In The Fund (2023) investigative journalist Rob Copeland pulls back the embellished PR curtain of Bridgewater Associates, unveiling a despotic leader and a cult-like culture of gaslighting, fear, and power plays.
- Exec Summary
- FULL SUMMARY
- Ray Dalio Doesn’t Want You To Read The Fund
- Dalio Was The Undisputed & Undisputable Leader…
- Individuals Suffer When Principles Only Protect “The Whole”
- Bridgewater’s System Didn’t Work
- Ray Dalio Showed Many Red Flags
- Ray Dalio Loved Predictions… But Wasn’t Any Good At It
- Ray Dalio Invested In PR To Gain A Jobs-Like Reputation
- Dalio’s Growing Fame Made Bridgewater Experience Even More Gaslighting
- A Therapist’s REaction to Bridgewater Culture
- Ray Dalio Went After The Author to Destroy His Credibility (And Career)
- Ray Dalio Reply
- Bridgewater reply
- Practical Takeaways
- DOUBTS, CONS, NOTES
- CEOs and founders prefer loyalists. If your goal is to advance, manage your boss relationship with proven power principles.
The Fund shows: anyone who threatened Dalio’s leadership, status and power paid the price
- Don’t believe the hype. There are no ego-free enlightened gurus. A good chunk of self-help is virtue signaling.
The Fund shows: Dalio supposedly transcended his ego, but he seemed to act like anyone with a huge ego would
- To advance in life and at work, follow proven power principles, and dismiss the HR and PR hot air. They’re either virtue signaling or manipulation
The Fund shows: anyone who gave “radical candor” feedback to Dalio paid the price
About the Author:
Rob Copeland is a finance reporter at the New York Times, covering Wall Street and banks.
Previously, he wrote for The Wall Street Journal, and the hedge-fund trade publication Absolute Return.
He has followed Bridgewater since arriving at the WSJ in 2013.
For The Fund, Copeland has interviewed dozens of current and former Bridgewater employees, including Dalio and other Bridgewater high-flyers.
Ray Dalio Doesn’t Want You To Read The Fund
The opening of the book could be a masterclass in attention-grabbing:
Ray Dalio does not want you to read this book.
He told me as much. At the start of this project, I reached out to him by email to seek his perspective. He responded with skepticism about my intentions.
As much as that may seem a “marketing power move”, you would probably agree with Copeland after you read The Fund :).
Dalio Was The Undisputed & Undisputable Leader…
There was no “perfect meritocracy”.
Dalio’s narrative was that pure meritocracy governs Bridgewater.
And that any difference in rank and authority is due to merit.
None of that was true.
The author says:
The truth is rather more Orwellian. At Bridgewater, some are more equal than others.
This is the story of Ray Dalio, the most equal one of all.
Individuals Suffer When Principles Only Protect “The Whole”
Ray Dalio says to look at nature to understand reality.
And in nature, natural selection optimizes for progress and for “the whole”.
So, for Dalio, “the whole” comes first, even if painful for the individual.
This is something we had already flagged in our business manipulation article.
Why is this potentially self-serving and harmful to employees?
Because Ray Dalio OWNS the “whole”.
So individuals may be better off following their own principles, instead of the principles built to serve that “whole”.
And indeed, here’s what Dalio said, but left out from Principles:
He would tell a fable about a ravenous pack of hyenas murdering a young wild beast. The wild beast may suffer, but its death is necessary to promote evolutionary improvement
You be my guest in giving your suffering to promote Dalio’s “whole” :).
Bridgewater’s System Didn’t Work
Ray Dalio often referred to Bridgewater’s “believability” approach to decision-making.
The believability score was supposed to compute everyone’s opinions based on their level of authority and expertise, and then select the best possible course of action.
Except, it doesn’t seem that the system worked at all.
A few snippets, and in the italic are direct quotes from The Fund:
- Dalio selected the scoring items, and they made little sense: McDowell created one working prototype after another, only for Dalio to add and subtract new categories seemingly at whim. Many seemed less than scientific; one was called “practical” while another was “practical thinking.”
- The system seemed to rely on “pseud-quantification”, or assigning numbers that give the feeling of accuracy, but mean nothing. “Dalio’s metrics included nebulous areas such as “visualization.” What was that, and could it, or similarly subjective areas such as creativity, even be numerically ranked?”
