Black and white portrait of Ray Dalio: Narrator and Creator of Life Principles

Principles are ways of successfully dealing with reality to get what you want out of life.

Ray Dalio, one of the world’s most successful investors and entrepreneurs, cites principles as his key to success.

Work Principle

Perceive and Don't Tolerate Problems

On your way to your goals, you will inevitably encounter problems. To be successful you must perceive and not tolerate them. Problems are like coal thrown into a locomotive engine because burning them up—inventing and implementing solutions for them—propels us forward. Every problem you find is an opportunity to improve your machine.

For a lot of people identifying problems is difficult to do. Most people would rather celebrate all the things that are going well while sweeping problems under the rug. Those people have their priorities exactly backward, and there is little that can be more harmful to an organization. Don’t undermine your progress in pursuit of a pat on the back; celebrate finding out what is not going well so you can make it go better. Thinking about problems that are difficult to solve may make you anxious, but not thinking about them (and therefore not dealing with them) should make you even more anxious.

Having this kind of anxiety about what can go wrong is extremely useful. It is what drives one to develop systems and metrics for monitoring the outcomes your machine is producing and motivates those who manage well to constantly taste-test the outputs of the system and to look for problems in its nooks and crannies. Having that constant worry and doing the double-checking is important to maintaining quality control. Making sure that little problems don’t exist is important because, if they’re allowed to continue, they will grow into big problems.

The existence of a problem — whether from a flaw in the design of one’s machine or from one’s own or others’ inabilities—is not shameful. Acknowledging a weakness isn’t the same thing as accepting it. It’s a necessary first step toward overcoming it. The pain one feels, whether from shame and embarrassment, or frustration at one’s inability to get the better of it, is like the pain one feels at getting flabby that motivates one to go to the gym.

Work Principle

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Life Principles

Work Principles

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