Book Review – Principles, by Ray Dalio

Reading Time: 2 minutes

I was browsing through a list of books about leadership until I stumbled across Principles – a book by Ray Dalio, founder of the world’s biggest fund, Bridgewater Associates. He currently sits as the 46th richest man according to Forbes, worth $18 billion dollars. Initially, I had doubts that someone from a financial background could provide direction for me in my military career. But I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Within this book, Ray Dalio has laid the life and work principles that has been the bedrock of his fortunes today. Principles begins by exploring the turbulent life of Ray, who stepped into the world of the financial markets; an ecosystem full of opportunity and ambitious men who are seeking their fortunes. While it is the place to go from rags to riches, it is also a place that could rob you of your last penny. Dalio in his story experienced both ends of the spectrum, climbing to heavenly 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 that he talks of in his book.

The two most insightful principles that I have learnt is the concept of radical transparency in an organisation and being radically open-minded as an individual. Firstly, the idea of radical transparency ‘forces issues to the surface’ by unveiling the problems that people are dealing with and how they are dealing with it. Secondly, by being radically open-minded, you enable yourself to tackle two fundamental human flaws: your ‘ego barrier’ and your ‘blind spot barrier’. These two principles are crucial to shaping the leaders and their organisations to becoming more effective and accomplished.  

So why should you read and apply these principles? Let Ray Dalio tell you himself:

“Principles are what allow you to live consistent with those values. Principles connect your values to your actions.”

For the ADF to stand firm in its values, it starts with the individual and their principles, regardless of rank. The men and women of the ADF are often confronted with intense problems and situations that are unconventional to the civilian world. Unconventional problems call for unconventional wisdom and Principles provide just that. It is a quintessential book for all regardless of background who seek to make meaningful change in their work and life.

John Le is a trainee officer in the Australian Army. He is currently in the Australian Defence Force Academy undertaking a Bachelor of Science, majoring in Mathematics and Chemistry. He has strong interest in military leaders, strategy and philosophy.