FF 031 - Principles by Ray Dalio, How to Connect With Anyone, and How "Shapers" Change the World


Hello from Seoul, South Korea and now Beijing, China!

I will be launching a new FREE (for a limited time) online course called: From Dropout to Entrepreneur - How to Find a Profitable Idea and Work on Your Side-Business Without Quitting Your Day Job, in about a month; if you're interested sign-up here.

Welcome to the 31st Edition of FRIDAY FAVORITES!

Check out this week's list of things I've learned, how I've implemented them, and what I'm enjoying or pondering.

If you're also on the adventurous pursuit of smart passive income it'll come in handy 😉.

All the best,
- Adrien
P.S. If you're new, sign-up here.
P.P.S: Don't know who I am? Look at this.

by Ray Dalio

by Ray Dalio

This book is getting a lot of attention now, and I can see why.  Ray Dalio is considered to be one of the most brilliant investors of our time.

His way of thinking, organizing companies as idea meritocracies, and investing with the help of algorithms programmed with a certain set of principles and directed to weigh opinions based on experience has revolutionized both entrepreneurship and investing.

Ray is a driven, confident, and a notoriously intense leader. He is what people have called a "shaper", someone who comes up with unique and valuable visions and builds them out, typically over the doubts and opposition of others. These are folks like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Elon Musk. People who’ve made huge dents in the world.

I will explain more about shapers in the "What I've Learned" section below.

2. What I Am Doing: Travelling through Seoul and being pleasently surprised

Seoul from the top of a mountain in Bukhansan National Park

Seoul is New York City on crack

Seoul is about 4 times the size of New York City (where I'm from) and there was just wayyy too much for me to explore in the 5 days I was there.

However, from what I did get to experience, it was really really cool. Few cities have as much "umph" as Seoul.  Everything about the place screams "We do things our way here. You can like it or you can piss off."

Here's a glimpse of what I saw there:

City Hall

Door in Bukchon Hanok Village, over 600 years old

Cheeky selfie at the top of Bukhansan National Park.  I settled here to lie down in the sun and meditate. It was glorious.

Guards of a palace on their routine patrol

The best damn pork belly I've ever had, cooked sous-vide to perfection

Sakura (Cherry Blossoms) and a palace I spotted on my way up the mountain.

3. What I Am Enjoying: Kevin Rose's Interview of Jordan Harbinger, founder of The Art of Charm

This man is the most honest I've ever met.  He rips himself open to people on this episode and it's such an awesome experience to hear someone be so insightful and unapologetically real with you.  I suppose that's what I should expect from someone who now runs one of the most successful podcasts in the world aptly named, The Art of Charm.

Super fun and entertaining to listen to, but also walked away with tons of insights about how to connect better with anyone. 

4. What I Have Learned / Applied: "Shapers" Change the World, and I want to be one

Last week I talked about how the best leaders in the world approach everything in life via First Principles rather than Allegorical Knowledge.

Turns out, these people have a name, they're called "Shapers", and instead of explaining them myself, I'll share my favorite passage so far from Ray Dalio's book, Principles: Life & Work below:

It turns out they have a lot in common. They are all independent thinkers who do not let anything or anyone stand in the way of achieving their audacious goals.
They have very strong mental maps of how things should be done and at the same time a willingness to test those mental maps in the world of reality and change the ways they do things to make them work better.
They are extremely resilient because their need to achieve what they envision is stronger than the pain they experience as they struggle to achieve it.
Perhaps most interesting, they have a wider range of vision than most people, either because they have that vision themselves or because they know how to get it from others who can see what they can’t.
All are able to see both big pictures and granular details (and levels in between) and synthesize the perspectives they gain at those different levels, whereas most people see just one or the other.
They are simultaneously creative, systematic, and practical. They are assertive and open-minded at the same time.
Above all, they are passionate about what they are doing, intolerant of people who work for them who aren’t excellent at what they do, and want to have a big, beneficial impact on the world.
Take Elon Musk. When he had just come out with the Tesla and showed me his own car for the first time, he had as much to say about the key fob that opened the doors as he did about his overarching vision for how Tesla fits into the broader future of transportation and how important that is to our planet. Later on, when I asked him how he came to start his company SpaceX, the audacity of his answer startled me.
“For a long time,” he answered, “I’ve thought that it’s inevitable that something bad is going to happen on a planetary scale—a plague, a meteor—that will require humanity to start over somewhere else, like Mars. One day I went to the NASA website to see what progress they were making on their Mars program, and I realized that they weren’t even thinking about going there anytime soon.
“I had gotten $180 million when my partners and I sold PayPal,” he continued, “and it occurred to me that if I spent $90 million and used it to acquire some ICBMs from the former USSR and sent one to Mars, I could inspire the exploration of Mars.”
When I asked him about his background in rocketry, he told me he didn’t have one. “I just started reading books,” he said.
That’s how shapers think and act.
At times, their extreme determination to achieve their goals can make them appear abrasive or inconsiderate, which was reflected in their test results.
Nothing is ever good enough, and they experience the gap between what is and what could be as both a tragedy and a source of unending motivation.
No one can stand in the way of their achieving what they’re going after. On one of the personality assessments, there is a category they all ranked low on called “Concern for Others.”
But that doesn’t mean quite what it sounds like.
Consider Muhammad Yunus, for example. A great philanthropist, he has devoted his life to helping others. He received the Nobel Peace Prize for pioneering the ideas of microcredit and microfinance and has won the Congressional Gold Medal, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Gandhi Peace Prize, and more.
Yet he tested low on “Concern for Others.”
Geoffrey Canada, who has devoted most of his adult life to taking care of all the disadvantaged children in a hundred-square-block area of New York’s Harlem, also tested low on “Concern for Others.”
Bill Gates, who is devoting most of his wealth and energy to saving and improving lives, tested low as well.
Obviously, Yunus, Canada, and Gates care deeply about other people, yet the personality tests they took rated them low.
Why was that?
In speaking with them and reviewing the questions that led to these ratings, it became clear: When faced with a choice between achieving their goal or pleasing (or not disappointing) others, they would choose achieving their goal every time.
Through this investigative process, I learned that there are distinctly different types of shapers. The most important difference lies in whether their shaping comes in the form of inventing, managing, or both.
For example, while Einstein shaped by inventing, he didn’t have to manage, and while Jack Welch (who ran GE) and Lou Gerstner (who ran IBM) were great managers/leaders of people, they didn’t have to be as inventive.
The rarest cases were people like Jobs, Musk, Gates, and Bezos, who were inventive visionaries and managed big organizations to build those visions out.
There are a lot of people who look like shapers, in that they came up with a great idea and got it to the point where they could sell it for a lot of money, but did not shape consistently. Silicon Valley has many of these types; perhaps they should be called “inventors.”
I also saw that there were wonderful leaders of organizations who weren’t classic shapers, in that they didn’t come up with the original visions and build them out; rather, they entered existing organizations and led them well.
Only true shapers consistently move from one success to another and sustain success over decades, and those are the people I want to bring to Bridgewater.
My examination of shapers and my reflections on my own qualities made clear to me that nobody sees the full range of what they need to see in order to be exceptionally successful, though some see a wider range than others. Those that do best both see a wide range themselves while triangulating well with other brilliant people who see things in different, complementary ways.
This realization has been important in making my transition out of management go well. While in the past I would encounter problems, figure out their causes, and design my own ways to get around them, others who think differently than I do will make different diagnoses and designs.
My job as mentor was to help them be successful at that. This exercise reminded me that there are far fewer types of people in the world than there are people and far fewer different types of situations than there are situations, so matching the right types of people to the right types of situations is key.
Because Gates and Jobs had recently left Microsoft and Apple, I watched their former organizations closely to help me better understand how I could help prepare Bridgewater to thrive without me.
Certainly the most notable difference between them and Bridgewater was in our cultures—how we use the idea meritocracy of radical truth and radical transparency to bring problems and weaknesses to the surface to prompt forthright dealing with them.

Is it extremely audacious of me to want to be a Shaper? Yea, it is. Does that I mean I'm not going to go for it anyway? Hell no.

I've always connected with the way Shapers do things, but work hard on the delivery of my message every day.  It's very difficult to balance between having people understand your vision / what you're willing to do to accomplish it AND delivering this message in a nice way that doesn't ever offend anyone.

Let me share another passage with you that I include in The Ultimate Echo Studio Guidebook which I give to every new employee. This time from Tim Ferriss's, Tools of Titans, which does a great job illustrating what I strive to be like to solve this exact problem:

Hold the Standard
Chris [extremely successful chef] mentioned that by the time he arrived at The Fat Duck, Heston [an even more extremely successful chef and head of one of “the best restaurants in the world] no longer yelled at people, but “he signaled disappointment in other ways . . . he really pushed you, the team, everyone else to strive for excellence all the time.” I asked him to give me an example. Here’s his response, shortened for space:

“The order came on for [quail jelly], and I saw that they weren’t fully set up. I tried to float the langoustine cream on top anyway, and I sent them out to the pass knowing that they weren’t perfect. Those things came back like a boomerang. Heston just came around the corner holding them in his hand and just goes, ‘Chris.’ He’s looking at me, and he’s looking at the dish, and he’s looking at me, and he’s looking at the dish, and . . . ‘Not a chance.’ 

Puts it back. I just remember the withering look—like if I ever did that again, don’t show up again. I remember the lesson because he said, ‘We can do something else. If it’s not ready, we’re not going to send it out, and just hope they don’t notice that it’s not that good. We’ll fix it. We’ll do something else, but don’t try to slip by something that you know is below the standard.’ You only need that lesson once. 

That wasn’t the standard, and you know what the standard is. Hold the standard. “Ask for help. Fix it. Do whatever’s necessary. But don’t cheat.”

TIM: “But how do you manage the fine line between insisting on high standards and simply being an overbearing asshole?” [Chris now manages a company of 50+ employees.]

CHRIS: “The first thing is, on a good day, I will try to step back and say, ‘What context does this person even have, and have I provided appropriate context?’ . . . Given all the context they had, maybe I would’ve made the same decision, or I could imagine somebody else making the same decision. So increasingly, I try to think about: ‘What context and visibility do I have and what do they have? Am I basically being unfair because I’m operating from a greater set of information?

Just like Heston and Chris, I try to push everyone on my team to strive for excellence. If anyone is unclear on the standard of quality, I tell them to just ask. There's nothing wrong with asking for clarity.

5. Thought(s) I Am Pondering:

Every Shaper started nowhere with nothing.
Steps are small and incremental.
Only the ones willing to play the long game that have the most drive and determination can make it all the way.

Thanks for reading, have an awesome weekend! 😁

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