- Dalio was on top no matter what: “Dalio’s rating was now numerically bulletproof to negative feedback. Regardless of how everyone else in the firm rated him, the system would work to keep him on top.“
- Anchoring bias: people tended to stick to the pre-existing rating. “The little real-time analysis that McDowell had been able to perform showed a sad state of affairs, scientifically. When rating one another, employees tended to stick closely to the existing marks.”
And most damning from an effectiveness point of view:
- The system didn’t make for better performance: “Ferrucci, one of the world’s foremost experts in artificial intelligence (…) couldn’t figure out where to even begin to apply hard science (…) It was a mess of pseudoscience (…) not even a simple regression to show (…) better results. (“I don’t believe in regressions,” Dalio told (…).) Even a cursory look at the data showed the opposite.”
- The system was biased by psychology, strategic considerations and power dynamics
a generally blank baseball card devoid of ratings was an invitation to be branded with negative dots by one’s colleagues.* There was little incentive to stick out, and every incentive to pile on. It took only a few days for newcomers to figure out that the best way to earn high ratings was to agree with others already ranked highly. This inevitably meant hewing closely to the views of the hedge fund’s top brass.
And on the natural “tit for that” nature of social exchanges biasing the system:
Instead of incentivizing the telling of tough truths, the system supported their hiding, or at least a degree of inertia. “Down-dotting” (Bridgewater-speak for giving a poor rating) a coworker resulted in an outsize risk the recipient would return the favor, producing a downward spiral for both. Thus, stasis largely ruled.
And, turns out, the only “hyena” effect was in piling onto other colleagues. Especially when a high-status employee made the first attack:
Among those who regularly gave out fresh critical ratings to employees was Dalio. Staff lived in fear of a critical Dalio dot because it would disproportionately push the employee’s average down immediately and be followed by a cascade of similar negative ratings from others who saw the new, depressed baseline. There was no escaping the pile-on. It was death by dots.
Ray Dalio Showed Many Red Flags
Among the red flags:
Signs narcissism-like personality
- The arduous task of replacing Dalio
Such was the task of replacing the Bridgewater founder that he often said that hundreds more people would be required.
- Compliments to others become personal slights to Dalio
Stefanova asked to speak with Dalio one-on-one.
“I think it’s best for me if I next work for Eileen,” she said slowly.
He was still barely with her. “Why?”
“Because I admire her.”
(…) Dalio snapped up (…) “You don’t admire me?”
Stefanova felt a mix of confusion and derision. How could Dalio not realize that she was still hurt from her humiliating probing?
This was a power-related blunder by Stefanova.
Dalio Says He “Conquered His Ego”, But It Was A Convenient Narrative to “Guru-Like Influence”
Which is another red flag:
“That damned amygdala,” Dalio once called it publicly.
He had apparently been able to overcome his own such reflex.
Through meditation, Dalio said he was able to all but separate the amygdala and prefrontal cortex, thus freeing himself from being controlled by emotion. He credited this ability for his understanding of the psychological factors that lead to successful trading and company management.
Dalio began to present himself as a model for exemplary behavior. He compared himself to the Dalai Lama.
Also read more in:
Dalio’s Will To Power Governed Bridgewater
Among the signs it was all about power:
- Ray Dalio rewards those who increase his power: “The man responsible for making Ray Dalio the paragon of believability would receive the promotion of his life.”
- Loyalty is expected
- “Family frames”: “As McDowell reached the door, Dalio spoke one more time. “This means you’re part of the family.”
- Dalio demands that the “believability rating” keeps him on top:
Dalio’s voice made no secret of his irritation. Why doesn’t believability cascade from me?
“McDowell thought back to Dalio’s index card drawing. He realized that Dalio hadn’t been sketching out the mere concept of believability on top. He had drawn himself quite literally at the head, bestowing believability to all beneath him. McDowell assigned an underling to go into the software and program a new rule. Dalio himself would be the new baseline for believability in virtually all important categories.
- Dalio (ab)used the rating system as a tool to win, punish, and get rid of people
All under a manipulative guise of meritocracy and group decision.
For example, Dalio filmed and shared with everyone one of his infamous interrogations.
Then he sent out a company-wide poll:
“Does Michael Partington add value?”
The nays piled up.
“You haven’t taken us to the promised land,” Dalio told him.
Dalio cut his salary in half.
In another example of an employee sharing with Dalio that his governance scared people into silence and compliance:
Mack, posture straight and voice steady, made his pitch. “I think the culture here is suppressing people’s true feelings.”
