David Mytton

Book Review (4/5) – Principles: Life and Work (Ray Dalio)

Published in Book Reviews.

Originally published on Goodreads.

My main takeaway was that it is important to take time to think through your own principles and understand how they can be applied to your daily life for both short and long term projects, tasks and goals. Dalio has clear been incredibly successful at applying this approach and it is therefore a useful case study to understand how he has gone about converting those more abstract principles into an operating system for himself and his company.

The idea of unemotional disagreement to determine the best course of action is something I learned from The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable and Death by Meeting: A Leadership Fable…about Solving the Most Painful Problem in Business and have applied in my own business as perhaps the single most important transformation I’ve ever implemented. Dalio has more or less the same approach but describes it in a more verbose and prescriptive manner. If you don’t already work in this way then I would suggest reading Patrick Lencioni first (or even instead) because his two books are more concise. 

That said, Dalio adds a new element of “believability weighting” which is important because people’s opinions should not be considered equal – their background, experience and skill determines how much weight should be applied.

If you work for Bridgewater then this is a good employee manual but if you don’t, it may be difficult to replicate precisely within your own organisation because there are insufficient examples of how it works in practice. I was disappointed that he regularly mentions tools like Dot Collector and Baseball cards but then doesn’t go into enough detail to explain how they could be implemented from scratch. That knowledge is assumed, although he says he will be releasing the source code in due course. 

Articulating how to develop and articulate your own principles is something unique from Dalio and so this deserves a high rating for the first book. However, the second book is essentially a Bridgewater employee handbook which has insufficient examples and too much detail about the principles in abstract to be applied elsewhere.