Last May, we were introduced to Principles, the company handbook written by Bridgewater Associates founder Ray Dalio, which instructs employees to go on radical truth seeking missions in order to better themselves and in turn the firm (the firm also expects the staff to "probe" each other regularly, no matter one's rank, in order to foster openness and meritocracy). Not everyone who read the Principles was impressed, suggesting (by saying outright) that the ideology found inside the Westport-based hedge fund is psychologically abusive and similar to that of a cult. The sentiment was shared by both outsiders and former employees whose reactions can be explained thusly: they're simply not ready to embrace the truth.
These people suggested that anyone who set foot inside the building, for even so much an interview (wherein applicants are asked their views on abortion and told to point out the flaws in other potential hires) would sooner or later run from the place, like an inmate breaking out of the asylum, and that the only reason people stay is because they're forced to against their will. If these naysayers were ready to probe to the depths of the truth, they'd find out that the firm's staff loves the Principles and the way the place is run. And that Bridgewater? Has changed their lives for the better. The reason we know this is because a bunch of employees were recently recorded saying as much.
For instance, John. When he first started at Bridgewater, he felt like he was "really good at fighting for what I thought I was right and saying what was on my mind and being openminded." He came to realize that wasn't the case. "When I was challenged it would emotionally impact the way I interacted...I would get heated, I would lose my logic...when people challenged my ideas I'd feel like it was an affront on me."
There was this one time, John says, he went to a meeting with Ray, who told him "I think you have a reliability problem." And John told him "You're wrong!" In that moment, John reflects now, "I was already being illogical, by not asking Ray why he thinks I'm unreliable. I was closing myself off to the notion of exploring that, and reflecting on past experiences. I started to come to a realization that not only has being reliable been a problem for me professionally but personally, all the way back to the time that I was 8 years-old."
Then John got to thinking. "How is it that something has affected me since I was 8 years-old is something I could deny steadfastly as a 30 year old? If I'd know it that long, why would I deny it if it's obviously true? Has Bridgewater just brainwashed me so much I've just imagined it's been a problem since I was 8, which I don't think was true, or, is that the impact of one's ego? How do I want to be? I want to be the guy you give the ball to on the 2-yard line. We need to score, we gotta give it to the most dependable person, you're the guy. That's who I want to be. I'm being confronted in that moment by someone saying, 'You're not that guy.' And that hurts. And only through time, through a lot of patience, have I actually come to confront that, and come to accept that and I'm trying to become comfortable with it. I'm trying to change certain bits about myself that are causing problems, but I'm much more comfortable being conscious of it."
There are more stories like John's to be found here. Stories that illustrate Bridgewater as more than simply a investment firm, but a place where positive, transformative experiences you'd be hard-pressed to find elsewhere abound. One employee says she can't put into words how much she loves the people she works for. Another speaks of having "a crisis moment" after being told by Ray "you have a problem with confrontation," which ultimately led him to discover it was true, having "grown up in a family where it was good to be indirect about things and not embarrass people." Another says her time at BW has been unlike that of any of her peers at other firms. Yet another cries (tears of happiness). Check them out, but only if you're ready and willing to accept truth.