Think for yourself while being radically open-minded

RAY DALIO is the founder, chair, and co–chief investment officer at Bridgewater Associates, a global leader in institutional portfolio management and the largest hedge fund in the world ($150+ billion). Bridgewater is known for its culture of “radical transparency,” which includes encouraging dissent, openly airing disagreements, and recording all meetings. His estimated net worth is nearly $17 billion. Along with Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, Ray has signed “The Giving Pledge,” committing half of his net wealth to charity over the course of his lifetime. He has created the Dalio Foundation to channel his philanthropic contributions. Ray has appeared on the Time 100 list of the “Most Influential People in the World,” as well as the Bloomberg Markets list of the “50 Most Influential People.” Ray is the author of Principles: Life and Work, in which he shares the unconventional principles that he’s developed, refined, and used over the past 40 years to create unique results in both life and business.

What is the book (or books) you’ve given most as a gift, and why? Or what are one to three books that have greatly influenced your life?
The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell, The Lessons of History by Will and Ariel Durant, and River Out of Eden by Richard Dawkins.

What purchase of $100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last six months (or in recent memory)?
A pocket notepad to jot down good ideas when they come to me.

How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favorite failure” of yours?
My most painful failures have been my best teachers, because the pain prompted me to change. My “favorite failure” was in 1982, when I predicted a depression on Wall Street Week (a popular TV show) and to Congress just before a great bull market and economy.

If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it, what would it say?
“Think for yourself while being radically open-minded.”

What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made?
Learning to meditate. I faithfully practice Transcendental Meditation but also dabble and am interested in other types of meditation.

What is an unusual habit or an absurd thing that you love?

Enjoying reflecting on my painful mistakes. I do this by writing down my reflections. I’ve also developed an iPad app to help people reflect on the pain they experience that I call the Pain Button.

In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?
The belief that I’m at a stage in life when making others successful without me is the most important thing I can do.

What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student about to enter the “real world”?
Love looking at what you don’t know, your mistakes, and your weaknesses, because understanding them is essential for making the most of your life.

What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?

“The markets that have done great are great investments.” In other words, when someone says, “Buy this because it’s doing well,” you should be thinking, “Be careful, because it’s become more expensive.”

When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, what do you do?

I meditate.

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