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Principles for success in life


Principles is tremendously insightful. I strongly recommend reading the book, or at minimum, investing 28 minutes (faster if you increase playback speed) to watch this summary video. It's a remarkable opportunity to be able to peer into the mind of a man who has clearly thought very deeply about life, and whose advice is widely sought after by governments and major companies.
Also highly recommend the rest of the videos on Dalio's YouTube channel (including the mechanics of the economic cycle, establishing a company culture where the best ideas win, etc) here.


In the video, Dalio shares many of the principles that guided his life. Of particular interest is the 5-step process that he advocates. The 5-step process sounds straight-forward enough, perhaps even lacking the oomph of lifehacks that motivational speakers promulgate. But I think it's really important not to only look at how revolutionary

5 step process

  1. Know your goals and run after them. what is best for you depends on your nature so you need to really understand yourself, and know what you want to achieve in life

  2. Encounter the problems that stand in the way of getting to your goals. These problems are typically painful, and if handled badly some of them can lead to your ruin. But to evolve, you need to identify those problems, and not tolerate them.

  3. Diagnose these problems, to get their root causes. Don't jump too quickly to solutions, but take a step back and reflect in order to really distinguish the symptoms from the disease. 

  4. Design a plan to eliminate the problems. What do you need to do to get around them?

  5. Execute those designs, pushing yourself to do what is needed to achieve your goals.


Success in life is about repeating this 5 step process over and over again. Dalio also sees this as a form of personal evolution - in fact, any product or organisation goes through a similar cyclical process of constant adaption, without which there is a risk o being obsolete. 


People are strong and weak at different things, and it's likely that there will be some parts of the 5 step process that we can't do well. However, not facing this 5 step process is worse, where we fail to grasp reality as it is, and not improve. As we engage the 5-step process more, we do get better at it.

Besides the 5-step process, Dalio also provides insight into other areas:

He believes that struggle is constant and necessary

"In my early years, I looked up to extraordinarily successful people, thinking that they were successful because they were extraordinary. After I got to know such people personally, I realised that all of them - like me, like everyone - make mistakes, struggle with their weaknesses, and don’t feel that they are particularly special or great. They are no happier than the rest of us, and they struggle just as much or more than average folks."

"Even after they surpass their wildest dreams, they still experience more struggle than glory. This has certainly been true for me. While I surpassed my wildest dreams decades ago, I am still struggling today. I’m still struggling and I will until I die because even if I tried to avoid the struggles, they will find me.”

“Nature gave us pain as a messaging device to tell us that we are approaching, or that we have exceeded, our limits in some way.” 

Struggle is necessary because it means progress.

“Pain + Reflection = Progress”

To understand what I mean, imagine your greatest goal, whatever it is - making a ton of money, winning an Academy Award, running a great organisation, being great at a sport. Now imagine instantaneously achieving it. You’d be happy at first but not for long. You would soon find yourself needing something else to struggle for. Just look at people who attain their dreams early - the child star, the lottery winner, the professional athlete who peaks early. They typically don’t end up happy unless they get excited about something else bigger and better to struggle for. Since life brings both ups and downs, struggling well doesn’t just make your ups better; it makes your downs less bad.

Life is about making a choice from the many available, based on reality. 

“I learned that if you work hard and creatively, you can have just about anything you want, but not everything you want. Maturity is the ability to reject good alternatives in order to pursue even better ones.” “The happiest people discover their own nature and match their life to it.” 

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