"Principles: Life and Work" by Ray Dalio

Review by Borodutch

I finally got to read the life and work principles by Ray Dalio after I read his investment principles a while ago. Mostly, this book is a manager's dream! Processes, processes, processes — bureaucracy, bureaucracy, bureaucracy. Neverending protocols and algorithms are made to be followed by machines but applied to humans.

This book is very confusing in the sense that it does contain some good ideas — but mostly, it's just the halo effect and overgeneralization on Ray's end. The author has got lucky multiple times through a set of fortunate events and his preparation to seize them. Most likely, less than 10% of the "principles" outlined brought over 99% of the profit at Bridgewater (the author's investment company that did insanely well). Yet, Ray attributes his and his company's successes to all the principles.

For instance, the author emphasizes how the infamous Myers-Briggs test improved his organization and allowed him to manage people more effectively. I hope by now everybody knows that Myers-Briggs is a sham. What Ray ended up doing was pigeon-holing the whole company! And he presents this as a good thing! However, any rationally thinking human being can also hypothesize that Bridgewater has succeeded despite pigeon-holing employees, not thanks to it. Unfortunately, this isn't the only example of seemingly "logical" yet falsified "facts" being presented in the book as truth.

I'm even more disappointed because Dalio tries his best to explain and use various cognitive biases and psychology yet fails to recognize a fake fact when he sees one. He encourages everybody to make decisions based on data, yet fails at this task himself — and at the most crucial parts of his principles, in their foundational ideas. He makes a colossal survivorship bias mistake by not considering looking at other companies and people that followed the tenets yet miserably failed.

Overall, the book's story is entertaining — I became more familiar with how Ray thought and where he was coming from. The later part of the book is a bit dry on principles — but that's ok. It's not the driest book I've read. Also, the author encourages the readers to write down their principles and modify or follow them, which is very sound advice.

Do I recommend reading "Principles" by Ray Dalio? Well, if you want to read more about Ray's biography, go through his Wikipedia article. Read this recap if you want to learn about his principles without surrounding availability and survivorship biases. Want better life principles? Read the CZ's principles. I cannot recommend the book because of how many false things are expressed hidden among good enough pieces of advice. If one follows all of Ray's principles, one will end up as a mediocre machine, not a successful human being.