Afterthoughts: Principles by Ray Dalio

Afterthoughts: A Room with a View by E.M. Forster

People don’t have ideas –– ideas have people

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Principles is an instructive guide on life and work drawn from the dizzying experiences of one Ray Dalio, investor extraordinaire of the last half-century.

I found the autobiographical account in this first part of the book to be interesting reading. Part of the reason why is because I enjoy reading memoirs generally, and the other is that the world of investment is worlds away from my own. Having said that, I could not help but notice how rosy Dalio’s reflections were. For everything I have heard about the working culture in high-finance, I expected some more extravagance. That said, I am probably being harsh, if I were writing an autobiography, I wouldn’t spotlight my skeletons.

In Dalio’s experience, in work and to an extent life, cultivating an idea-meritocracy is the most important thing. Inherent in such an approach contains a lot of conventional wisdom around the working world: the importance of hiring the right people, seeking contrarian perspectives, and the importance making decisions based on evidence.

An idea meritocracy requires people to do three things: 1) Put their honest thoughts on the table for everyone to see, 2) Have thoughtful disagreements where there are quality back-and-forths in which people evolve their thinking to come up with the best collective answers possible, and 3) Abide by the idea-meritocratic ways of getting past the remaining disagreements (such as the believability-weighted decision making).

If Dalio’s intention for the book was for it to be aspirational, then I think he did a great job. If, however, his goal was for it to be of practical-use, I expected a little more. The life and work principles section lacked depth. It felt like I was reading a dummies guide to life and work, and for that reason, I did not find much value in reading them given how vast they number.


Recommended. I imagine this would have been far more resonant a book earlier in life, with the life and work experience I possess now, there were very few ideas or conceptualisations that I found novel. For this coming into this with a similar background, I recommend skipping the actual principles sections and just enjoy the memoir part of Principles.

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