honest thoughts out on the table for everyone to see, 2) have thoughtful disagreements where there are quality back-and-forths in which people evolve their thinking to come up with the best collective ideas possible, and 3) abide by idea-meritocratic protocols to resolve disagreements that remain.  Of these, knowing how to have thoughtful disagreements is most important.

2) Having thoughtful disagreements with the smartest people you can find who disagree with you to stress test your thinking and to learn will raise your odds of making the best decisions possible. When two people disagree, chances are that one of them is wrong; it pays to find out if that someone is you. Knowing how to have thoughtful disagreement well is invaluable. Most importantly, your goal is not to convince the other party that you’re right—it is to find out which view is true and decide what to do about it. Approaching disagreement in this way is incredibly powerful because it produces a tremendous amount of learning and leads to better thinking than one can come up with alone. Conversely, it’s tragic that it doesn’t happen more often; mostly because people are afraid of conflict and reluctant to disagree. Knowing how to thoughtfully disagree would so easily lead to radically improved decision making and more harmony in all areas—family and friend relationships, companies and other organizations, public policy, politics, medicine, science, philanthropy, and more.

3) Being radically truthful and radically transparent will lead to better decision making and better relationships.  If people say what they really think and show what they're really doing, it will help to ensure the alignment that makes everything operate a lot more efficiently and ethically.  Shining light on things eliminates the bad stuff that happens when things go on in the dark. That builds trust. Radical truthfulness and radical transparency are also essential for an idea-meritocracy to exist, and the power of an idea-meritocracy is enormous, so you're going to want to be in one.

These concepts are fleshed out in Principles. They are a just three of a large number of that have served me and Bridgewater well.  For example, there are also principles about a 5-Step Process for turning failures into successes, about dealing well with reality, about learning how people are wired different, and about managing effectively.

Unfortunately, I can't explain all them in this limited space, which is why I wrote the book.  If you haven't read it, I hope you will so you can assess for yourself how valuable it will be in helping you and others.  Once you read it, we can talk about these principles here on social media. Then if you find Principles and our discussions about them valuable, I hope that you will pass them along so we can broaden the exploration of what's true and how to best deal with it.

Article by Ray Dalio, LinkedIn

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