Here are my key takeaways from the book Principles by Ray Dalio. I recommend everyone to read this post, and perhaps the book, because it’s essentially a thorough guide about decision-making, and one could argue that the quality of your life is dependent on the quality of your decisions.
(February 2021 Update: It’s been 1.5 years since I read the book the first time, and I revisited the book and rewrote this book summary to be more concise in some lessons and to expand on other lessons. Since this post here has already been highlighted by many people, I won’t change it, but you can read the new book summary here. I hope you get some of the immense value I took away from the book!)
The book has three parts. Part 1 is about the author’s journey, aimed at setting a context for his principles. Part 2 is about his life principles, and Part 3 is about his work principles. In the context of this book, the term “principles” means decision-making guidelines.
This book is quite dense. However, the author states that readers can skip Part 1 and even Part 3. Part 2 is the main focus of the book, and he wants everyone to read that whole section. Part 3 gives a close-up view of the principles he uses in operating his company, Bridgewater. Readers can just refer to it like a reference book.
For this post, I will go over the Part 2: life principles. I don’t see Part 1 as needing any analysis or summary, and Part 3 is essentially the life principles applied to a workplace setting so it’s somewhat repetitive. If you just want to skip to how I’ve applied the book to my life and then jump back to the summary for parts that intrigue you, you can skip to the end and then jump back to the middle.
Below, I answer five questions:
- Why did the author write this book?
- What are the principles he mentions?
- What are the main ideas and arguments? (largest section)
- How have I applied this book in my life?
- What is my opinion on the book?
Q1: Why did the author write this book?
Ray Dalio has had tremendous success, both by outward measures and by his intrinsic measures. Outwardly, he has achieved tremendous wealth and fame. Inwardly, he has built meaningful work and strong relationships with family, friends, and colleagues. At the age of 68 when the book was published, Ray is now at a stage in his life where he wants to help others be successful rather than to be more successful himself.
For his employees at Bridgewater, he hopes this book will pass down his principles for decision-making and empower future employees to thrive without him. For everyone else, he wants them to find meaningful work and build meaningful relationships, which are the two things his principles focus on.
Although he offers his list of principles, readers don’t have to adopt each and every one of them. In fact, he wants every reader to thoughtfully choose which, if any, principles to adopt for themselves. He also wants people to discover their own principles and write them down, thereby improving their decisions and lives.
Q2: What are the “Principles” in this book?
If you’re like me, you read the title “Principles” and wondered, “So, what are the principles he mentions anyway?” Here’s an extremely high-level summary of the five principles mentioned in the book.
Principle 1: Embrace reality and deal with it.
We need to face our weaknesses and the difficulties of our situation rather than turning a blind eye towards them. To embrace reality, we need to observe the rules of life and nature. For example, anything in excess becomes unfavorable. To deal with reality, we need to own our outcomes and focus on the things in our control rather than complaining about things outside our control.
Principle 2: Use the 5-Step Process to get what you want out of life.
Here’s the 5-Step Process:
- Have clear goals.
- Identify the problems that stand in your way.
- Accurately diagnose the problems to get at their root causes.
- Design plans that will get you around them.
- Do what’s necessary to push these designs through to results.
Principle 3: Be radically open-minded.
Let go of your ego, which is controlled by the amygdala in your brain. This takes conscious effort, but it does get easier with practice. Being open-minded means instead of focusing on being right, you focus on finding the truth, even if it means you were wrong. It also means having thoughtful and productive disagreements with people rather than emotionally-charged unproductive ones.
Principle 4: Understand that people are wired very differently.
Know the strengths and weaknesses of yourself and others. Just as we all have different physical attributes, we also all have different mental attributes. When you know yourself and others, you can better predicate their behavior and how well they will do certain things.
Principle 5: Learn how to make decisions effectively.
