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College, according to Ray Dalio, is for ragers and kegstands and throwing up in strangers’ kitchen sinks. Business school, however, is apparently for absorbing Principles, as some lucky Stanford MBA candidates learned in April.

“Find the three or four smartest people dealing with the most important questions you’re facing,” he continued. “Areas of disagreement will bubble to the surface and you’ll learn a lot.”

It is not, however, enough to internalize Principles, however. Once you have them, you must synthesize them into even more important metaPrinciples.

Hiring people who would disagree with him meant that Dalio had to create a process to “organize” and resolve disagreement — an “idea meritocracy….” An idea meritocracy stands on the pillars of radical truthfulness and radical transparency. “There are two ‘yous,’” Dalio says. “A conscious, thoughtful you that might say, ‘I’d like to know my weaknesses to deal with them.’ But the emotional you might have a harder time.”

Of course, when you are truly committed to Principles, sometimes ideas too beautiful for this world can emerge.

He advocates a bipartisan approach — fueled by thoughtful disagreement — whereby federal and state leadership work on issues like unequal education access with clear principles and metrics. “If we don’t do it together, we’re going to be in trouble.”

Uh, Ray, “going to be”?

Bridgewater Investments Founder Ray Dalio: Invest in Idea Meritocracy [Stanford GSB]


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