Hola, I'm Julia.

Principles book summary

Principles book cover

This was a hefty book, so I'd definitely recommend picking and choosing the section that most relates to what you need right now. The book is split into 3 parts:

  1. Ray's background;
  2. life principles; and
  3. work principles.

The book is fairly "high-level" in that Ray provides you with a principle or idea, and it's then up to you to figure out if and how it can apply to your life / situation.

I enjoyed part 1 - learning about Ray's experience and how it then led to the formation for his principles and cornerstone ideas. Part 2 was superb. There were so many gems to take away here and is definitely a section worth revisiting in the future. Part 3 was good, but fairly lengthy. I'd recommend reading this only if it directly relates to what you need to do in your daily life at the moment i.e. to work with others in a collaborative way and create / manage functional teams.

For those that was a quick introduction to the book, here's a <%= link_to( '30 minute animated video', 'https://www.principles.com/principles-for-success/#play', target: '_blank' ) %> that summarises the "Principles for Success".

Key ideas that run throughout the book

  • To make the best decisions, you need to find the truth.
  • Radical open-mindedness and radical transparency is how you can get to the truth.
  • Ego, blind spots and being emotional (your limbic brain) are barriers that you need to fight against to get to the truth.
  • When engaging with others, understand that people are wired differently.
  • Fill in your knowledge or experience gaps by getting input from believable people. When engaging with them practice thoughtful disagreement and utilise believability-weighted decision-making.

My takeaways

Life principles

  • Think for yourself to decide: (1) what you want (2) what is true and (3) what you should do to achieve #1 in light of #2.

  • Have principles and use them consistently. _ Operate by principles that are so clearly laid out that their logic can easily be assessed. _ Never stop refining and improving them. * Try to look at each new situation as "another one of those" and apply the right principle to solve the problem.

  • Ray's 5-step process for getting what you want:

    • Set clear goals
    • Identify problems and don’t tolerate them
    • Diagnose your problems to find root causes
    • Design solutions to get around problems
    • Do the tasks required to completion
  • Look at the patterns of your mistakes and identify at which step in the 5-Step Process you typically fail. Remember that it's difficult for you to be objective, so think about enlisting others to help you identify failings, or to help you compensate for them.

  • Know how to both strive for a lot and fail well. _ Take responsibility for your bad (and good!) outcomes. _ Each mistake is a gem if you learn from it and are able to codify it in a principle. Go through your life constantly collecting these gems and upgrading yourself in the process. You can then ascend to higher levels of play where the challenges are greater. * If you look back at yourself a year ago and aren't shocked by how stupid you were, you haven't learnt much.

  • Man’s most distinctive quality is our singular ability to look down on reality from a higher perspective and synthesize an understanding of it. Use this ability! _ Rather than being right, keep asking yourself “How do I know I’m right?”. _ Be the machine designer or manager and tweak the machine where necessary. Don't work inside the machine. Comparing the outcome to your goals will help you know how to tweak your machine. * Your greatest challenge will be having your thoughtful higher-level you manage your emotional lower-level you.

  • Draw inspiration and learn from nature _ Whenever I observe something in nature that I (or mankind) think is wrong, I assume that I’m wrong and try to figure out why what nature is doing makes sense. _ Nature optimizes for the whole, not for the individual, but most people judge good and bad based only on how it affects them. Your individual incentives must therefore tie into the group's goals. * Evolve or die.

  • Play the longer term game - it is the evolution, not the rewards, that matter _ To gain strength one has to push one’s limits, which is painful. _ Develop a reflexive reaction to psychic pain that causes you to reflect on it rather than avoid it. _ Consider the second-and-third-order consequences, not just the first-order ones (that tend to be the temptations that cost us what we really want). _ Pain + Reflection = Progress

  • When encountering your weaknesses you have four choices (see below). The one you choose will critically affect the direction of your life. The worst path is the first one. _ You can deny them (which is what most people do). _ You can accept them and work at them in order to try to convert them into strengths (which might or might not work depending on your ability to change). _ You can accept your weaknesses and find ways around them. _ Or, you can change what you are going after.

  • Ego and blind spots are the fatal flaws that keep intelligent, hardworking people from living up to their potential. _ Practice radical open-mindedness _ Use pain as a guide towards quality reflection _ Know your blind spots _ Meditate * Be evidence-based. Use evidence-based tools

  • Seek out believable people who know more about a subject than you do and have a track record of making the right decisions _ No sensible person should reject a believable person’s views without great fear of being wrong. _ Triangulate your view with believable people who are willing to disagree. * One of the most important decisions you can make is who you ask questions of. Listening to uninformed people is worse than having no answers at all.

  • Learn how to make decisions effectively

    • The biggest threat to good decision-making is harmful emotions.
    • Decision making is a 2 step process: (1) take in all the relevant information, then (2) decide.
    • Make your decisions as expected value calculations.
      • Think of every decision as a bet with a probability and a reward for being right and a probability and a penalty for being wrong.
      • You can almost always improve your odds of being right by doing things that will give you more information.
      • You can significantly improve your track record if you only make the bets that you are most confident will pay off.
    • Believability weight your decision making

Work principles

  • An organisation is a machine comprising of two major parts: culture and people.

  • A believability-weighted idea meritocracy is the best system for making effective decisions.

    • Don't pay as much attention to people's conclusions as to their reasoning.
    • In each situation, are you playing the role of teacher, student or peer? Should you be teaching, asking questions or debating?
    • Assess believability by systematically capturing people's track records over time.
    • Choose your believable people wisely. You don't have time to thoroughly examine everyone's thinking.
  • Make your passion and your work one and the same and do it with people you want to be with.

  • To get the culture right... _ Trust in radical truth and radical transparency. _ Be loyal to the common mission and not to anyone who is not operating consistently with it. _ Create a culture where it's okay to make mistakes, but not to not learn from them. _ Conflicts are essential for great relationships. This is how people determine whether principles are aligned and gives them a chance to resolve differences. _ If you can't reconcile major differences, especially in values, consider whether the relationship is worth preserving. _ Believability-weight decision-making. * Get beyond agreements effectively. Principles can't be ignored by mutual agreement.

  • To get the people right... _ The most important decision for you is to choose the right Responsible Party. RPs are responsible for the goals and outcomes, and will bear the consequences of what is done. _ Hire right. Hire people you want to share your life with. Look for people who ask great questions. Show your warts. _ Don't lower the bar. _ Think hard about how to retain people. Make sure they are constantly growing, learning and evolving.

  • Manage as someone operating a machine to achieve a goal. Your role is to look down at your machine and yourself within it from a higher level. _ Constantly compare outcomes to your goals. _ A great manager is essentially an organisational engineer. _ You need great metrics. _ Don't get distracted by shiny objects. _ Understand the differences between managing, micromanaging and not managing. _ Know your people and what they are like. They are your most important resource. _ Clearly assign responsibilities. _ Think like an owner and expect others to do the same. _ Hold yourself and your people accountable. And appreciate them for holding you accountable. _ Communicate the plan clearly with clear progress metrics. _ Build your organisation around goals, not tasks. _ Remember that it will take longer and cost more than you expect.

  • Do what you set out to do.

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