Principles: Life and Work

June 4, 2018

Most of us strive to live our lives according to a set of fundamental beliefs, truths, and values—or principles—either passed down through upbringing or acquired through experience. But imagine taking inventory of your principles, carefully reflecting on them, and then organizing and prioritizing them in a single volume. What, for many, may seem like an impossible task, Bridgewater Associates founder Ray Dalio has accomplished in Principles: Life and Work.

A Life’s Work, In Three Acts

Originally released online in 2011 as a free “manifesto,” Dalio’s Principles has been expanded and revised into a single book comprised of three distinct but complementary parts. 

Part I, “Where I’m Coming From,” is a memoir of sorts, chronicling Dalio’s life from his childhood to his Wall Street career and eventual retirement from what is largely regarded as one of the world’s most successful hedge funds. Spanning nearly 50 years, readers are given a deeply personal account of Dalio’s humble beginnings, early failures, and behind-the-scenes successes and struggles he experienced at the helm of Bridgewater Associates.

In “Life Principles,” Part II, Dalio focuses chiefly on dealing with one’s own reality by embracing the notions of “hyperrealism,” personal accountability, self-awareness, smart decision-making, transparency, and “radical open-mindedness.” According to Dalio, understanding and embracing these principles will enable the reader to overcome the two most common obstacles to living the most fruitful life possible: knowing how to identify the best decisions and having the courage to make those decisions when given the opportunity.

The final section, Part III, “Work Principles,” goes one step further, contextualizing the aforementioned “Life Principles” through the lens of building a successful organization. In this part, Dalio essentially outlines his blueprint for creating and shaping the organizational and cultural mechanics that have driven Bridgewater for more than four decades.

Dalio’s book outlines reflections on the cause-and-effect patterns he has observed in his personal and professional life, along with the principles he has cultivated to deal with them, making it a must-read for anyone interested in strengthening leadership skills. Spanning more than 500 pages—and packed with helpful charts, tables, and summaries—Dalio’s principles are painstakingly laid out across multiple levels of detail.

A 5-Step Process for Evolving in Life (and Work)

According to Dalio, reality is comprised of a series of “evolutionary loops” that define our trajectory in life. This 5-step process, as outlined in Principles, will help ensure that you make it through these loops and enable you to resume your upward climb to growth and success.

  1. “Have Clear Goals”
  2. “Identify and Don’t Tolerate Problems”
  3. “Diagnose Problems to Get at Their Root Causes”
  4. “Design a Plan”
  5. “Push Through to Completion”

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