Use principles to systematize your decisions. When you have documented principles, you’ll see new situations as “just another one of those” to which you can apply a relevant principle. Logic is your best tool for understanding reality, while the biggest enemy is harmful emotions. For many decisions, we should also seek about other people who are credible on the topic of the decision.
When making decisions, we need to remember to connect the low-level details to the big picture. Never lose sight of why you’re doing something. In terms of getting information, there are typically 5–10 important factors to consider for any decision. Understand those factors really well and don’t waste time on more. The best choices are ones that have more pros than cons, not those that don’t have any cons at all.
Q3: What are the main ideas of the book?
I took away 11 big ideas from this book:
- Pain + Reflection = Progress.
- Have a higher perspective of yourself and the world.
- Success = Meaningful Work + Meaningful Relationships.
- Overcome your two barriers to success: Ego and Blind spots.
- Be radically open-minded to be successful.
- Follow the looping 5-step process to get to success.
- Know your objective strengths and weaknesses and those of others.
- Find people with complementary strengths to help you along the 5-step process.
- Make believability-weighted decisions by considering the credibility of people.
- Use principles to systematize your decision making.
- Navigate levels of a decision effectively.
Yes, that’s a lot of take-aways, so this section will be quite long. Below, I’ll go into each take-away into more detail.
Big Idea 1: Pain + Reflection = Progress.
Like most people, I don’t like pain. It’s a natural biological response. For example, I hate having arguments because they’re emotionally painful. But if I avoid communicating about important topics because I’m scared of pain, then it’s very unhelpful to my situation and life.
So the first big takeaway for me is that life will always have (emotional) pain, and I need to embrace it if I want to move forward. Painful truth is better than comfortable delusion. That temporarily comfortable delusion will eventually come back to bite us.
The good news is that Pain + Reflection = Progress, and progress is enjoyable. We can train ourselves to form a habit of reflecting on pain, difficulties, and challenges. After reflection, we need to take responsibility for the things in our control instead of complaining about the things outside our control. Only then will we be back on the path to success and happiness.
Big Idea 2: Have a higher perspective of yourself and the world.
Ray Dalio explains it as thinking of reality like a machine. You have your goals, and you need to work the machine of reality to achieve those goals. That means you need to understand how that machine (reality) works, and you need to understand how you work as the executor of the machine.
The analogy I like to think of is to imagine life as a game. In some games, you have a bird’s eye view of your character (3rd person view). In other games, you see what your character sees (1st person view). We live life in 1st person view, but we should try to see life in 3rd person view. In 1st person view, we think “Awh man! Why did that have to happen to me!” In 3rd person view, we think, “Oh interesting. Why did that happen to this character? How does this game work?” But for the sake of consistency, I’ll use Ray’s analogy.
The key result we want from having a higher perspective is to be less emotional and more logical in evaluating of life. Without this higher perspective, people live moment to moment, always react emotionally. By having this higher perspective, you’re more focused on the cause-and-effect relationships that created your outcome rather than being unhappy about it. Furthermore, you can look at your weaknesses without a big ego so that you can work to improve them.
Big Idea 3: Success = Meaningful Work + Meaningful Relationships.
“Meaningful work and meaningful relationships aren’t just nice things we choose for ourselves, they are genetically programmed into us.” — Ray Dalio
“Meaningful work and meaningful relationships were and still are my primary goals and everything I did was for them. Making money was an incidental consequence of that.” — Ray Dalio
Big Idea 4: Overcome your two barriers to success: Ego and Blind Spots.
The two barriers are rooted in the biology of the human brain.
The ego barrier is our primitive brain. It hates mistakes and weaknesses, and it holds your deep-seeded needs and fears. It is the amygdala, which processes emotions but is not accessible to your conscious mind, so it’s hard for you to understand how it’s controlling you. On the other hand, we have our rational brain, which is the pre-frontal cortex.
The primitive brain is so powerful that it can seize control over the rational brain. For example, if someone criticizes you, you feel your heart rate go up, your hands getting sweaty, etc. This is a fight-or-flight response similar to if you saw a hungry lion. Even though your rational brain says the criticism is helpful and not dangerous, the primitive brain hates it and overrides your body’s response.