Dalio threw up his hands and handed over the mic to Mack. “Ask them.”
Mack stood, facing the horde. “Who here feels repressed?”
No one raised their hand.
“You see—” Dalio said.
“Nobody?!” Mack yelped. “Nobody is going to stand up? Some of you have been in my office telling me about this.”
Dalio took back the mic. “I don’t know what you’re complaining about, Julian. It’s you that has the problem.”
Ladies and gentlemen… The definition of leader’s gaslighting.
Ray Dalio Loved Predictions… But Wasn’t Any Good At It
Says The Fund:
One young staffer, hands shaking, handed over the results: The study showed that Dalio was wrong as much as he was right. Trading on his ideas lately was often akin to a coin flip.
Ray Dalio loves speaking like a market savant.
Even before reading The Fund, that was also the image I got of him.
A savant who studied history, and understands the market better than anyone else.
You only gotta look at his podcast interviews to realize it:
You know a serious world-leading hedge fund manager is not a serious hedge fund manager anymore but a “guru” when he starts doing the podcast rounds
And that’s already a bad guru-approach, in my opinion.
In my opinion, the only investor you listen says that nobody can accurately predict the markets.
Those who do the opposite you ALWAYS look at with suspicion.
From my understanding of the world… The past doesn’t equal the future.
And looking at the past to make future predictions may be as misleading as it can be enlightening.
Love Doom & Gloom Predictions… But Isn’t Any Good At Predicting
Some notes from the book:
- Wrong prediction on 2008 mortgage crisis: “Dalio was convinced that a second leg to the crisis was coming. He had even invented his own word for it, a D-process” (…) “thick tomes on historical downturns (…) took furious notes on each of them (…) noting abundant parallels to the present.“
- String of negative predictions that never happened: “Dalio predicted a bear market coming in 1994; a “blow-off phase of the U.S. stock market” in 1995; “bombs away” for the Dow Jones Industrial Average in 1997; and a “deflationary implosion” for 1998. Each time, he explained away the misfires as a learning opportunity”
- Bridgewater’s employees joked about Ralio’s poor predictions: “Parag Shah, the firm’s head of marketing, opened one meeting with a too-close-for-comfort joke. “He’s called fifteen of the last zero recessions,” Shah said of his boss. Dalio didn’t laugh.”
Ray Dalio Invested In PR To Gain A Jobs-Like Reputation
So, if all of the above is true…
How come you probably think of Dalio is an enlightened guru?
Because he invested in PR:
He hired a public relations firm and told them that his goal was to establish a public persona on the level of that of Berkshire Hathaway founder Warren Buffett.
PR From Academics
Getting PR from academics may be easy for billionaires.
Academics aren’t used to billions and billionaire access.
So giving them a pompous tour of a huge organization and a luxurious welcome may be an easy way to get good mentions.
Write the author:
Harvard’s Robert Kegan and the Wharton School’s Adam Grant were separately granted audiences with Dalio and chaperoned into Bridgewater meetings. The access earned Dalio near-fawning sections in books by each man.
Grant, a psychologist who doesn’t seem to disdain fame and accolades, wrote in his book Originals: How Non-Conformists Move The World:
Although he has been called the Steve Jobs of investing, employees don’t communicate with him as if he’s anyone special,” Grant wrote.
Grant noted, “Bridgewater’s secret is promoting the expression of original ideas.”
Grant wrote that Dalio seemed particularly interested in “independent thinkers: curious, non-conforming, and rebellious. They practice brutal, nonhierarchical honesty. And they act in the face of risk, because their fear of not succeeding exceeds their fear of failing.
“Dalio himself fits this description.”
Dalio’s Growing Fame Made Bridgewater Experience Even More Gaslighting
Talking about new joiners:
For many, all they knew of Bridgewater at first were the laudatory media interviews of Dalio and the comparisons to Steve Jobs. T
o show up and be presented with an atmosphere so radically different from the public narrative was to many not just a shock, but an incongruity (…) many others, rather than give up, turned inward, questioning themselves
A Therapist’s REaction to Bridgewater Culture
Sweet, a Bridgewater employee, went through therapy.
And this is what some therapists said of Bridgewater’s culture:
one of his therapists compared the atmosphere to a feedback loop of self-destruction. Another therapist told Sweet it sounded as if the system had been designed by someone with Asperger’s syndrome.
