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23rd Jan, 2019

Book: Principles: Life and Work by Ray Dalio

Principles: Life and Work is the type of book I want to love - but I don't. It starts well enough: the first part of the book is basically an abridged version of an autobiography. Dalio is certainly an interesting character, and the respect I have for what he and the people close to him have acomplished during their careers has only increased after reading his own account of his rise to being one of the wealthiest men on earth. Describing a combination of perfect timing (starting with computerized decision making just before it became commonplace, perhaps deserving credit for actually starting or accelerating that trend), being an obviously highly intelligent individual, and managing to surround himself with a great team, Dalio does not avoid describing the many mistakes preceding eventual success.

Principles: Life and Work by Ray Dalio
What is it about: Extremely succesful hedge fund manager shares - or attempts to share - the secrets to his success.
Buy internationalBuy in The Netherlands

The second part, which is really what the book is supposed to be about, describes, or rather lists, the principles Dalio has written down, for us as readers as much as for himself, his legacy, and the company he is now transitioning out of and leaving into the hands of his successors. There is obvious good intent, as well as conviction that the Bridgewater way is a virtuous one. For me, the book feels like it exudes a sense of being imperative reading if one is to be succesful in career and life, but ends up being difficult to get through, both due to the writing style, excessive repeating of core principles, and the ideas being, frankly, rather unsurprising and often trite, as well as often amounting to what are best descibed as rather vague generalities.

An example of one of the principles, shared by Ray Dalio on his twitter account.

Though reviews across publications seem to be mostly very positive, I have the feeling that a lot of reviews fail to distinguish between respect for the writer and his accomplishments, and whether or not the book he wrote is actually well written. There truly is a great book hidden in this middling one, but in the end the lack of real substance combined with heavy repetition makes the book hard to recommend.