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Book Review: Principles by Ray Dalio

I received a gift of a book recently – Ray Dalio’s Principles. Funny, though, as my bud handed it to me realizing that it was a hefty book, and he knew how much I enjoyed audiobooks. However, I do love a good physical book so I can take notes on or re-read/ review. (Kindle e-books included.) Well, Jeremy, I listened to the e-book for this one, too. 😊 But are taking notes and reviewing the hardback you gifted.

I enjoyed Ray’s book based on his leadership and the principles he instilled while leading his company Bridgewater from the ground to a 1,600+ behemoth in the financial world. What was inspiring to read, too, was how he initially co-founded the company but early on, had to let everyone go including his co-founder who left as not much money was coming in. Ray had to rebuild his team from just one (himself) to the company it is today.

The book is can be broken up into a few parts – his and Bridgewater’s story before diving into the personal and business principles. There are hundreds of principles that grounds the company in its business dealings, and that enables it to continue to thrive.

In any case, here are a few of my take-aways:
  • Like Patrick Lencioni in his book The Advantage, Ray finds personal assessments to be highly informative. Each assessment provides a view into the strengths and weaknesses of team members, which enables Ray’s team to build teams to deliver the best outcomes. He takes a lot of the personal and politics out of the equation and leans into data.
  • Ray is a fan of leveraging artificial intelligence. Really, he’s a fan of blending both computer systems with human intelligence and interactions. He started building his forecasting and analytics systems from the start – continuously training it to perfect forecasting. He’s able to leverage opposing outcomes from either “system” to dive into what could be missing or inaccurate. Meanwhile, agreeing results from both systems gives high confidence of known outcomes.
  • One of the biggest drivers of Ray and Bridgewater’s success is the idea of radical transparency. This means that personal assessments are completely out in the open so that team members understand how each other acts and works. Transparency enables teams to make mistakes, but own up to them so the rest of the team can learn and prevent future similar mistakes.
  • Meritocracy over autocracy for Bridgewater. Here, all associates at Bridgewater has the ability to challenge authority as long as there is clear merit in the person and the process. This is also where Ray leans into his belief that credence should be given to those who have demonstrated success in at least three occasions of some task/ venture. I touched on this in one of my previous posts in how this affects how I feel in my own ability to coach. But thinking about this idea, Ray has also only had “one” entrepreneurial/ business success (with Bridgewater)… not three. 😉
There are many, many principles in the book (just as the title implies). It’s best not to try to adhere to all of the principles from the get go. Heck, it may not make sense to adopt any of the principles. It’s important realize whatever principles make sense (for me, you, whoever). However, it’s a constant practice to not only align myself to my principles, but also ensuring a company is aligned. And much like Bridgewater, if some principle should be rescinded or updated, it’s all possible as long as there is merit and transparency to the process.

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