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Denver Great Minds™

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Principals - Book Review

Updated: Jul 29, 2021


After receiving a frank memo from his top lieutenants in 1993 concerning his interpersonal performance as a manager, Bridgewater Associates' Ray Dalio began to develop a unique company culture based on principles and unadorned feedback. He originally published a shorter version of Principles online in 2011, where it received over three million downloads. It was officially released as Principles: Life & Work on September 19, 2017, by Simon & Schuster. The book is divided into three parts: Where I'm Coming From, Life Principals, and Work Principals. This book was on numerous Top Lists with high recommendations from celebrity life coaches and pragmatic gurus alike. The amount of favorable reviews was staggering. However, the tipping point for me was a video from Sam Ovens touching on several of Dailo's principals. He spoke about natural selection, how crucial decision-making processes affect our success, and how meaningful work should be cultivated rather than forced. I inquired to a book list of recommendations from Sam Ovens and his team was accommodating. Principals was #1. Apparently it's been his #1 since 2007 and "massively contributed to my success". 65 million in success to be exact. Dailo contributes his systems to understanding neuroscience, economics, and investing. Here are a few takeaways and brilliant quotes that hit me with some new thoughts.




People are Wired Differently

The problem was that conceptual people who visualized what should be done in vague ways expected more literal people to figure out for themselves how to do it. When they didn't, the more conceptual people thought that the more literal people had no imagination, and the more literal people thought that the more conceptual people had their head in the clouds. To make matters worse, none of them knew which were which... In short, we were gridlocked, and everyone thought it was someone's fault- that the people they were locking horns with were blind, stubborn, or just plain stupid."

I can not express how often I have seen this occur in leading groups. I've noticed it's either no one wants to come up with solutions in fear of being wrong, or everyone thinks they have the solution and the project failed simply to no one listening to their ideas. Either way, I feel like it's a psychological game of avoiding responsibility. The leader, who admittedly is asking for insight and support from the entire team, is left to wrangle all the pieces in hopes to achieving the overall goal. The leader seems to be left to establish weakness and strengths with a team that isn't sure of their self-actualization. The usual outcome is that good people get frustrated and make something impersonal entirely personal. According to Dailo, the key is to understand yourself. Once you understand yourself and how the brain functions, you can decipher what can be changed or which can be accepted. Popular belief is that our poor communication causes our differences. In reality, different ways of thinking lead to poor communication.



The Five-Step Process to Get What You Want

I would like to emphasis that you should read this book. The following Five-Step System was so in-depth and beneficial that the price of this book was justified by this topic alone. It will seem insanely simplified on this blog article but it was profound to read. Dailo's directness paired with realistic acceptance on the truth was both confident and comprehensive. It wouldn't feel right not to include it here; but as I incorporated these steps into my daily routine, I experience dramatic clarity and progress. It's one thing to say you know how to reach your goals, it's another to perform each suggestion with perfectionism. There was a comprehensive explanation to each bullet point if I found myself struggling in that concept. I found the explanations inspiring and helpful when I was stuck. He went through each step-by-step on how to successfully achieve it. I have provided the 5 Steps with paraphrasing, and brilliant quotes:

  1. Have clear goals

    1. You can have virtually everything you want, just not all of it right now. You must prioritize what you care about the most and go after it with passion. Don't confuse goals with desires- the two are different. Don't mistake the trappings of success for success itself. It's silly to rule out a goal based on its unattainability. Raising your expectations will also raise your capabilities. Know how to deal with setbacks as well as moving forward.

    2. " Almost nothing can stop you from succeeding if you have a) flexibility and b) self-accountability."

  2. Identify and don't tolerate problems.

    1. View painful problems as opportunities screaming at you. Don't avoid harsh realities because it's uncomfortable for your attention. Be specific when you are identifying your problems. A cause of a problem is not necessarily the problem. Balance tackling big and small problems- both add up. Don't tolerate an issue once identified.