When someone “gets angry with himself”, it’s actually the pre-frontal cortex fighting with the amygdala. When some says, “Why did I let myself eat all that cake”, it’s because the amygdala defeated the pre-frontal cortex.
Overcoming the ego barrier takes conscious effort and patience. The first step is to be aware of what the primitive brain and the rational brain are saying. The next step is to assess the helpfulness of what the primitive brain says. If it’s not helpful, then decide to ignore it and instead act on what the rational brain is saying. This gets easier with practice and can become a productive habit.
Your blind spot barriers are “areas where your way of thinking prevents you from seeing things accurately.” It arises from the fact that everyone’s brains are wired differently. Here are some examples:
- Someone who naturally sees the big picture is more prone to be blind to the small details. And vice versa.
- Someone who is naturally strong at thinking logically is more likely to miss out on other people’s emotional cues. And vice versa.
- Someone who is naturally strong at observing reality is weaker about imagining possibilities. And vice versa.
- Someone who is naturally spontaneous is weaker at following rules and routines. And vice versa.
For these traits, they aren’t inherently good or habit; they’re just different, and they’re more suitable to different situations.
To over come blind spots, we have three options:
- Teach your brain to work in ways that don’t come naturally (e.g., thinking creatively if you’re not naturally creative).
- Using compensating mechanisms (like programmed reminders).
- Relying on the help of others who are strong where you’re weak.
The first option is probably the hardest. The third is probably the most efficient but rarely used.
Big Idea 5: Be radically open-minded to be successful.
The author sees this principle as the most important one because it explains how to get around our obstacles that stop us from achieving success. The two impediments to being open-minded are our ego and blind spots.
“The end result of these two barriers is that parties in disagreements typically remain convinced that they’re right — and often end up angry at each other. This is illogical and leads to suboptimal decision making. After all, when two people reach opposite conclusions, someone must be wrong. Shouldn’t you want to make sure that someone isn’t you?” — Ray Dalio
Like most people, I’m not naturally as open-minded as I’d like to be, let alone radically open-minded as Ray Dalio urges everyone to be. That’s because of my ego, or my primitive brain. But like most people, I want great relationships and great results.
The best relationships and results happen when both parties are open-minded. Open-minded people focus on finding the truth rather than on being right, and they can have thoughtful disagreements that don’t create emotional conflict.
“Radical open-mindedness is motivated by the genuine worry that you might not be seeing your choices optimally. It is the ability to effectively explore different points of view and different possibilities without letting your ego or your blind spots get in your way. It requires you to replace your attachment to always being right with the joy of learning what’s true.” –Ray Dalio
Remember our two brains and how we want to strengthen the rational brain? The primitive brain is not open-minded. The rational brain is. By practicing open-mindedness, we are increasing the strength of our rational brain over our primitive brain.
From another perspective, open-mindedness can be even more important than being smart because it lets us seek out better answers than you could come up with just by yourself. But we have to critically assess what other people say.
“Open-mindedness doesn’t mean going along with what you don’t believe in; it means considering the reasoning of others instead of illogically holding onto your own point of view.” –Ray Dalio
We also shouldn’t consider the views of everyone. We should only consider the viewpoints of believable people. These are people who have repeatedly accomplished something and have great explanations for how.
If one party is clearly more knowledgeable than the other, then the less-knowledgeable party should be a student and the more knowledgeable party should be a teacher. If both parties are equally believable, then they are peers, and it’s appropriate to debate thoughtfully.
“In a thoughtful disagreement, your goal is not to convince the other party that you are right — it is to find out which view is true and then decide what to do about it.” –Ray Dalio
To do this, we need to approach the conversation as a student trying to understand. We should ask questions rather than make statements. We need to be calm and dispassionate; we aren’t arguing, we’re openly exploring what’s true. People who change their minds because they learned something are the winners, where as those who stubbornly refuse to learn are the losers.
