Principles are concepts that can be repeatedly applied across various situations. The most successful players in every game of life apply a core set of strategic principles that they use to win. In other words, principles are a set of methods used to deal with specific rules and directives of life. That’s why “the grind” is somewhat cliche; it places the emphasis on the work you’re doing, not why you’re doing it. Your principles are the why. And that’s why they’re important.
Certain principles are used in specific, narrow use-cases; for example, you use “management principles” for managing, “investment principles” for investing, “tennis” principles for playing tennis, etc. – and there are all-encompassing “life principles” that generally influence our approach to fundamental problems that we encounter in each stage of our lives. You would almost never be able to cross-apply principles in different subfields if you’re specific enough. Like sure, you have to work hard to be good at investing or tennis, but beyond that commonality, you really can’t honestly cross-apply much.
The success that we see from leaders like Ray Dalio and Stephen Schwarzman stem from another set of principles. Anyone who scrupulously examines the companies of these talented leaders will see a strong culture, motivated people, influential management, and a highly effective overall team. Finding and acquiring these traits are challenges to all companies out there, but companies such as Bridgewater Associates and Blackstone managed to overcome these challenges both masterfully and effectively.
On a more specific note, one of Ray Dalio’s guiding life principles is to embrace reality and constantly seek the truth. Now, more than ever, technology and media surround us with a sea of distractions and it is hard to find navigate towards meaningful content. By focusing our attention and energy on what truly matters to us and our lives and yearning to find the truths about ourselves and the world we live in, we are paving the path to a happier, more fulfilling life.
The Principle of ‘Fit’
Of course, many people are not readily willing to subscribe to the principles set forth by their company. This presents the issue of compatibility; many employees are rejected from companies like Google or Goldman Sachs not because they aren’t competitive, but because they simply do not share the same values as the company.
Think of rejection as always a result of lack of fit, not always a lack of competence.
Naturally, it is important to continue to work on improving one’s skills, but also keep in mind you’re a collection of your principles and those principles should be very clearly defined and internalized.
Undoubtedly, principles are integral in getting what we want out of life. From having a successful career to maintaining a strong relationship, it is important that we understand each other’s principles.
And that’s it. That’s why principles are critical. Your decisions today don’t really directly impact your life or career in the long run. But that’s what’s scary.
Having poorly-defined principles (or even unfocused ones) adds up over a long period of time.
Having well-defined ones help you build momentum in whatever it is that you’re working on.
That’s why you have to consider what you stand for, what you believe in, and why you care. Think about that today. Take a second to consider your mandate. Do you care about education? Do you care about sustainability?
Then go do it.