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

Think for yourself to decide 1) what you want, 2) what is true, and 3) what you should do to achieve #1 in light of #2. . .

. . . and do that with humility and open-mindedness so that you consider the best thinking available to you. Being clear on your principles is important because they will affect all aspects of your life, many times a day. For example, when you enter into relationships with others, your principles and their principles will determine how you interact. People who have shared values and principles get along. People who don't will suffer through constant misunderstandings and conflicts. Think about the people you are closest to: Are their values aligned with yours? Do you even know what their values or principles are? Too often in relationships, people's principles aren't clear. This is especially problematic in organizations where people need to have shared principles to be successful. Being crystal clear about my principles is why I labored so much over every sentence in this book.

The principles you choose can be anything you want them to be as long as they are authentic--i.e., as long as they reflect your true character and values. You will be faced with millions of choices in life, and the way you make them will reflect the principles you have--so it won't be long before the people around you will be able to tell the principles you are really operating by. The worst thing you can be is a phony, because if you're a phony you will lose people's trust and your own self-respect. So you must be clear about your principles and then you must "walk the talk." If inconsistencies seem to exist, you should explain them. It's best to do that in writing because by doing so, you will refine your written principles.

While I will be sharing my own principles, I want to make clear to you that I don't expect you to follow them blindly. On the contrary, I want you to question every word and pick and choose among these principles so you come away with a mix that suits you.


I learned my principles over a lifetime of making a lot of mistakes and spending a lot of time reflecting on them. Since I was a kid, I've been a curious, independent thinker who ran after audacious goals. I got excited about visualizing things to go after, had some painful failures going after them, learned principles that would prevent me from making the same sort of mistakes again, and changed and improved, which allowed me to imagine and go after even more audacious goals and do that rapidly and repeatedly for a long time. So to me life looks like the sequence you see here.

I believe that the key to success lies in knowing how to both strive for a lot and fail well. By failing well, I mean being able to experience painful failures that provide big learnings without failing badly enough to get knocked out of the game.

This way of learning and improving has been best for me because of what I'm like and because of what I do. I've always had a bad rote memory and didn't like following other people's instructions, but I loved figuring out how things work for myself. I hated school because of my bad memory but when I was twelve I fell in love with trading the markets. To make money in the markets, one needs to be an independent thinker who bets against the consensus and is right. That's because the consensus view is baked into the price. One is inevitably going to be painfully wrong a lot, so knowing how to do that well is critical to one's success. To be a successful entrepreneur, the same is true: One also has to be an independent thinker who correctly bets against the consensus, which means being painfully wrong a fair amount. Since I was both an investor and an entrepreneur, I developed a healthy fear of being wrong and figured out an approach to decision making that would maximize my odds of being right.

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