In Principles, Life and Work, Dalio shares what he’s learned over the course of his remarkable career. He argues that life, management, economics, and investing can all be systemized into rules and understood like machines. The book’s hundreds of practical lessons, which are built around his cornerstones of “radical truth” and “radical transparency,” include Dalio laying out the most effective ways for individuals and organizations to make decisions, approach challenges, and build strong teams. He also describes the innovative tools the firm uses to bring an idea meritocracy to life, such as creating “baseball cards” for all employees that distill their strengths and weaknesses, and employing computerized decision-making systems to make believability-weighted decisions. While the book brims with novel ideas for organizations and institutions, Principles also offers a clear, straightforward approach to decision-making that Dalio believes anyone can apply, no matter what they’re seeking to achieve.
No matter our life situation, we all face problems which require a decision to be made. These decisions may be made in a split second or take weeks worth of deliberating, may be trivial and minor, or even life and death. Having guiding principles for making decisions eliminates much of the unnecessary stress and confusion caused by these choices. Many of these decisions are very common, and we do not realize the number of times they reappear throughout life. By having a set of principles used to make decisions, the decision-making process is simplified and, in a way, computerized.
In Principles, Ray Dalio begins in Part I by reflecting on his early days in life and how he got started on his path to success. Dalio guides readers through his career in the financial industry, beginning with making trades as a young man and eventually creating Bridgewater Associates, the world’s largest hedge fund in assets under management. Throughout his time at Bridgewater, Dalio realized that decisions can be better made when there are a number of set principles to follow on varying subjects. Principles is not only Dalio’s reflection on his life and what led to his successes (and failures), but also spells out the principles he uses both in his personal and professional life.
Part II: Life Principles in Principles concerns principles that can guide everyone through their lives. These principles allow us to look at life not as an uncrackable code, but rather as a somewhat predictable series of events which we repeatedly face and have previously navigated towards a decision. One of Dalio’s primary points throughout Part II, and the book as a whole, concerns a person’s duty to be open-minded. If we are closed off to others and their opinions, we not only will be alone in the world, but we will also miss learning valuable information which others could teach us.