Here are six indicators of closed-minded versus open-minded people:
- When there’s disagreement, closed-minded people get angry; Open-minded people get curious.
- Closed-minded people make statements; Open-minded people ask questions out of curiosity.
- Close-minded people focus on being understood; Open-minded people focus on understanding the other person.
- Closed-minded people block others from speaking; Open-minded people prefer listening.
- Closed-minded people have trouble holding two opposing thoughts in their minds; Open-minded people can take in other people’s thoughts without losing the ability to think well.
- Close-minded people are confident that they’re right. Open-minded people fear that they may be wrong.
The author urges us to make open-mindedness a habit, and research shows that it takes about 18 months to solidify a habit. While that may sound like a lot of work, 18 months is tiny in the span of a lifetime.
Big Idea 6: Follow the lopping 5-Step Process to get to success.
The five steps are
- Set clear goals
- Identify the problems that stand in your way
- Diagnose root causes to those problems
- Design plans to get around those problems
- Execute and push through to results
The steps loop because once you get the results you want, you’ll naturally set your sights on the next goal. A key point about the 5-Step Process is that the steps must be done one at a time. For example, when you set goals, just set goals. Don’t think about how you will achieve them or what you’ll do if something goes wrong.
Let’s go into further detail for each step.
Step 1: Set Clear Goals.
While you can have almost anything you want, you can’t have everything. If you pursue too many things at once, you’ll be mediocre at all of them. You have to prioritize.
Step 2: Identify Problems that Stand in Your Way.
Don’t be afraid of identifying problems. Problems are potential improvements just screaming at you to be discovered and then implemented. Although thinking about your problems might make you anxious, not thinking about them should make you even more anxious because they’re just forever lingering in the background of your life. Distinguish the big problems from small ones and invest in solving the big ones with the largest returns.
Step 3: Diagnose Problems to get at their Root Causes
Root causes are adjectives. Proximal causes are verbs. For example, let’s say I missed the train. The proximal cause is a verb: I forgot to check the train. The root cause is an adjective: I am forgetful. Knowing what someone, including yourself, is like will tell you what you can expect from that person. (This is when having a higher, detached perspective comes in handy).
Here’s some pep talk from Ray:
“When a problem stems from your own lack of talent or skill, most people feel shame. Get over it. I cannot emphasize this enough: Acknowledging your weaknesses is not the same as surrendering to them. It’s the first step toward overcoming them.” –Ray Dalio
Step 4: Design a Plan
Think of your problems as a set of outcomes produced by the machine of reality. Learn about the rules of the machine and then change your inputs to change the outcome. Remember that there are often many paths to achieving your goals; you only need to find one that works.
Step 5: Push Through to Completion
On pushing through to completion, we need to remember to connect the dots between our tasks and our goals. If we lose sight of the why, we’ll lose sight of our goals. Good work habits and discipline are crucial here. You should be tracking your progress and ideally reporting your progress to someone.
There are many successful people who aren’t good at execution. They succeed because they forge symbiotic relationships with highly reliable task-doers.
Big Idea 7: Know your objective strengths and weaknesses and those of others.
Just as people have different physical traits, people also have different psychological traits. Since our brains are biologically different, we all experience reality in different ways, and any one way is actually distorted. By getting multiple perspectives, we get closer to truth. The better we know ourselves, the better we can recognize our blind spots and what we can or cannot change about ourselves. The better we know other people, the better we can predict their behavior and performance on certain tasks.
To better understand himself and others, the author uses many psychometric assessments. The four main ones he uses are
- Myers-Brigg Type Indicator
- The Workplace Personality Inventory
- The Team Dimensions Profile
- Stratified Systems Theory
The Myers-Brigg test is free and looks at five main attribute spectrums:
- Introversion VS Extroversion: Whether people prefer to work quietly alone or talking in groups.