Ray Dalio Went After The Author to Destroy His Credibility (And Career)
He claimed that my coauthor and I never spoke to specific people with whom we had (…)
He described me, not for the last time, as an aggrieved job applicant who couldn’t make it at Bridgewater, hell-bent on some sort of revenge.
(…) He launched a yearslong witch hunt to root out people talking to me and other journalists, (…) He went after my job, meeting with my editors and pressing for my removal from covering the firm. (…) he released doctored correspondence (…) posted was an edited exchange
At around the same time, friends of mine noticed they were receiving paid Google advertisements about me, directing them to the Bridgewater website, where a press release blasted me personally.
And, following Dalio’s obsession of “making things public”, he wrote the author about his application to Bridgewater:
He responded forty-five minutes later, typo included, “Rob—I was referring to the time before that I’m [sic] 2010 when you tried to get a job as a MA and you were rejected for that job. We still have the notes that were gathered at that time which, if we get into it, we’d be happy to make public.”
It’s baffling to me how a multi-billionaire should even care about “making public” the notes of a single interview applicant.
Looking at Dalio’s public reply though, it does seem at least true indeed that, to him, it was a relevant and important factor that Copeland applied to Bridgewater (see Dalio’s public reply below).
Ray Dalio Reply
Ray Dalio addressed this book publicly.
In my opinion, it was another bad answer and another bad move.
In bold are what I felt were possible power moves:
Dalio: I was asked what I think about the tabloid book (<— frame control 101: what you call things is the highest and most important frame. But he’s obviously biased, so it’s too obvious and it feels cheap) about me and Bridgewater.
While I don’t want to divert my attentions from more important things (<— tries to set a frame that “this book is not important” BUT… He still gives it a lengthy reply. So on top of it being another too-obvious power move, it also feels fake), I do believe that I should take a moment to answer that question.
The book should be taken for what it is, which is another one of those sensational and inaccurate tabloid books written to sell books to people who like gossip (<— another obvious power move but, this time, the READERS are also his target. A bad, bad move. How about this reader here wanted to hear the other side of the story AFTER he had already seen some red flags?).
Like all such books, there is a backstory behind it. In brief, the author applied for a job at Bridgewater and was rejected. (<— seeks to frame the author as motivated by anger and revenge-seeking. But to make it so central feels, again, like a cheap shot. Also, not so effective. Most people apply to many companies before starting a career. But the author only wrote about Bridgewater)
He (…) made a career of writing distorted stories about me and Bridgewater, at first in articles and now in this book.
He did this by speaking with former employees who had been dismissed, seeking out negative rumors, and bending these into false narratives.
Since he had no direct contact with the events he describes, he obviously took the tidbits he got from others and made up his descriptions of what happened to suit his objective.
Overall, a lost opportunity to display some more magnanimity.
Or, at least, to shut up.
Instead, Dalio once again shows a bit of an angry and vindictive streak.
Who was the guy who was supposed not to have an ego, again?
In bold the parts I find most telling:
Today a book about Ray Dalio and Bridgewater was published.
While we don’t want to give this book more attention than it deserves, we feel compelled to state
The real Bridgewater is a company whose overriding objective is excellence, achieved through constant improvement. (…) We’ve always held close to those values, even as we have evolved as a firm. When we completed the transition from Ray to the current leadership team in 2022, we updated our philosophy statement to better reflect our values today — Bridgewater’s Idea Meritocracy. We are continually improving as an organization; that is what is required to be successful. We do not shy away from criticism when it is valid and honest. When we make mistakes, we acknowledge them, hold each other accountable, and evolve. That is a core component of our culture. Our people, clients, and shareholders demand it, and our mission of understanding markets and economies requires it.
While we are disappointed by this book’s false and misleading depiction of our past, we could not be more energized about our future. As we envision Bridgewater’s next 50 years, we do so, building on the legacy and successes of our past as we seek to create something even better than we had before. Bridgewater is now overseen by its Operating Board of Directors and a dynamic and diverse leadership team. We are focused on innovating and delivering for our clients and remain steadfastly committed to our shared values.
For further transparency, here is the email that CEO Nir Bar Dea (<—- bad move. Feels defensive and “trust scalping”. It’s not like the CEO wrote his email without thinking it would either be published or leaked) sent to Bridgewater employees on November 7, 2023.
Not perfect, but much better.
I see here several hints that Bridgewater wanted to distance itself from Dalio and his times as CEO.
