Most of us live our lives in the “ordinary world”, living largely ordinary lives if we choose the safety of ordinary.  Others hear a call to adventure and embark on a hero’s journey¹ to find their treasure. 

Of course, the journey from ordinary/ safe to purpose/adventure is not easy or certain.  Crossing the threshold into the “special world” requires courage and faith. Many refuse the call for a while, daunted by fears of the unknown. They eventually meet a mentor or circumstance that guides them to cross into the special world for a while.

Once there, they are tested mightily, forced to look inward, and challenged with ordeal after ordeal. Ultimately, if they persevere, they are rewarded and sent back to the “ordinary world”.

Our hero is not the same though. S/he is somehow transformed, more skilled and wise. And when the next call comes, our hero may face an even more daunting challenge.

Our lives are defined by the journeys we choose. Ray Dalio’s has been. Despite Bridgewater Associates now being the largest hedge fund in the world and Ray being one of the wealthiest billionaires on the planet, the future looked bleak in the 1980s.  Back then, Ray arrogantly and publicly predicted a worldwide depression that not only didn’t happen but was a boom instead.

Ray’s extraordinary success, by conventional measures, can be attributed to him answering the call to adventure over and over in his life.  His company is no different. Working for Bridgewater must be like a daily hero’s journey. While staff use principles to predict markets, they use radical candor with each other to continually expose their egos and blind spots.

Ray, in the sunset of his career, has gifted us with an animated series called Principles for Success: An Ultra Mini-Series Adventure in 30 Minutes.  I’ve taken the time to capture key notes from each segment for myself and for you. Watch, read or do both. You’ll be richer for it.

E1 The Call to Adventure

Time is like a river that carries us into encounters with reality that require us to make decisions…the quality [and courage] of our decisions will determine the quality of our lives. We need to think for ourselves about what is true and know how to deal with all we don’t know.

E2 Embrace Reality and Deal with It

Dreams + Reality + Determination is the universal formula for a successful life. And Pain + Reflection = Progress. We must embrace all our realities including problems, mistakes and weaknesses. This can be painful. But pain can be a cue that a great learning opportunity is coming.

E3 The Five Step Process

Only by reflecting carefully after pain can we prevent some future pain. Dalio’s 5-Step Process:

  1. Know your goals and run after them;
  2. Identify what stands in your way
  3. Find the root cause vs. jumping to solution;
  4. Design a plan to eliminate the problems;
  5. Execute your plan. Repeat over and over. Adapt or die!  

Know that as the challenges become bigger and bigger, we are more likely to fall.

E4 The Abyss

Even when we don’t accept a huge call to adventure, severe losses can happen to us. How we handle our inevitable losses/ falls define us. Can we objectively face our failures, make the right decisions and spiral up or will we sink into our setbacks and not recover?

E5 Everything is a Machine

While we feel our lives are unique (they are to an extent), most problems we encounter are “another one of those”. We are biased to recent history. Events we’ve not experienced in our lifetime can happen to us. We need to develop or draw on principles to help us see everything as a system.

E6 Your Two Biggest Barriers

Our ego and our blind spots WILL get in our way. When our (ego) need to be right is more important to us than our need to find out what is true, we will make poor decisions, learn less and fall short of our potential.  We all have blind spots that prevent us from seeing a complete picture of reality. Opening to feedback and other perspectives can turn our blind spot fatal flaw into wonderful outcomes.

E7 Be Radically Open Minded

Replace the joy of being right with the joy of learning and the world will light up!  The best way to go through the “jungle of life” is with people who see things differently. Encourage radical candor and the distortions of your ego and blind spots will be more easily dealt with. Radical open-mindedness will radically change the unfolding of your life.

E8 Struggle Well

Our greatest strengths are closely connected to our greatest weaknesses. “Successful” people struggle.  They also think hard about what caused their setbacks, learn lessons and continue toward their goal. Bigger goals lead to bigger falls. It is just part of the process.

What Ray has learned, and I am learning too, is that the things we struggle for—our goals– are just the bait. This is the real equation:

Great People to Journey With + a Great Journey + Our Own Evolution = Our Reward

Ray and I both want to raise consciousness in the world.

“My only hope for you is that you have the courage to struggle and evolve well to make your life as great as it can be.”  

  • Ray Dalio, 2018

May you journey well, Ray and all.


¹ In narratology and comparative mythology, the monomyth, or the hero’s journey, is the common template of a broad category of tales that involve a hero who goes on an adventure, and in a decisive crisis wins a victory, and then comes home changed or transformed. hero myth pattern studies were popularized by Joseph Campbell, who was influenced by Carl Jung’s view of myth. Wikipedia

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