I finally finished making my way through Principles: Life and Work by Ray Dalio. I had heard so many good things about the book and had really enjoyed listening to some of the podcasts and speeches the author has given. The book was very well organized and presents a very interesting approach for running an organization. While I did learn a lot and have a lot of new things to think about now, I didn't think the book was as life-changing or revolutionary as some of the hype makes it out to be.
The organization, Bridgewater, does sound unique, and I'd love to experience firsthand how believability-weighted decision making happens in real-time using all the tools he described. I want to feel what the idea-meritocratic culture is like and if it is in fact so different from other places and how embodied all these principles really are.
My first biggest takeaway overall from the book is the idea that one should consider what principles one is operating under in general and write them down. I had done some of the former but not the latter, and after reading this book, I started my own list of written principles. My second biggest takeaway is how to maintain a balance between open-mindedness and assertiveness while arguing about a decision.
Other cool things I took away were the concepts of believability (formalizing and quantifying how trustworthy someone is), which psychological/personality tests they believe in, and the collection of tools they use to make their principles actionable on a daily basis.
As I was reading this book, I did catch myself wondering whether so much thinking of one's organization as a machine and doing everything idea-meritocratically and believability-weighted hampers any of the human elements of working on a company together. It felt like this approach could err dangerously close to thinking of one's team members as robots or automatons, just action figures with baseball cards and stats on where you can trust/believe them, and a machine to make them do what you need -- as opposed to three-dimensional, creative, wistful, soulful, erratic, emotional, complex people that are working together, with foibles and all, to try to achieve something. I don't know if the two views are diametrically opposed, but this book's approach felt to me to be a lot more mechanical and rigid (principled, obviously) in its treatment of people, and I wonder what any drawbacks (or unintended second order consequences) of that might be. The author explicitly wrote about the value of relationships, so I know this element is important for him, and I know he believes that radical transparency, honesty, and tough love is in the end the best for relationships. I just wonder how well it really treats people and makes them feel in practice.
My full notes are below.
I often find myself worrying more about others than myself and getting into too much "caretaking." I try to control situations so that those around me are always "happy," which leads to lots of problems for me and too much tension and worrying overall. A podcast I was listening to recently interviewed Melody Beattie, the author of Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself, so I decided to read her book because I thought I could learn something relevant to myself.
I didn't actually find the book very helpful, and I didn't like all the religious aspects of it. I also didn't realize the book was so focused on alcoholism and the spouses of alcoholics (which luckily isn't relevant to me); I thought it was about general caretaking behavior. Those general aspects were discussed, and there were some good points and some advice that I can adopt, which I've included in my notes below.
Is someone else's problem your problem?
Spouses of alcoholics who rescue them
Part 1 what is it and who has it
2 other stories
Being Partner to dependency
Being in relationship with troubled needy or dependent person
Someone who has let another person’s behavior affect him or her and is obsessed with controlling that person's behavior
Recovery only in ourselves
4 codependent characteristics
Caretaking, anticipating others needs, fixing others problems, pleasing others
Low self worth, blame selves, feel different than others, expect perfection
Repression, no own desires
Obsession, worrying, focus on others
Controlling, think they know best
Denial, assume tmrw will be better
Dependency, assume others don't love them, feel trapped
Poor communication, ask indirectly, manipulate
Weak boundaries, complain
Lack of trust, don't trust selves or others
Anger, afraid of it
Sex problems, hard to ask for what want
Part 2 basics of self care
Not withdrawal or removal of love
Releasing from person or problem
Each person responsible for self and worrying doesn't help
Keep hands off other people's problems
Let people live own lives and live my own
Present moment living. Let life happen instead of controlling
Make most of each day
Care without being involved
Willingness to try
Need to detach most when seems like the most difficult thing to do
6 don't react about every minute
Overreacting to others feelings or potential ones
Don't reject self or give others that power
Don't take things personally
Things have less to do with us than we think
Don't have to react
Recognize when ur reacting
“Made me feel” is wrong
Not responsible for others
Make life easier for u
Figure out what need to take care of yourself
7 set yourself free
Often force things to happen
Figure out ways we think we can control others to do what we want them to do but not sustainable
Instead it ends up controlling us
Cannot control or change people
8 remove the victim
We are the rescuers and caretakers
Say yes when mean no
Rescuer, persecutor, victim cycle
At heart of rescuing us low self worth
Shouldn't do things for others if don't enjoy it
Face the aloneness every human must face
Not dependent on other people
Approval and happiness doesn't come from others
Depend on self
10 live your own life
11 have love affair with self
We are exactly as meant to be
Stop picking on self
12 learn art of acceptance
Feel your own feelings
Ok to feel it when u need to
Write letter that u never send
15 yes you can think
Feed mind positive things
Improve mind daily
16 set own goals
Say what mean and mean what say
This Is what I need from you / want from you
I love u but I love me too
Ignore others nonsense
I don't want to discuss this
This is as far as I go
Sounds like you're having a problem and let go
Take self seriously
18 work a 12 step program
Admit powerless and controlled
Believe power greater than selves can restore us. Spiritual not religion.