Notice that the only reference to the original culture is excellence, NOT any “system” or “believability rating”.
And not how the reply stresses the evolution from the past rather than defending and sticking to that past. It’s about the updates on the old culture, and the references to having evolved.
And notice the reference to the current diverse leadership -no one-man show, no politburo of loyalists anymore? :)-.
Why is that so telling?
Well, think how someone who’s proud of their past and founding culture would speak.
If you’re proud of the past, chances are you would mention and own that past a bit more.
You may even clearly say that you’re proud of it.
For example, If Ferrari had been embroiled in a similar scandal I’d bet they’d mention and defend Enzo.
They may even say that the sanguine spirit of Enzo Ferrari still lives in them -Ferrari even called one of their supercars Enzo-.
This Bridgewater’s message instead suggests the opposite.
To me, it says that deep down the writer(s) may have had a bad experience and opinion of Dalio and old Bridgewater.
Just my opinion, of course :).
Ray Dalio regaled McDowell on Bridgewater’s culture of honesty and frankness.
Then, he told him he’d make more than a million dollar in his first year.
And then, he asked how much he was making at the moment:
(..) and in the spirit of the honesty the two men had just pledged, McDowell answered truthfully: Bridgewater’s base salary alone was $100,000 higher than his current pay.
“Okay, actually, then that’s what I’ll pay. I only pay people what they’re currently making,” Dalio said airily.
A more socialist commentator may say here: don’t expect anything else from a billionaire :).
Learn the interview techniques here:
Don’t Compliment Others In Front of Narcissistic Bosses…
… Because THEY want to be the only shining star.
So the only way to compliment others it’s by carving out some credit for them as well.
This business you founded is SO good at attracting talent.
X new manager is fantastic.
You’re getting busier and busier as we grow, boss. Do you think I could report to her going forward and save some of your time?
Only Use High-Power Language With CEOs
Quoting from The Fund:
“I’ve tried,” the lawyer said.
“People who only try are useless to me,” Dalio responded.
The new hire took the weekend to think and apparently decided there were certain limits to what he would tolerate for a paycheck. He was raised to be a gentleman, and this was no way to act.
I actually disagree here both with the author, and with this new hire.
This was a power mistake.
You don’t tell “I tried” to a CEO when you’re leading an important change project that the CEO wants.
Learn better in this article:
Never Go Back To The Wolf’s Den
Ray Dalio tried to get Stevanova, an employee who had left the firm, back for questioning.
“Come to me” is an obvious power move.
And when “come to me” means going back to the man’s headquarters, main power center, and also your old location of subordination and powerlessness, avoid it.
Stefanova was smart enough to know that.
She made good excuses and in the end managed to meet at a neutral location, while also maintaining rapport.
That’s textbook “how to successfully manipulate a manipulator“.
See more here:
DOUBTS, CONS, NOTES
Some passages felt to me hard to believe.
In a few instances, I felt some choices of words were a bit “sensationalistic”.
To be clear:
What I found hard to believe is not necessarily an issue with the original author.
It can be an issue with the sources.
Also, this is not to say none of these can happen in reality.
It’s just that, to me, some of them sound so extreme, almost psychopathically comical, that they’re hard to believe.
I Found Some Events Hard To Believe
Make Campbell Cry. Then Share The Video With Everyone
In one of the “firing squad committee”, an employee was overcome by emotions.
He start sobbing, then left the room to cry.
Dalio shared the video with the company.
Dalios Fires An Employee. Organize His Goodbye Part. Give Him His Worst Feedback As A Gift
For another employee, organize a goodbye part.
And, as a gift… Givin gift him lucide-encased copies of his negative feedback.
With Dalio’s self-help comment that “the best gift anyone can receive is knowledge of their own weaknesses.”
This all seems to be so emotionally blind and insensitive.
Or… Psychopathic to the core.
Dalio Yells At Professor Ferguson
Dalio allegedly yelled at Professor Ferguson when he dared to criticize his model.
Then, he asked the crowd “who won the debate”.
Dalio had never debated anything. He had only allegedly yelled at the professor, and acted like a dick.
Dalio Gives A Wedding Speech… And Implies The Bride Is “Loose”
Dalio, standing up to speak, pulled out his iPhone and began reading from prepared notes.
(…) it seemed to be shaping up as a toast one would give his or her son.