- Intuitive VS Observant: Intuitive people focus on the big picture; Observant people focuses on details.
- Thinking VS Feeling: Thinking people focus on logic; Feeling people focus on social harmony.
- Judging VS Perceiving: Judgers (planners) like to make a plan and stick with it; Perceivers like to focus on the present and adapt to it. They often have trouble appreciating each other.
- Assertive VS Turbulent: Assertive people are more self-confident and resistant to stress. Turbulent people experience more emotional swings and are always striving to improve themselves.
The Team Dimensions Profile categorizes people into different archetypes:
- Creators are good at generating ideas. They prefer unstructured and abstract activities.
- Advancers communicate new ideas from others and carry them forward. They focus on harmony and enthusiasm.
- Refiners focus on analysis and will challenge ideas and look for flaws.
- Executors focus on the details and the bottom line. They make sure important things get done.
- Flexors are a combination of all 4 types. They can adapt their styles to fit certain needs, but they may lack an independent view to go against others.
Of course, individuals are more complex than the archetypes that psychometric assessments put them into, but these assessments are a great starting point and certainly a lot better than having no tools at all. People also often fit into more than one archetype. For example, Ray is a visionary, practical thinker, and executor. But the key idea here is that psychometric assessments are extremely useful for giving you a good understand of yourself in a world where most people don’t understand themselves much at all.
Only when you better understand yourself can you then channel your strengths and deal with your weaknesses. When we encounter our weaknesses, we have four choices:
- Deny them (which is what most people do).
- Work to improve them (which may or may not work depending on your ability to change and if the weakness is innate or not).
- Find ways around the weakness (like having someone else complement you).
- Change your goals to not need this skill that you’re weak at.
The second choice is probably best if it works. You should try this path if that weakness is not an innate weakness but rather just something you have learned or trained yourself in. The third choice is actually the easiest and often the most viable, yet it is the least chosen one.
Big Idea 8: Find people with complementary strengths to help you along the 5-Step Process.
Each step of the 5-Step Process requires different strengths. Most people might be good at 2 or 3 of the steps, but virtually no one is good at all five.
We can assign each step to the type of person who would be good at it:
- Set goals — Visionary, good at high-level thinking and prioritization
- Look for problems — Detective, good at perceiving and synthesis
- Find root causes — Logical Analyzer, good at logic
- Design solutions — Creative Architect, good at practicality and visualization
- Execute and track progress — Reliable Task Master, good at self-disciple and achieving results
“Asking others who are strong in areas where you are weak to help you is a great skill that you should develop no matter what, as it will help you develop guardrails that will prevent you from doing what you shouldn’t be doing.” — Ray Dalio
Big Idea 9: Make believability-weighted decisions by considering the credibility of people.
There are some decisions we can make ourselves. But for many big and challenging decisions, we should seek the advice of others who have more expertise than us.
“While it is up to us to know what we want, others may know how to get it better than we do because they have more strengths where we have weaknesses, or more relevant knowledge and experience… Knowing when not to make your own decisions is one of the most important skills you can develop.” –Ray Dalio
But we also need to be careful who we ask.
“One of the most important decisions you can make is who you ask questions of. Make sure they’re fully informed and believable… Listening to uninformed people is worse than having no answers at all.” –Ray Dalio
As mentioned before, believable people are those who have repeatedly and successfully accomplished something, AND they have great explanations for how they did it. To go a step further, we should look for open-minded believable parties who are willing to have productive debate for the purpose of finding the truth. This is the mindset Ray has fostered at his company, Bridgewater.
He uses the term “idea meritocracy” to describe his company culture because it encourages thoughtful disagreements and weighs people’s opinions in proportion to their credibility. He credits much of the success of Bridgewater to building this idea meritocracy culture.
Big Idea 10: Use Principles to Systematize your decision making.
One of the mistakes people make is treating each decision as unique. Instead, we should classify situations into types and have good principles for dealing with them. This way, we make better and faster decisions.
