Ray Dalio is the founder of Bridgewater Associates. Bridgewater has done better for its investors than any other private hedge fund to date. While other funds were losing money like mad in the market crash in the first decade of the 2000s, Dalio landed his investors more than a 10％ return in the same time period. Disciplined decision making was and still is the core of Bridgewater, and is how they were able to pull this off.
Throughout the course of Dalio's career, he has taken note of each major decision he made, the result of the decision, and how to move forward from there. These notes or "principles" are where the book got its name. Take a step back and think of this. What type of person does it take to diligently note decisions being made over a lifetime? Picturing that person, you would get a solid perspective on Dalio and how he and Bridgewater operate.
It's all about trying to make the most logical decision given the most information at the time given past experience. He has optimized his day to day practices to make this the forefront of everything he does. Life, career, and relationships are all engulfed in this concept.
In business, this comes in the form of using prior decisions and results to generate models for how to make decisions in the future. This makes what is normally a very emotional world of investments a more thoughtful, logical operation. Again, this was why they were able to have a positive return for investors during the real estate crash of 2008. Their models told them that people were taking out more credit than they could afford. While other companies were taking the "sure bet" money machine that was the real estate market, Bridgewater was putting money elsewhere to avoid the looming crisis.
I was surprised to find out that Bridgewater has what they call baseball cards for each employee that have "stats" of each person, what they are good at, what they test well in, what their personality type is, and how "believable" (explained below) a person is. These cards are used to get employees on the same page for example during a meeting. You sit down with a group you're not entirely familiar with, look at everyone's baseball cards and you know who you're working with from the outset. If a decision is to be made and folks are struggling to settle on a decision, those that are the most believable are left to make the decision.
Believability is a core concept Dalio brings up many times throughout the book. Those that are believable are those that have proven success through experience and or backing from the people around them. Believability has nothing to do with seniority or years of experience, rather purely those things that should lead to the person with the best experience and track record being given the right to make the decision.
Dalio suggests that we all should view ourselves as a machine that we are tasked with managing to complete a goal. That is, you need to take yourself out of your own body and "use" your abilities / relationships as if you were your own manager. I thought this was really interesting and wise. Too often we take the day to day as it comes. A lot of times we get caught into the flow of life and forget that we have goals we want to achieve, and that by "flowing" we aren't always (read rarely) headed in the best direction to achieve said goals. This is a nice challenge to take on.
Staying in Sync
You know those times when you have something you'd like to inform a co-worker about, but you think it might hurt their feelings, embarrass them, or even get them in trouble? This is a concept discussed as "getting in sync". Bridgewater strives for openness, honesty, and healthy debate / disagreement. They have taken this to such an extent that if it is found out that you are witholding info like this from someone, there may be negative consequences. Said a different way, if you leave a meeting and think that someone said something unproductive or wrong, if you don't inform them of that and someone finds out about it, you may be fired. This is where they get the "cultish" feel that people talk about. Whoof, this one makes me uncomfortable. I know this is valuable, but this fights my nature to avoid conflict and making someone feel bad at all cost. It's important to note that they are very open and clear to new employees about this. That if you don't agree or are not on board with this, you aren't fit for the company. It's easier when everyone is expecting it, but they do report that a healthy percentage of new hires still don't make it past 1.5 years because they simply can't get used to this practice. I can certainly see why. It would be an interesting environment, though, and I think we could all use to be a bit more open and honest with people as long as we have the right intentions in helping out our teams.
I wouldn't want my children spending too much time around him, but Dalio has some great career perspective and has a very proven track record. If you come from a Christian belief system, keep your eyes open as you read through this. Dalio is not yet a God fearing man, and this shows; so don't check your logical mind at the door and blindly listen to what's being said. That said, there's some gold in here. God has a way of giving out talents that blows my mind, and I love that.
Great content, but could've been half the size and gotten all same points across.