While flying from DEN to DFW today I began reading Principles — a short “book” on management (and life) by Ray Dalio, founder & CEO of Bridgewater Associates.

The book is arranged in three parts:

  1. The Importance of Principles
  2. My [Ray’s] Most Fundamental Life Principles
  3. My [Ray’s] Management Principles

As I began to read the first section it occurred to me that this isn’t something I ever really thought about. In many ways I just operate on auto-pilot, and I’ve never taken the time to really consider (or document) my actual values (in life or anything else really).

Adding to that…I’m not a religious person1, but I know I have a strong conscience and aim to be thoughtful and considerate in nearly every aspect of life. That said, I don’t really have many concrete principles to look back to when difficult situations arise. I handle them (as many likely do) on a case by case basis—drawing from past experiences and general values that I could only articule on the spot.

About two pages in I stumbled upon this footnote:

I wish everyone wrote down their principles. I wish I could read and compare the principles of all the people I’m interested in—Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, people running for political office, people I share my life with, etc. I’d love to know what they value most and what principles they use to get what they want. Imagine how great that would be—e.g. imagine how much valuable fundamental thinking could be harnessed. I hope that my doing this will encourage others to do the same.

What a cool concept. Count me in.

It’s worth noting a couple gems in the pages that followed (that I could get to before landing).

On truth:

In short, I learned that being totally truthful, especially about mistakes and weaknesses, led to a rapid rate of improvement and movement toward what I wanted.

On mistakes:

While most others seem to believe that mistakes are bad things, I believe mistakes are good things because I believe that most learning comes via making mistakes and reflecting on them.

Good stuff. Certainly more on this to come…

  1. Perhaps this is why I’m so intrgiued with this whole idea :eyeglasses:. Also, that statment isn’t entirely accurate…but that’s obviously a much bigger discussion that has no place in this post.