As Ray puts it, new cases at hand become another one of those. Or perhaps they’ll be hybrids of previous cases, in which case you need to weigh different principles against each other.
“While almost all of us agreed on the principles intellectually, many still struggled to convert what they had agreed to intellectually into effective actions. This was because their habits and emotional barriers remained stronger than their reasoning.” — Ray Dalio
The challenge with principles is not understanding them, but consistently using them. That’s where building good habits come into play.
Big Idea 11: Navigate the levels of a decision effectively.
Reality exists at different levels and each level gives you a different perspective. It’s important to keep all of them in mind as you synthesize and make decisions. Let’s look at an example.
The author uses the terms above-the-line and below-the-line to establish which level a conversation is on. Above-the-line conversations address the main points, while below-the-line conversations address the sub-points. If a line of reasoning ever gets confusing, it’s because the speaker is caught up in below-the-line details without connecting them back to the main points.
We need to make decisions at the appropriate level, but all decisions should be consistent across all the levels.
Q4: How have I applied this book in my life?
As mentioned in Question 3, I learned a lot from this book; 11 big ideas to be exact, and I’ve tried to apply them all to my life.
Implementing Big Idea #1: Pain + Reflection = Progress.
I used to hate pain. I still dislike it. But I’m working on embracing it more when it does happen to me.
For example, I hate arguments. But when I was in one recently, I told myself, “Ok you’re feeling emotional pain. That means something about your relationship can be improved. And you can use this event to improve your relationship. It’s a chance for you to have better communication and understanding.” To understand the other person better, I analyzed her using Myers-Brigg, and then I found out she is naturally very sensitive to criticism. Then I knew in the future to focus on what I want to see more of rather than what I don’t want or like. If I didn’t reflect on the pain, I may not have gotten that progress.
Implementing Big Idea #2: Have a higher perspective.
This one is a big mindset shift for me. I like to use the game analogy: I used to have a first-person view of life. Everything that happened to me, I felt at the center of it. Now, I try to have a more bird’s-eye third-person view of life. I’m just one small piece of what’s happening around me, and I’m definitely not the center of the world. I also try not to feel like a victim, and instead, try to figure out the rules of the game (reality) that caused my situation.
Implementing Big Idea #3: Success = Meaningful Work + Meaningful Relationships.
I like how simple this definition of success is, and I’m sure I will refer back to this concept when I want to explain what success is to others. To elaborate what meaningful work actually is, I would refer to Ikigai. Ikigai dictates that we are fulfilled when we 1) do what we love 2) do what we’re good at 3) help the world 4) get paid for it. As for meaningful relationships, I’m assuming that just means strong relationships with people important to us and with whom we share similar values.
Implementing Big Idea #4: Overcome the Ego and Blind Spot Barriers.
Viewing the ego barrier as a biological programming was very insightful because it explains why it’s so hard to control or defeat our ego. Same goes for the blind spot barrier.
It was hard for me to see myself objectively, especially my weaknesses, until I decided to take the Myers-Brigg test (as recommended by the author) seriously and also to analyze people I knew using it. Then I noticed that objectively, I’m different from others and I have different strengths and weaknesses from others, and those differences are why I have certain types of conflicts with certain types of people. It’s not about good or bad or right or wrong; it’s about first understanding each other so that we can then fully appreciate and make use of each other’s differences.
Implementing Big Idea #5: Be radically open-minded to be successful.
This one was not new but certainly reassuring to me. I’ve previously learned from ancient Chinese philosophy that humility is the most important trait, and Ray’s life puts a very modern and business example to back up that claim. In terms of having an open-minded debate without making the primitive brain scared, I think a couple useful resources are Difficult Conversations by Douglas Stone and Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman. I also benefited from this TedTalk about the philosophy of water.
Implementing Big Idea #6: Use the 5-Step Process to get to success.