    2. " You need to develop a fierce intolerance of badness of any kind, regardless of its severity."

  3. Diagnose problems to get to their root causes.

    1. 'What is' is more important than 'what to do about it'. Root causes tend to manifest over and over again as a pattern. It is the actions or lack of actions that lead to problems. You must distinguish the symptoms from the disease. You are blind to it because of your ego and you need to get over it. Root causes are standing in your way.

    2. Proximate causes are described with verbs: I missed my deadline.

    3. Root Causes are deeper and described with adjectives: I missed my deadline because I didn't track progress on the calendar.

  4. Design a plan

    1. Replay the story that led to where you are now and then visualize what must be done to reach the goals. Think about it as if it's a machine with inputs and outputs. Sketch out the plan broadly and then refine it. Write it down and share it with others. Measure your progress. It doesn't take a lot of time to refine a good plan.

    2. "Remember that there are typically many paths to achieving your goals. You only need to find one that works."

  5. Push Through to completion

    1. Planners who don't execute go nowhere. Treat your plan like a script for yourself in a movie. Successful people utilized checklists and prioritize the tasks. They tick off each one in order. Establish clear metrics.

    2. " Lose sight of the why and you will surely lose sight of your goals."

    3. " Weaknesses do not matter if you find solutions."


The Third Section surrounds principals on the workplace.

Remember the WHO is More Important than the WHAT

Dailo believes one of the most crucial aspects of business is who is placed as your responsible parties. The responsible parties are the ones who are executing the goals, outcomes, and machines at the highest level. This person(s) should also be the ones who bears the consequences of what is done. He/She is the force behind what is being done.


One of the most common questions I hear from new business entrepreneurs is " How do I hire the right people?" One of the biggest mistakes I notice is hiring a person based on their likeability and similarity to the business owner. The business owner is usually sub-consciously trying to replicate themselves because they believe they are the highest qualified technician in the system. They may be super knowledgeable but this important position deserves the optimal skills to provide the outcome in the plan. It's worth it to find a best-fit. You want someone who sparkles in the position not just a warm body. Remember, people think differently and it makes them suitable or less suitable for the position. "Match the person to the design."


Don't Hide Your Observations About People

When you find the right people, you will want to "squeeze" the most quality output from them without "oversqueezing". You should be able to recognize when a professional is overwhelmed and on the verge of a burnout. It's not likely they will communicate to you that they are struggling with the workload. High performers don't like to admit they have more than they can handle. This is when performance tools such as surveys, metrics, and formal reviews come in handy. You will need to look at the whole picture. Don't become too confident rather than in sync with your team. It will be more effective to learn about them and have them learn about you. You need to be in the habit of having frank conversations about their performance compared to the design.


This book was meticulous, simple, and inspiring. I understand why it appears on so many suggested lists, how it received so many views, and why professionals pass it around like it's the bible. He currently sits as the 46th richest man according to Forbes, worth $18 billion dollars. I would suspect a variety of people would pass on this book with the belief a financial expert has little to offer in their particular field but it has relevancy to any human. Ray Dalio has lays out the life and work principles that has been the foundation of his fortunes. Principles begins by exploring his turbulent life, who stepped into the world of the financial markets. If you aren't aware of the Finance ecosystem, it's full of opportunity and ambitious men. Dalio experienced both ends of gaining massive success and losing fortunes as he developed his current philosophies. He climbed to unfathomable heights in Wall Street only to slip and fall too close to bankruptcy. His life is full of these slip-ups, but he has managed to transform these failures into the lessons and principles of his book.



I'm absolutely in love with this book and it hasn't left my side since I discovered it. It's my quick read on the light rail, after a dip in the pool, and while I am waiting for friends. It is, by far, one of my favorite books of all time and I have a feeling I will be sharing it for years. Now you can enjoy it as well. Make it one of your must-have purchases. Do yourself a favor and Purchase Principals by Ray Dailo on Amazon






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