Principles: Life and Work


Ray Dalio, founder of BlackRock, the world's most successful investment firm, talks about his process of using principles to guide both work and life.


Insightful book and very practically organized. Divided into three logical parts, with each major principle a chapter and individual key points being sub chapters. Dalio even summarizes the major points at the end of each part. The principles themselves range from novel (eg. radical transparency and recording ) to points you've probably read in similar books but the greater meta point behind all of them is the argument made for writing down your own principles and using them as algorithms to guide and continuously improve decision making. An insightful read and filled with good ideas.

Key Points

  • make principles explicit and use them to guide decision making #star

Life Principles

  • what do you want? what is true? how do you achieve what you want knowing what is true?

  • open minded and determined, you can get anything (but not everything)

  • reality, accept it

  • getting what you want

    • goals, problems, diagnose, solve, repeat
    • MW: basically ownership
  • open minded

    • notice when you are arguing vs trying to understand
  • people are wired differently

    • understand how people are
    • shapers, going from visualization to actualization
  • making decisions

    • watch out for harmful emotions

    • synthesize and ask good questions

    • imprecise estimation, 80/20

    • talk at different levels (big picture vs detail)

      • figure out if you are talking above the line or below it
    • expected value calculation when deciding

      • huge upside, low probability, no downside : go for it
      • good upside and good prob: go for it
    • simplify

      • MW: every principle engineer i've ever talked to has said this

Work Principles

  • being the person that wants a thing will attract other people that will want the same things

  • to be great, can't compromise on things that are not compromisable

  • be generous but this is different then being fair

  • if you are managing meeting, manage the conversation

  • organize company orgs for goals instead of tasks

    • all comes down to incentives


  • satisfaction of success is not achievement but struggling well
  • ego and blind spots keep intelligent, hard working people out
  • stick with something for 18mo to have it forever


All quotes are excerpts taken from Principles: Life and Work by Ray Dali,

  • "If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away."

    • Thoreau
  • "Maturity is the ability to reject good alternatives in order to pursue even better ones."

    • Ray Dalio
  • As you will see, we are simply a group of people who are striving to be excellent at what we do and who recognize that we don’t know much relative to what we need to know.

    • Ray Dalio
  • “Love and work are the cornerstones of our humanness.”

    • Freud


  • radical transparency
    • blackrock, all meetings be recorded and be made available to everyone
  • operant conditioning
    • positive reinforcement to get agents to do things, used in dog conditioning


  • The Hero with a Thousand Faces,
  • inflation-indexed bonds
  • The Lessons of History,
  • River Out of Eden by the insightful Richard Dawkins,
  • On the Role of the Individual in History.
  • The Spiritual Brain
  • Power of Habit