This book is effectively a field manual on how to lead and govern an organization from an idea-meritocratic point of view. It covers “principles” that were used to guide Ray Dalio’s company Bridgewater to the heights of success and Ray to one of the richest men alive.
I went into this book quite skeptical mainly due to the level of attention it was getting. A lot of attention can mean a number of different things. I’ve seen it mean that the book is really good. I’ve also seen attention be the result of a very good marketing campaign for a really bad book. It reminded me of Zero to One by Peter Thiel, a book that for me did not live up to anywhere near the amount of love it received, imho. But, I needn’t have feared. From the outset, this was an interesting book.
Principles covers three main sections:
- Ray’s biography
- Life principles
- Work principles
Ray’s biography section was fascinating and had me hooked. As head of Bridgewater, he successfully predicted the 1987 market crash and the 2008 financial crisis. His forecasting was such that world leaders would meet with him for his unique perspective. And one thing I thought was really cool, he met with Walter Isaacson in order to learn more about the leadership styles of Steve Jobs and Benjamin Franklin, men whom Isaacson had written biographies.
The principles sections listed out principles that Ray and Bridgewater have refined and adhered to for the past 40 years.
One of the things that stuck out most was how Bridgewater’s success was not an accident. I doubt many companies have their working principles written out with this level of detail. The companies I’ve been associated with most certainly did not have anything close. The list of principles seems exhaustive, covering everything from hiring to personality testing to governance. I found some principles challenging (as I know my people-pleasing self would have a tough time with them) yet necessary. Ray makes it clear that these are the principles that worked for Bridgewater, so take them or leave them. But whatever you do, have your principles be your guiding force.
I see this book mainly being for those who do or desire to run a company. It’s top-level content for how to lead.
I’ve been keeping a secret list of books that I would require for an MBA program. I’m pretty sure this book would be on the reading list because it covers so many important details of running a company or organization. It makes you think of things you’ve never even considered. For me as someone who has worked for myself for the past 10 years, it made me want to become part of a larger work organization. It’s a relatively long book (552 pages), but well-worth the read and is one where you can skip around to areas where you may have more of an interest.
If you are interested in learning more about Ray Dalio, he has a 30-min video up called “How the Economic Machine Works.” This video has been viewed over 5 million times.
This is book 8 of 52 of Erik’s 2018 Books of Titans reading list.