Serious business

Interview with Ray Dalio of investment firm Bridgewater Associates

The founder of investment firm Bridgewater Associates describes his company's unusual work culture

Principles, a document you wrote on Bridgewater’s work culture, has been available online for years, and last year you published the 600-page book Principles: Life and Work. Why is it important to you to share these lessons?

For the past 30 years, whenever I had a decision to make I would write down the criteria I used in the form of principles. These principles are the reasons for whatever success my company and I have had. About 10 years ago I put a PDF copy of them online and it was downloaded 3.5 million times and I received thousands of thank yous. Last year, at 68, I transitioned from the second phase of my life (in which others depended on me) to the third stage (in which no one is dependent and I’m free), which meant that I passed along my company to others, and I decided to pass these principles along in a book. My goal in life now is not to be more successful but to help others be more successful.

A 30-minute animated version of Principles is showing onboard Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon this month. Why did you create the film?

I think all concepts should be presented in both a well-fleshed-out way, which is what I did in my book Principles: Life and Work, and in an ultra-simple way, which is what I did in the 30-minute animated adventure Principles for Success. A few years ago, I did a 30-minute animated video distillation of everything I knew about economics called How the Economic Machine Works, which was viewed over six million times, so it was obvious that I should do it with Principles so anyone could get the most important principles in a quick, free and entertaining way. 

Ray Dalio

Was it challenging to distil 600 pages into a half-hour animation?

It was, but it was a kick doing it. There’s a challenge and a beauty to taking something that’s complex and making it ultra-simple with the help of a talented team of editors, creative directors, animators, composers and sound designers. We all iterated and refined a lot to get it right, with everyone executing their skills well. It was like playing great improv jazz.       

Principles espouses Bridgewater’s culture of radical transparency. Could you tell our readers a bit about this?

I found it extraordinarily effective to have a real idea-meritocracy, in which meaningful work and meaningful relationships are the goals, and truthfulness and transparency are the ways of achieving those goals. If people don’t have the ability to see things for themselves, they can’t form their own opinions, which would prevent getting at the best decisions and building a great community. Imagine how many fewer misunderstandings we would have and how much more efficient the world would be – and how much more trust we’d all have – knowing what’s true. I’m not talking about everyone’s very personal inner secrets; I’m talking about people’s opinions of each other and of how we work together in pursuit of a common mission.     

You also have the Dalio Foundation. What is your approach to philanthropy?

I pursue philanthropy as a passion-driven activity and love to do it with family members, who each have their own particular philanthropic passions – so our philanthropy is eclectic but coordinated as a family activity. I’m passionate about supporting ocean exploration, and aim to show it in breathtaking media so millions of people can see it.   

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