That was, until Dalio turned to address Powell. “David can be anything he wants—including president of the United States, and he found a person: the best party girl in America.”
Seems one of those things you hear in movies, but rarely in real life.
Some Descriptions Felt Unfair To Bridgewater As A Business
Bridgewater managed to become the biggest funds in the world.
It certainly must have had some merits, even if it was only during its launch phase.
And to be sure, the author does give credit.
Including crediting Dalio’s “smart social strategies” -where there is much to learn from, by the way-.
And still, some passages felt a bit too dismissive.
Dalio Calls All The Shots From The Phone
There was essentially no grand system, no artificial intelligence of any substance, no Holy Grail. There was just Dalio, in person, over the phone, from his yacht, or for a few weeks many summers from his villa in Spain, calling the shots.*
Well, Dalio still did great in his first years.
It was either luck, or he was smart.
And it’s still somewhat tough to believe that a workaholic like Dalio would casually drop in to manage the biggest hedge fund in the world.
Secrecy & Control: Bugs & Every Attachment Had To Be Approved?
About the heavy control:
Staffers who left their desks even briefly would return to sticky notes left on their computer monitors admonishing them for failing to put up a screen saver. Keystrokes and printouts were tracked. Custom hardware allowed the copiers to keep a record of every photocopy. Even including an attachment on an email had to be approved one by one.
And about recording everything:
As Comey’s search for office bugs indicated, most Bridgewater employees had a quite reasonable fear of being listened in on, whether at Bridgewater’s offices or beyond it. (…)
For everyone else, when personal calls had to be placed during company time, many trudged out of the office and into the surrounding woods. That lasted roughly until a rumor circulated inside the fund that Comey’s team was studying how to install devices in the trees that could intercept phone calls before they reached surrounding cell phone towers.
Anything of the above is not technically impossible, of course.
But some of it feels hard to believe.
And some of it feels like simple speculation from overly cautious -or paranoid- employees.
To me, the rumors of listening devices in the woods say more about human’s tendency to believe in conspiracies, than about Bridgewater’s plans and modus operandi.
Using those rumors as the sign that Bridgewater is untrustworthy is equivalent to saying that governments or Bill Gates are untrustworthy because some people said that Covid vaccines were planned to sterilize the population.
Criticism of Bridgewater Recent Years Performance
I don’t see the poor performance of Pure Alpha latest years as a huge indictment to the investment methodology or approach.
As the author said himself, the fund seems to be mostly geared to be defensive.
Gain little in the upswing, not lose too much in the downswing -or even profit from them-.
I frankly also believe there’s nothing special with Dalio’s investment acumen.
But still, I believe the author would have gained credibility if had added a note that recent performance provides little evidence for or against Bridgewater’s investment approach.
Some Sensationalism Over Fact-Presentation
One passage says:
His grand automated system—his economic machine—wasn’t nearly as automated or mechanized as was promoted. As much as 10 percent of Pure Alpha’s invested assets, comprising billions of dollars, boiled down to Dalio’s instinct and ideas, period. They were his orders.
There is nothing wrong with this sentence.
Still, the way it’s written, it can feel like an attempt to make a possible fact or quote sound more impressive than it really is.
As much as 10% still leaves 90% out at least.
And since most people invested in the fund as much as in the man, I also don’t think that most of Bridgewater’s customers would have had anything against Dalio calling some shots -at least the Dalio they thought they knew, but that’s a different issue-.
To be fair and precise, I haven’t seen many of these rhetorical devices in The Fund.
Isn’t There Anything Positive About Dalio… ?
…. And adding something positive may have added credibility.
I may not have the highest opinion of Dalio.
But I also think he did add value to a lot of people.
And many of his principles are good, independent of how poorly or not he may have applied himself.
He may be a man who wanted to do good, see himself as good… And failed to even realize his mean streak and dark side.
He helped some along the way, helped himself a lot… And also harmed some others.
Maybe the author, knowledgeable of the dark side, was irritated by the public adulation of Dalio.
I get that and I’d feel the same when the masses fall for this or that guru.
Or he may have thought, probably with good reasons, that there was already enough positive PR for Dalio. And that focusing on the bad only would better balance things out.
Still, adding at least some positives may have made the book more credible and authoritative.
But, maybe, also less of page-turner, and that’s understandably not good for marketing :).
On Dalio teaching… And keeping the best grade for the teacher himself 🙂
She sat in awe at a series of internal lectures from Dalio on conceptual macroeconomics, as he held forth for hours on the linkages between investment cycles in history.
