On Principles – by Ray Dalio

I recently read Ray Dalio’s “Principles”.


I highly recommend this long article to anyone who seeks to find ways to manage their time/resources efficiently and/or wants to improve their management skills. There are too many truths from this article, most of which I could relay to and a few I am looking forward to experience.

1) Truth—more precisely, an accurate understanding of reality— is the essential foundation for producing good outcomes.
“Most people especially dislike others exploring their weaknesses because it makes them feel attacked, which produces fight or flight reactions; however, having others help one find one’s weaknesses is essential because it’s very difficult to identify one’s own. Most people don’t like helping others explore their weaknesses, even though they are willing to talk about them behind their backs. For these reasons most people don’t do a good job of understanding themselves and adapting in order to get what they want most out of life. In my opinion, that is the biggest single problem of mankind because it, more than anything else, impedes people’s abilities to address all other problems and it is probably the greatest source of pain for most people.”
I have met many “nice people” in my life. However, I have always strive to be a “fair person” instead of a “nice person”. Being a “fair person” means stick with the truth and let it come out when appropriate, not being overly agreeable, push others towards success and help them be better. If you think I am not “nice”, you are in luck, because I must have worked with you and told you some truths you did not want to hear, or others wanted but have never told you. There are times I got criticized by others because I told them what they did not want to hear. (e.g. I told some of my lady friends that they were not good at playing strategic games; I told some of my colleagues they lacked macro-level industry knowledge; I told some of my college classmates they’d better get out of accounting. ) I only told them that because I actually care about them, and because I see their potentials. Otherwise I won’t even bother wasting my time. I don’t have the habit of talking behind people’s back because I already told them most of the things. Similarly, I demand the same from my friends, and people around me. I appreciate feedbacks, feedbacks to write better in English, feedbacks to improve presentation skills, feedbacks to better manage my resources. In recent years, I have become better at hinting and better at the ways I let truths come out. I guess that comes with maturity.
Ray sums up this part accurately – “More than anything else, what differentiates people who live up to their potential from those who don’t is a willingness to look at themselves and others objectively.”
2) The quality of our lives depends on the quality of the decisions we make.
“People who choose what they really want, and avoid the temptations and get over the pains that drive them away from what they really want, are much more likely to have successful lives.”
I can’t say I am the best at decision-making. I have made mistakes in the past and had suffered from some of them. But I am proud that I made quite a few great choices that have changed my path forever. For example, spent time to practice piano and Math when I was young, surround myself with people who are better than me in certain aspects, limit the times I speak Mandarin to learn English when I just moved to Canada, asked for the opportunity to leave Toronto and move to Houston then to Taipei, spent money on travelling instead of owning a nice car…
Temptations? There are many. Temptations to stay comfortable – to speak the language I am best at, temptations to be surrounded by my friends, temptations to play, temptations to be admired for having a nice ride.
3) If I had to pick just one quality that those who make the right choices have, it is character. Character is the ability to get one’s self to do the difficult things that produce the desired results.
Some of the mentors and friends I respect the most, are people who have characters. They don’t blend in with the mainstream. Their thoughts are mature. Their opinions are innovative. If you talk to them once or listen to their stories, you will remember them. Often, they are also the ones who lived the most fulfilling lives. Knowledge takes years to acquire, yet character takes a life time to build.
What are investors looking for? Who do employers want to hire? Who would employees stay late for? Who do intelligent people want to be friends with? Who do all the mentors looking to nurture?
People with character.
There are many brilliant ideas. There are many business opportunities. There are tons of great jobs. There are many innovations. There are enough capitals to utilize.
What is the world lacking?
People with character.
No matter where you are, what you are doing, what difficulties you are facing, what problems you look to conquer. You have the opportunity to achieve what you want with just one tool – character. (Actually, you need two things, the other one is health…)
4) Understand that the ability to deal with not knowing is far more powerful than knowing.
In psychology class, my professor told us the most scary thing in the world is not failure, but uncertainty. This explains why dealing with not knowing is more powerful than knowing, because it forces one to see beyond the know, to venture outside one’s comfort zone, and find solutions to change the reality. We don’t need people who can memorize 1,000 books. We need people who could piece words into magic. We don’t need people who know what happen in the past 100 years with markets. We need people who know what to do when the next market crash happens. (knowing the past 100 years would definitely help here, but it won’t guarantee a success) We don’t need people who know there are 20 problems with the company. We need people who could provide viable solutions to fix those problems.
To know, you just need to learn. But to deal with the unknown, you need to learn, innovate, execute, pivot, and mostly importantly – take responsibility. There are many intellects who can do amazing analysis, talk in 4,5 languages, present with sleekest slides. But there are few who are willing to take responsibilities. It’s easy to blame others, blame circumstances, blame the level of difficulties, downward compare, after one experiences failure. But if an intelligent person could shoulder responsibility, lead a team to take calculated risk to explore the unknown, that person would be a true leader.

To sum up this part – “By and large, life will give you what you deserve and it doesn’t give a damn what you “like.” So it is up to you to take full responsibility to connect what you want with what you need to do to get it, and then to do those things—which often are difficult but produce good results—so that you’ll then deserve to get what you want.”

If fortune permits, I would like to practice more of the principles outlined in the article. I hope one day I could become as influential as Ray Dalio.


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