Principles: Life and Work
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Read between February 05, 2019 - July 17, 2020
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“You better make sense of what happened to other people in other times and other places because if you don’t you won’t know if these things can happen to you and, if they do, you won’t know how to deal with them.”
Pulkit Vaishnav liked this
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The brilliant trader and investor Bernard Baruch put it well when he said, “If you are ready to give up everything else and study the whole history and background of the market and all principal companies whose stocks are on the board as carefully as a medical student studies anatomy—if you can do all that and in addition you have the cool nerves of a gambler, the sixth sense of a clairvoyant and the courage of a lion, you have a ghost of a chance.”
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this experience led me to build Bridgewater as an idea meritocracy—not an autocracy in which I lead and others follow, and not a democracy in which everyone’s vote is equal—but a meritocracy that encourages thoughtful disagreements and explores and weighs people’s opinions in proportion to their merits.
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There is almost always a good path that you just haven’t discovered yet, so look for it until
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you find it rather than settle for the choice that is then apparent to you.
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Maturity is the ability to reject good alternatives in order to pursue even better ones.
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I’ve also learned that judging people before really seeing things through their eyes stands in the way of understanding their circumstances—and that isn’t smart. I urge you to be curious enough to want to understand how the people who see things differently from you came to see them that way. You will find that interesting and invaluable, and the richer perspective you gain will help you decide what you should do.
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But even as we grew, I never thought of anybody I worked with as an employee. I had always wanted to have—and to be around people who also wanted to have—a life full of meaningful work and meaningful relationships, and to me a meaningful relationship is one that’s open and honest in a way that lets people be straight with each other. I never valued more traditional, antiseptic relationships where people put on a façade of politeness and don’t say what they really think. I believe that all organizations basically have two types of people: those who work to be part of a mission, and those who ...more
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As the company grew bigger, how that happened evolved. In Bridgewater’s early days, everyone knew each other, so being radically transparent was easy—people could attend the meetings they wanted to and communicate with each other informally. But as we grew, that became logistically impossible, which was a real problem. How could people engage productively with the idea meritocracy if they didn’t know everything that was going on? Without transparency, people would spin whatever happened to suit their own interests, sometimes behind closed doors. Problems would be hidden instead of brought to ...more
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For example, people who were known not to be creative were being assigned tasks that required creativity; people who didn’t pay attention to details were being assigned to detail-oriented jobs, and so on. We needed a way to make the data that showed what people were like even clearer and more explicit, so I began making “Baseball Cards” for employees that listed their “stats.” The idea was that they could be passed around and referred to when assigning responsibilities. Just as you wouldn’t have a great fielder with a .160 batting average bat third, you wouldn’t assign a big-picture person a ...more
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Swati Jaiswal
exactly aligned to what I was thinking today. Instead of making everyone the jake of all trades, people should be let to deal with their expertise and have exposure to their desired novelties. If I'm not both good at and interested in hiring, then I shouldn't be bothered with it. I should not be forced to lead if I find assisting a better thing to do.
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A community in which you always have the right and obligation to make sense of things and a process for working yourselves through disagreements—i.e., a real, functioning idea meritocracy. I want you to think, not follow—while recognizing that you can be wrong and that you have weaknesses—and I want to help you get the most likely best answers, even if you personally don’t believe that they’re the best answers. I want to give you radical open-mindedness and an idea meritocracy that will take you from being trapped in your own heads to having access to the best minds in the world to help you ...more
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By doing this, you will begin to understand how the machinery underlying any “another one of those” works and develop a mental map for dealing with it. As your understanding of these relationships grows, the essentials stand out from the blizzard of things coming at you; you will notice which “one of those” you are facing and instinctually apply the right principles to help you through it. Reality, in turn, will send you loud signals about how well your principles are working by rewarding or punishing you, so you will learn to fine-tune them accordingly.
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Radical open-mindedness and radical transparency are invaluable for rapid learning and effective change.
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Don’t let fears of what others think of you stand in your way. You must be willing to do things in the unique ways you think are best—and to open-mindedly reflect on the feedback that comes inevitably as a result of being that way.
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Don’t get hung up on your views of how things “should” be because you will miss out on learning how they really are.
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To me, nature seems to define good as what’s good for the whole and optimizes for it, which is preferable.
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If nature, or anything, were perfect it wouldn’t be evolving. Organisms, organizations, and individual people are always highly imperfect but capable of improving. So rather than getting stuck hiding our mistakes and pretending we’re perfect, it makes sense to find our imperfections and deal with them.
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Reality is optimizing for the whole—not for you.
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There are at least three kinds of learning that foster evolution: memory-based learning (storing the information that comes in through one’s conscious mind so that we can recall it later); subconscious learning (the knowledge we take away from our experiences that never enters our conscious minds, though it affects our decision making); and “learning” that occurs without thinking at all, such as the changes in DNA that encode a species’ adaptations.
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I have found understanding how nature and evolution work helpful in a number of ways. Most importantly, it has helped me deal with my realities more effectively and make difficult choices. When I began to look at reality through the perspective of figuring out how it really works, instead of thinking things should be different, I realized that most everything that at first seemed “bad” to me—like rainy days, weaknesses, and even death—was because I held preconceived notions of what I personally wanted. With time, I learned that my initial reaction was because I hadn’t put whatever I was ...more
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While we don’t like pain, everything that nature made has a purpose, so nature gave us pain for a purpose. So what is its purpose? It alerts us and helps direct us.