I didn’t think the 5-Step Process was very helpful at first glance because it just seemed like an observation of life. But as I looked deeper into it, I realized how each step needs different abilities, and that was the big aha moment for me. I (and everyone) is only good at maybe 2 or 3, and no one is good at all 5, and that’s why we all need to find people who have complementary strengths. That was something I’ve never thought about doing before; I always felt like I can do everything myself, and while that might be true, it’s certainly not the most effective.
Implementing Big Idea #7: Know your objective strengths and weaknesses and those of others.
This one is a fun one for me. I’ve started to view people as machines running a program, and I want to know what that program is. The three tools I use right now are the Four Tendencies, Myers-Briggs, and their values. I know the Four Tendencies like the back of my hand now, and I hope with more practice, I can know a person’s Myers-Brigg profile very quickly.
I’ve made “baseball cards” (as the author calls them) for myself and others.
These cards are basically a high-level bullet points of the person’s values, tendency, Myers-Brigg profile, natural strengths, and natural weaknesses. The strengths and weaknesses come from the Myers-Brigg profile. The values come from my observations and discussions with that person. I find that these baseball cards help me see people more objectively rather than see my projection of what I think they are or should be.
Implementing Big Idea #8: Find people with complementary strengths to help you along the 5-Step Process.
The first step I’ve taken is to understand the strengths and weaknesses of myself and my close friends and making baseball cards for them. The next step is to ask them for help once I’ve gotten my side project(s) underway. I know that I’m personally strong at analyzing problems and executing, and I’m weak at visualizing possibilities and designing creative solutions. Fortunately, I have friends who are strong in those areas, so I can and will call on them for help.
Implementing Big Idea #9: Make believability-weighted decisions.
I’ve become much more careful in who I ask opinions from for things. If they’re not credible on the subject, I don’t bother asking them. If they tell me their opinion anyway, I factor their credibility into the weight of their opinion.
Implementing Big Idea #10: Use principles to systematize your decision-making.
This one was an interesting one to me in that it sounds great but then was actually hard to implement. Ray talks about using computer algorithms to make decisions in his company, but of course, most normal people won’t be doing that for their personal lives.
I did follow one of Ray’s suggestions, which was to make a mistake-learnings journal. When I make a mistake that I don’t want to make again, I note down what I can do differently next time (fixing the proximal cause) and how I can improve myself to be better (fixing the root cause).
I also tried starting a list of principles, but that didn’t go far for me; or at least, I didn’t refer to it much. What was more useful instead was to start an imaginary Board of Directors for myself, and the people on my Board represented certain principles or teachings. And whenever I have a decision or problem, I go to this Board and imagine what each person would tell me. And of course, I also weigh the credibility of each person for the task at hand.
My core board currently has Ray Dalio, Jay Shetty, Victor Cheng, Daniel Goleman, Liao Fan, and Tim Ferriss. These are people with suitable advice for me about almost any problem I encounter. Then I have optional guests who have a narrower expertise, like Gary Chapman (for love), Robert Cialdini (for influence), and Douglas Stone (for difficult conversations).
Let’s say I have a problem about what job I should look for. I’ll imagine what each person on the board would say to me based on all the things each person has taught me. This is my way of using principles to guide my decision-making.
Implementing Big Idea #11: Navigating levels of a decision effectively.
I find that this idea is very similar to the premise of the book Start with Why by Simon Sinek. Fortunately, this one comes pretty naturally to me as I’m always focused on why I’m doing something, and I make sure to do things that are aligned with my values or goals. I did find the terms above-the-line and below-the-line to be helpful when analyzing if a conversation is being productive or not. I now also know that some people naturally lean towards talking above-the-line, while others (including me) lean towards talking below-the-line, and I need to always connect the dots.
Q5: What is my opinion on the book?
Did this book improve my life? Yes.
Would I recommend this book? Yes.
It is a dense book though, so if you’re turned off by that, at least read the life principle section. If even that’s too much for you at your current point in time, then just read this summary and pick out the points that you want to delve deeper into for reference in the book.
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