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.

Life Principle

Successful people are those who can go above themselves to see things objectively and manage those things to shape change.

They can take in the perspectives of others instead of being trapped in their own heads with their own biases. They are able to look objectively at what they are like--their strengths and weaknesses--and what others are like to put the right people in the right roles to achieve their goals. Once you understand how to do this you'll see that there's virtually nothing you can't accomplish. You will just have to learn how to face your realities and use the full range of resources at your disposal. For example, if you as the designer/manager discover that you as the worker can't do something well, you need to fire yourself as the worker and get a good replacement, while staying in the role of designer/ manager of your own life. You shouldn't be upset if you find out that you're bad at something--you should be happy that you found out, because knowing that and dealing with it will improve your chances of getting what you want.

If you are disappointed because you can't be the best person to do everything yourself, you are terribly naive. Nobody can do everything well. Would you want to have Einstein on your basketball team? When he fails to dribble and shoot well, would you think badly of him? Should he feel humiliated? Imagine all the areas in which Einstein was incompetent, and imagine how hard he struggled to excel even in the areas in which he was the best in the world.

Watching people struggle and having others watch you struggle can elicit all kinds of ego-driven emotions such as sympathy, pity, embarrassment, anger, or defensiveness. You need to get over all that and stop seeing struggling as something negative. Most of life's greatest opportunities come out of moments of struggle; it's up to you to make the most of these tests of creativity and character.

When encountering your weaknesses you have four choices:

  1. You can deny them (which is what most people do).
  2. You can accept them and work at them in order to try to convert them into strengths (which might or might not work depending on your ability to change).
  3. You can accept your weaknesses and find ways around them.
  4. Or, you can change what you are going after.

Which solution you choose will be critically important to the direction of your life. The worst path you can take is the first. Denial can only lead to your constantly banging up against your weaknesses, having pain, and not getting anywhere. The second--accepting your weaknesses while trying to turn them into strengths--is probably the best path if it works. But some things you will never be good at and it takes a lot of time and effort to change. The best single clue as to whether you should go down this path is whether the thing you are trying to do is consistent with your nature (i.e., your natural abilities). The third path--accepting your weaknesses while trying to find ways around them--is the easiest and typically the most viable path, yet it is the one least followed. The fourth path, changing what you are going after, is also a great path, though it requires flexibility on your part to get past your preconceptions and enjoy the good fit when you find it.

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