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Every time you confront something painful, you are at a potentially important juncture in your life—you have the opportunity to choose healthy and painful truth or unhealthy but comfortable delusion. The irony is that if you choose the healthy route, the pain will soon turn into pleasure. The pain is the signal! Like switching from not exercising to exercising, developing the habit of embracing the pain and learning from it will “get you to the other side.
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Whatever circumstances life brings you, you will be more likely to succeed and find happiness if you take responsibility for making your decisions well instead of complaining about things being beyond your control. Psychologists call this having an “internal locus of control,” and studies consistently show that people who have it outperform those who don’t.
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Almost nothing can stop you from succeeding if you have a) flexibility and b) self-accountability.
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Open-mindedness doesn’t mean going along with what you don’t believe in; it means considering the reasoning of others instead of stubbornly and illogically holding on to your own point of view. To be radically open-minded, you need to be so open to the possibility that you could be wrong that you encourage others to tell you so.
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After a while, you will just naturally and open-mindedly gather all the relevant info, but in doing so you will have avoided the first pitfall of bad decision making, which is to subconsciously make the decision first and then cherry-pick the data that supports it.
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In all aspects of life, what’s happening today seems like a much bigger deal than it will appear in retrospect. That’s why it helps to step back to gain perspective and sometimes defer a decision until some time passes.
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If people in an organization feel that alignment, they will treasure their relationships and work together harmoniously; its culture will permeate everything they do. If they don’t, they will work for different, often conflicting, goals and will be confused about how they should be with each other. For that reason, it pays for all organizations—companies, governments, foundations, schools, hospitals, and so on—to spell out their principles and values clearly and explicitly and to operate by them consistently.
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Great cultures bring problems and disagreements to the surface and solve them well, and they love imagining and building great things that haven’t been built before.
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this ideally happens in a 5-Step Process: 1) having clear goals, 2) identifying the problems preventing the goals from being achieved, 3) diagnosing what parts of the machine (i.e., which people or which designs) are not working well, 4) designing changes, and 5) doing what is needed. This is the fastest and most efficient way that an organization improves.
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Remember that for an organization to be effective, the people who make it up must be aligned on many levels—from what their shared mission is, to how they will treat each other, to a more practical picture of who will do what when to achieve their goals.
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By avoiding conflicts one avoids resolving differences. People who suppress minor conflicts tend to have much bigger conflicts later on, which can lead to separation, while people who address their mini-conflicts head on tend to have the best and the longest-lasting relationships.
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Utilize the “two-minute rule” to avoid persistent interruptions. The two-minute rule specifies that you have to give someone an uninterrupted two minutes to explain their thinking before jumping in with your own. This ensures that everyone has time to fully crystallize and communicate their thoughts without worrying they will be misunderstood or drowned out by a louder voice.
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In typical organizations, most decisions are made either autocratically, by a top-down leader, or democratically, where everyone shares their opinions and those opinions that have the most support are implemented. Both systems produce inferior decision making. That’s because the best decisions are made by an idea meritocracy with believability-weighted decision making, in which the most capable people work through their disagreements with other capable people who have thought independently about what is true and what to do about it.
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It is far better to weight the opinions of more capable decision makers more heavily than those of less capable decision makers. This is what we mean by “believability weighting.” So how do you determine who is capable at what? The most believable opinions are those of people who 1) have repeatedly and successfully accomplished the thing in question, and 2) have demonstrated that they can logically explain the cause-effect relationships behind their conclusions. When believability weighting is done correctly and consistently, it is the fairest and the most effective decision-making system. It ...more
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Ultimately, power will rule. This is true of any system. For example, it has repeatedly been shown that systems of government have only worked when those with the power value the principles behind the system more than they value their own personal objectives. When people have both enough power to undermine a system and a desire to get what they want that is greater than their desire to maintain the system, the system will fail. For that reason the power supporting the principles must be given only to people who value the principled way of operating more than their individual interests (or the ...more
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Remember that people tend to pick people like themselves, so choose interviewers who can identify what you are looking for. If you’re looking for a visionary, pick a visionary to do the interview in which you probe for vision. If you are looking for a mix of qualities, assemble a group of interviewers who embody those qualities collectively. Don’t choose interviewers whose judgment you don’t trust (in other words, make sure they are believable).
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If you’ve agreed with someone that something is supposed to go a certain way, make sure it goes that way—unless you get in sync about doing it differently. People will often subconsciously gravitate toward activities they like rather than what’s required. If they lose sight of their priorities, you need to redirect them. This is part of why it’s important to get frequent updates from people about their progress.
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There is no greater failure than to fail to escalate a responsibility you cannot handle. Make sure your people are proactive; demand that they speak up when they can’t meet agreed-upon deliverables or deadlines. Such communication is essential to get in sync both on the case at hand and on what the person handling it is like.
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Avoid the anonymous “we” and “they,” because they mask personal responsibility. Things don’t just happen by themselves—they happen because specific people did or didn’t do specific things. Don’t undermine personal accountability with vagueness. Instead of the passive generalization or the royal “we,” attribute specific actions to specific people: “Harry didn’t handle this well.” Also avoid “We should . . .” or “We are . . .” and so on. Since individuals are the most important building blocks of any organization and since individuals are responsible for the ways things are done, mistakes must ...more