So, you’re going to work for Bridgewater, are you? Contrary to what various know-nothings will tell you, our nation’s greatest hedge funds are not soulless, interchangeable institutions that you can just bounce through like a bunch of cheap whores. They are delicate flowers that need to be finessed if you wanna make it past day one. If you’re not familiar with what makes Hedge Fund A (where crotchless panties and a mastery of BJ skills are required) different and unique from Hedge Fund B (where failure to really get in touch with your feelings re: 1-stock funds is seriously frowned upon) and Hedge Fund C (where it’s ALL ABOUT THE CHICKEN), the various company policies can come as a shock. For instance, if you didn’t know anything about the Bridgewater’s Tao of Dalio, which requires all employees to “probe” their colleagues (boss’s included), you might find yourself asking “WTF is this shit?” What this shit– the Culture of the Probe– is, is the secret to B-water’s success, the tenets of which comprise “Principles,” the hedge fund’s unofficial handbook, written by founder Ray Dalio. Some people, who were not familiar with the “Principles” prior to joining team BW, would not count themselves as fans of the Tao of Dal.
Ray encourages employees to live by the “Principles” and everyone is encouraged to quote them and use them in the day to day goings on of the company. “Culture carriers,” as he likes to call them, are those that commit the 200+ principles to heart and quote them in meetings and emails. The principles are pretty cult-ish, as is the culture of the whole company. At one of our town halls he handed out personally signed copies of them to everyone. The firm castigates anyone who doesn’t worship Dalio.
Most management meetings and department meetings are recorded, both the business and tech side, as are individual quarterly reviews or any meeting at managements discretion. Often if a manager or Ray thinks something is worth educational value they will email out a meeting recording company wide, these usually involve the individual getting shredded publicly for the greater good of the company. An example would be like when former COO Hope Woodhouse was shredded in front of the management committee and the sessions were sent out to the company to learn from (she was brought to the point of crying in the recording). Everyone is encouraged to given open and honest feedback so meetings often resort to public shaming and the demolition of people. 360s end up being everyone’s chance to totally dig on and destroy other individuals and say whatever things all year you’ve hated about people, 90% of feedback received in 360s is negative.
From the outside people think it’s a nice wholesome principled place that wants to cut through the corporate BS but it’s anything but. Ray’s hyper realism (in “Principles”) is insane. Once you read it you’ll get the idea– it’s all about adherence and indoctrination.
But that’s just, like, his/her opinion. Some of my best friends love the Principles! Regardless, that’s not the point. The point is that because there will apparently will be a quiz on these bad boys, we should probably take a look see.
A few of Ray’s Rules:
Be the Hyena. Attack that wildebeest.
Chapter 1: For example, when a pack of hyenas takes down a young wildebeest, is that good or evil? At face value, that might not be “good” because it seems cruel, and the poor wildebeest suffers and dies. Some people might even say that the hyenas are evil. Yet this type of apparently “cruel” behavior exists throughout the animal kingdom. Like death itself it is integral to the enormously complex and efficient system that has worked for as long as there has been life. It is good for both the hyenas who are operating in their self-interest and the interest of the greater system, including those of the wildebeest, because killing and eating the wildebeest fosters evolution (i.e., the natural process of improvement). In fact, if you changed anything about the way that dynamic works, the overall outcome would be worse.
While all this sounds very philosophical and removed from how to behave at Bridgewater, it is integral to how we operate. Bridgewater is based on the core belief that everyone here is evolving together. How well and how quickly we do that will have a huge effect on our well-being and the well-being of all the people we have contact with (e.g., our clients, our families, etc.). Those two things are inextricably linked. Further, to be successful and happy, not only do we have to be excellent, but we have to continue to improve at a surprisingly fast rate. Bridgewater also operates consistently with the belief that to be excellent and improve at a fast rate, we must be hyperrealistic and hypertruthful. We therefore need to overcome any impediments to being realistic and truthful.
CAN YOU HANDLE THE TRUTH?
… Truth is Essential: Understanding, accepting and knowing how to effectively deal with reality is essential for
achieving success. So …
9) … Trust in truth. There is nothing to fear from truth. While the truth itself may be scary (e.g., you are bad at something or you have a deadly disease), that won’t change the reality, and it will allow you to deal with it better. Being truthful, and letting others be completely truthful with you, allows you to fully explore your thoughts and exposes you to the feedback that is essential for your learning (and is crucial for getting in synch with your colleagues-which we discuss in another section). Being truthful is an extension of your freedom to be you; people who are one way the inside and believe that they need to be another way outside to please others become conflicted and often lose touch with what they really think and feel. It’s difficult for them to be happy and almost impossible for them to be at their best. Thinking solely about what’s accurate instead of how it is perceived helps you to be more straightforward and focused on important things. Being truthful is also essential to being an independent thinker and obtaining greater understanding of what is right. It exercises your willingness to hold independent opinions regardless of what others think and exposes your beliefs to the challenges of others. Most people will know whether you are truthful and reward you for it because it is in their interests to embrace truthful people and shun those who aren’t. Having truth on your side is so extremely powerful in so many ways that I believe it is better to have blind faith in it rather than being expedient about when to use it. In other words, I believe that being truthful and being around people who are extremely truthful are so healthy and productive that you shouldn’t think twice about it.
19) … Don’t believe it when someone caught being dishonest says they have seen the liqht and will never do that sort of thing again. Chances are they will. The cost of keeping someone around who has been dishonest is likely to be higher than any benefits.
Make sure to look people in the eye and tell them they suck.
12) … Never say anything about a person you wouldn’t say to him directly. If you do, you’re a slimy weasel. Badmouthing people behind their backs shows a serious lack of integrity. It doesn’t yield any beneficial change and it subverts both the people you are bad mouthing and the environment as a whole. Next to being dishonest, it is the worst thing you can do at Bridgewater. Criticism is both welcomed and encouraged at Bridgewater, so there is no good reason to talk behind people’s backs. You need to follow this policy to an extreme degree to be in harmony with our culture. For example, managers should not talk about people who work for them without those people in the room.
When telling them they suck, don’t beat around the ‘you suck’ bush. Really lay into their ass.
25) … Don’t depersonalize mistakes. A common mistake is to depersonalize the mistake, saying “we” didn’t handle this well rather than “Harry didn’t handle this well.” Again, this is because people are often uncomfortable connecting specific mistakes to specific people because of ego sensitivities. However,since individuals are the most important building blocks of any organization and because individuals are responsible for the ways things are done (e.g., someone created the procedure that went wrong or decided we should act according to that procedure), it is essential that the diagnosis connect the mistakes to the specific individuals (and/or responsible parties) by name. Doing this is one of the greatest tests of whether a person will put improvement ahead of ego and whether he or she will fit into the Bridgewater culture. At Bridgewater we reward people who find mistakes and accurately diagnose them.
38) … Not all opinions are equally valuable so don’t treat them as such. Almost everyone has an opinion, but they’re not all equally valuable. Many are worthless or even harmful. So it is not logical to treat them as equally valuable.
Speaking of asses…
…Probe Deep And Hard: One of the most essential and difficult things YOU have to do is making sure the people who workfor you do their jobs excellently. That requires constantly challenging them and doing things they don’t like you to do (e.g., probing them).
Pages 58-62 in the PDF
You are designing a “machine” or system that will produce outcomes.
Push It! And Dance, Puppets, Dance!.
… Push through! You can make great things happen, but you have to MAKE great things happen. There will come times when the choice will be to plod along normally or to push through to achieve the goal. As Lee Ann Womack’s country and western song says, when you have a choice between sitting it out or dancing, I hope you’ll dance.