To acquire principles that work, it’s essential that you embrace reality and deal with it well

This is the fifth and final post I will be creating on Ray Dalio’s book “Principles.”

In this blog post I’d like to focus on embracing reality. How do you make your decisions? How do you know that what you know is true? Facebook’s method is to “move fast and break things.” Dalio’s suggested that we find “believable people.”

I like to thing I’m a good judge of character but after reading “Mindwise” by Nicholas Epley, I’m starting to mistrust my gut. At the end of the book, Epley suggests there’s only one way to know what other people are thinking – ask them.

So if our gut instinct, putting ourselves in their shoes, scanning for micro-expressions are all for naught, what can we do?

“To acquire principles that work, it’s essential that you embrace reality and deal with it well.” – Ray Dalio

How do you embrace reality? I believe Dalio is trying to say that the only way to learn how things truly are is to push yourself to action. Once we have acted in the world we can start to see how it acts back. Does it conform to our assumptions? No? Then we’ve just learned by embracing reality.

“Embrace your realities and deal with them effectively. After all, making the most of your circumstances is what life is all about. This includes being transparent with your thoughts and open-mindedly accepting the feedback of others. Doing so will dramatically increase your learning.” – Ray Dalio

Have a hard time open-mindedly accepting the feedback of others? Get more feedback. I know it sounds counterintuitive so let me say it another way. I develop iPhone apps. I lead a group of developers who discuss the latest technologies and how they apply to the programming landscape.

However, if we’re only just discussing iPhone programming and not actually programming iPhone apps we aren’t doing anything. I like to say, “iPhone developers develop iPhone apps.”

“The biggest mistake most people make is to not see themselves and others objectively, which leads them to bump into their own and others’ weaknesses again and again.” – Ray Dalio

This seems like another opportunity for us to seek feedback more often from believable people.

“Because it is difficult to see oneself objectively, you need to rely on the input of others and the whole body of evidence.” – Ray Dalio

Then what do we do about the problems that surface while we are embracing reality, acting and getting feedback? What are we supposed to do with the problems of reality when we run up against them?

“View painful problems as potential improvements that are screaming at you. Once you identify a problem, don’t tolerate it.” – Ray Dalio

So we’ve embraced reality, acted to test it, spotted the problems, and we don’t tolerate them. We fix them. We learn how other people have worked through similar situations.

“We all see ourselves and the world in our own unique ways, so deciding what’s true and what to do about it takes constant work.” – Ray Dalio

I wish there was a magic bullet I could share to make life easier but it seems like the more we run from our problems and stick our heads in the sand, the more the problems and reality bite at our heels.

Take a stand, embrace reality, act, get feedback, identify the problems, and deal with them. This is how we embrace reality. This is how we win.


Author: David Neely

Professional Software Developer. Technology and Web Coordinator at the University of Hawaii's Manoa Career Center.