Make religion to turn care of life over. Purpose and plan.
Make searching and fearless moral inventory of selves
Admit nature of wrongs to others
Ready for outdated behavior to go away
Ask humbly to remove
Make list of all harmed including self and make amends
Make direct amends
Continue to take personal inventory
Sought through prayer meditation for help
Carry message to others
19 pieces and bits
Limits and boundaries
20 learning to live and love again
I heard from Ryan Holiday in his latest newsletter about The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson. I thought the title was humorous, and I didn't think the book would be that serious. However, it turned out to cover several serious and useful topics like Stoicism and finding out your true values in life.
The point of the book is not about being indifferent or not caring about anything; the point is to only care about the very small number of things that really matter to you (core values) and not sweating the small stuff about anything else. I liked how the chapter titles and main messages were very much contrarian to typical positive-thinking psychology stuff out there. I also identified a lot with the concepts of realizing how much you suck and aren't special and how constant learning and growth and failure is part of life ("you're wrong throughout your life because you're always growing and learning... just trying to be less wrong each day than before").
1 don't try
Wanting positive experience is a negative experience. Accepting negative experience is a positive experience.
Only focus on the true important things
Subtlety 1: not about being indifferent. It's being ok being different. Willingness to stare failure in face. Fuck it to everything unimportant in life.
Subtlety 2: first find what to give a fuck about. Find something meaningful.
Subtlety 3: you're always choosing what to give fuck about
2 happiness is a problem
Life itself has suffering. Pain and failure inherent.
Disappointment panda. Tell truths hardest to hear. Suffering biologically useful.
Problems never go away. Solution of one creates another.
Happiness comes from solving problems not eliminating
Emotions are overrated. Biological signals to nudge you. Question them.
Hedonic treadmill. Everything involves sacrifice.
Choose what pain u want to deal with because every path has it.
Joy is not in summit but climb itself
3 you are not special
Things fall apart
Not that great and not that horrible
Ordinary things are what actually matter
4 value of suffering
Self awareness onion
1 Actually know own emotions
2 Ability to ask why
3 Personal values
Values determine ur problems
Good values are reality based and controllable
5 major values
Contemplation of own mortality
5 you are always choosing
You are responsible for the problem
You choose how to respond to events
Fault is past tense. Responsibility is present tense. U always get to choose.
Not about cards u r dealt but choices u make
6 ur wrong about everything but so am I
Wrong throughout ur life because always growing and learning
Just trying to be less wrong each day than before
Testing ur beliefs is scary
Certainty enemy of growth
Ppl find patterns in randomness and believe they r right
Tend to Avoid opportunities that threaten to change ur view of self or identity
See yourself in simple identity not in narrow unique way.
Be less certain of self. What if I'm wrong? What would it mean if I'm wrong? Would being wrong create worse or better problem?
Much more likely ur screwed up than everyone else
7 failure is way forward
Just do something
Action can be cause of motivation
8 importance of saying no
Rejection makes ur life better
9 and then u die
What will u leave after ur gone
Nothing to be afraid of
Accept own death