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

Adaptation through rapid trial and error is invaluable.

Natural selection’s trial-and-error process allows improvement without anyone understanding or guiding it. The same can apply to how we learn. There are at least three kinds of learning that foster evolution: memory-based learning (storing the information that comes in through one’s conscious mind so that we can recall it later); subconscious learning (the knowledge we take away from our experiences that never enters our conscious minds, though it affects our decision making); and “learning” that occurs without thinking at all, such as the changes in DNA that encode a species’ adaptations. I used to think that memory-based, conscious learning was the most powerful, but I’ve since come to understand that it produces less rapid progress than experimentation and adaptation. To give you an example of how nature improves without thinking, just look at the struggle that mankind (with all its thinking) has experienced in trying to outsmart viruses (which don’t even have brains). Viruses are like brilliant chess opponents. By evolving quickly (combining different genetic material across different strains), they keep the smartest minds in the global health community busy thinking up countermoves to hold them off. Understanding that is especially helpful in an era when computers can run large numbers of simulations replicating the evolutionary process to help us see what works and what doesn’t.

Life Principle

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Life Principles

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