Life Principles from Ray Dalio

I’ve just finished the first half of Ray Dalio’s book Principles. It’s great! In the book, he goes into a huge amount of detail and reiterates the points, in a valuable way. I recommend it. My paraphrasing of Ray’s summary of Life Principles:

In order to have the best life possible, you have to: 1) Know what the best decisions are and 2) Have the courage to make them.

Since the same kinds of situations happen over and over again, similar decisions can be made. A few well-thought-out principles allow us to deal with just about anything reality throws at us. Where these principles come from doesn’t matter as much as using them consistently. Never stop refining and improving them!

To acquire principles that work, it is essential that you embrace reality and deal with it well. Don’t fall into the common trap of wishing that reality works differently than it does or that your own realities are different. Making the most of your circumstances is what life is all about. Be transparent with your thoughts and open-mindedly accept feedback from others, which dramatically increases learning.

Along the journey, we will inevitably experience painful failures. Failure can either be the impetus to fuel personal evolution or it can ruin us, depending on how we react to it. Ray sees evolution as the greatest force in the universe and that we all evolve in the same way. Conceptually, think of evolution as a series of loops that can lead upward towards constant improvement. Flat or even downward trending loops are also possible though. We determine the evolution trajectory by our approach to failure.

Our evolutionary process can be described as a 5-step process for getting what we want. 1) Setting goals, 2) identifying and tolerating problems, 3) diagnosing problems, 4) coming up with designs to get around them and 5) doing the tasks required. No one does all these steps perfectly. It is possible to rely on others for help. Different people with different abilities working well together make the most powerful machines to produce achievements. If we’re willing to confront reality and accept the pain that comes with this and follow the 5-step process to drive towards goals, then we’re on the path to success.

Most people fail to do this because we hold misguided opinions that could easily be rectified by going above ourselves to objectively look down at a situation, weighing what others also think to get a different point of view. It is for this reason that Ray recommends radical open-mindedness. Our biggest barriers to being radically open-minded are our ego barrier and blind spot barrier.

The ego barrier is our innate desire to be capable and have others recognise as much. The blind spot barrier is the result of seeing things through our own subjective lenses. Both barriers prevent us from seeing reality as it really is and the most important antidote is to be radically open-minded. Open-mindedness is the genuine concern that we might not be viewing our choices optimally. It is the ability to explore different points of view and possibilities without letting our ego or blind spots get in the way.

Doing this well requires practising thoughtful disagreement – seeking out brilliant people who disagree with us in order to see things through their eyes and gain a deeper understanding of the problem at hand. Doing this raises the probability of making good decisions and provides a great education.

Being radically open-minded also requires an accurate self-assessment of your own and others strengths and weaknesses. Understanding something about how the brain works, like using psychometric tests, helps. To get the best results out of yourself and others, you must understand that people are wired very differently.

In a nutshell, learning how to make decisions in the best possible way and learning to have the courage to make them comes from A) going after what we want, B) failing and reflecting well through radical open-mindedness and C) changing/evolving to become ever more capable and ever less fearful.


Ray, “I hope these principles will help you struggle well and get all the joy you can out of life.”

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