Bookcover - Principles


by Ray Dalio

Rating: 9/10


The book is split into 3 parts - the personal history of Ray Dalio, his work principles and his life principles. To me, the most interesting part of the book is, where he details his life principles. Beautiful ideas and mental models of how to live a good life fill the pages.

Because of Ray Dalio, I have various mental images burnt into my brain.

My most cherished idea from the book can be summed up in a quote:

Think for yourself to decide 1) what ou want, 2) what is true, and 3) what you should do to achieve #1 in light of #2, and do that with humility and open-mindedness so that you consider the best thinking available to you.

Other ideas from the book include the upward spiral of growth, failure, feedback and growth. Or the negative downward spiral of the same, when the feedback is neglected. As well as the idea that failure is inevitable and the question is just how do you deal with it, how do you recover from it?

Or the mental model that everything is just "another one of those" meaning that you can find patterns and extrapolations in the world when you pay close attention to things. And that knowing those patterns, even if they are just a few holds immense value and power. In a way that's what science is about. And in a way that's also what life is about, extracting useful patterns from a chaotic environment and then thriving on the exploitation of those patterns to better acquire resources to grow and adapt. See also Tegmark's - Life 3.0 or Mitchell Waldrop's Complexity for more ideas of the same vein.

But the book has much more to offer such as the differences between people and how their brains work, and that something obvious to one person might be a completely intractable problem to somebody else. And that you have to take this into account if you want to avoid misunderstandings. This is a theme, "discovered" over and over again in other books as well such as Dale Carnegie's How To Win Friends and Influence People or Steven Covey's 7 Habits.

Or the equation for a successful life:

Dreams + Reality + Determination = A Successful Life

Or the idea that we are a machine, within a machine, but that we have the power to change many many things about the exact workings of those machines, which might be painful and take a lot of work, but still the possibilities are there and they are pretty much endless if we only act upon them.

Or the "5-Step Process to Get What You Want out of Life":

  1. Clear goals
  2. Identify Problems
  3. Diagnose and fix them
  4. Plan ahead
  5. Push through

A few of the work principles are also worth noting here in the summary:

  • Organizations are machines. They consist of the interactions between people and culture.
  • Organizations should be idea-meritocracies. Ray Dalio has a simple equation for what that means.

Idea Meritocracy = Radical Truth + Radical Transparency + Believability Weighted Decision Making

  • Getting the culture "right" requires radical truth, radical transparency, meaningful work and relationships and the ability to make and learn from mistakes.
  • Getting the people "right" requires good hiring because the who is more important than the what. Reminds me a lot of Good to Great by Jim Collins. It also requires constant training, testing, evaluating and sorting.

Managing an organizational machine should be done with a goal in mind. Organizations are tools to achieve goals together, and just like any other tool, they will wear down over time. So they, just like other machines, need constant work, attention and effort to be put in.

The best parts of the book are the few pages at the end of the Life and Work Principles. In a few pages, Ray Dalio gives summaries of all that came before. Perfect sections that sum up the main points, and tie everything together, in a bullet point style, exceptionally nice to review the main ideas over and over again. Because they are something to think about and chew on, something to incorporate and absorb into one's life.

Best of all, the book is filled with a treasure trove of quotes, to remember and mull about, printed on completely black pages, inviting you to stop, close the book and think about what you just read.

Let me end the summary with one of them: Principles are a guided exploration of such truths.


No notes for this one, sadly, since I read it when I didn't yet write detailed book notes. I will add them once I re-read it because it is definitely on the list of books that I have to re-read.