It was fascinating stuff.
Dalio awarded her the highest grade in the course: an A-minus.
Practically no one received an A, which Dalio told her was a score he could typically award only to himself.
How a high self-esteem man reacts to Dalio’s gaslighting-like response to criticism:
Dalio blamed himself.
It’s my fault, the Bridgewater founder said, for expecting you to appreciate such a complex system so quickly.
The Principles could not simply be memorized and then instantly absorbed—the only way to understand them was to live them. Dalio called The Principles “the way of being.”
It was around this time that Rubinstein thought to himself, Shit.
How to strategically answer to manic self-help gurus:
“I welcome your probing, Ray. I imagine you’ll find all kinds of flaws and all kinds of things that I should have been doing better. It’ll be painful, but I’ll be better as a result.”
That wasn’t the answer Dalio seemed to be expecting. That would be a win not by knockout, but by forfeit.
… Except it didn’t work because, as per book’s narrative. Dalio WANTED to humiliate and embarrass his victims :).
On the “system” being gamed by fawning to Dalio:
Those at Bridgewater who had been rated highly believable in certain areas didn’t earn those scores through any complicated algorithm of artificial intelligence.
They earned it by being an artificial Ray Dalio.
The secret to becoming believable at Bridgewater was to model oneself after the only man who mattered. Bridgewater didn’t run on believability. It ran on believers.
“Ray, this is a religion,” Rubinstein said.
Ray Dalio had a poorly earned status for correct predictions:
(…) in the aftermath of the dot-com bubble burst, when Dalio earned media acclaim for predicting it (few reporters noted that he had made the same call virtually every year).
On Dalio (ab)using the believability system to win:
He turned to the dozen or so people in the room. “How many people think that Dave is looking at this the right way?” One of Dalio’s assistants furiously typed the prompt into her iPad, creating an instant poll for those in the room. The verdict was that Ferrucci was looking at it wrong.
A typical gaslighting power move:
(…) Elliott told Dalio he was considering resigning. The Bridgewater founder seemed shocked that Elliott had taken the remarks so personally. “Are you crazy?” (….) Dalio suggested the younger man needed psychotherapy.
Dalio seemed oblivious to his dark side.
For example, an interesting frame control battle with an executive:
McCormick cut in, “I have something I’d like to say first. I’ve been in combat. I’ve had men under me, when we were going into a life-and-death situation. The only way we could do that as soldiers is to know that we had each other’s loyalty. I don’t feel like I could go into combat here because you’re giving Julian the time of day on what he said.”
“It’s not about loyalty,” Dalio responded. “It’s about truth.”
The Fund is a supremely captivating read.
So props and hats off to Copeland at least for his fantastic writing skills.
That’s an important plus.
But even more important to us would be:
How true is The Fund?
My Take On The Truth
Now comes the difficult part.
Let me preface I have zero knowledge about any facts.
I have never spoken to any single person in Bridgewater.
Hence, my proverbial 2 cents here isn’t even worth 2 cents.
Keep that in mind.
Another important caveat:
If anything wasn’t true, it may not be the author’s fault -and probably it isn’t-.
Dalio may have a point that bitterness was a factor in making up or exaggerating facts. But, in that case, in my opinion, it would be more likely to be biased sources, rather than the author.
Now, that being said…
From the lownesses of my ignorance, some parts were challenging to believe.
On the other hand, I believe that at least a portion of Ray Dalio’s foibles and Bridgewater’s cultish culture may potentially be true.
My interpretation is based on the little I’ve seen from Dalio, on general knowledge of human psychology, and on the foundational concepts of power dynamics we teach here.
For example, I had already noticed some red flags in Dalio.
We listed in a popular article on business manipulation how some of Dalio’s principles may turn ruthlessly destructive towards employees.
And I posted my reservation about Dalio long before The Fund came out as a commentary to Dalio’s reply to the Wall Street Journal.
And just as the author says, Dalio seemed to be think-skinned, over-reactive, and utterly oblivious to his own darker side.
To me, Dalio’s reaction also seemed to confirm that he was not only interested in power, but also oblivious to his own darker side.
Exactly what’s shown in The Fund.
The book then seems to add a few more pieces that, from a psychological and power dynamics point of view, also seem to make sense.
That’s my opinion as an external, clueless observer.
You’re very welcome and even encouraged to ignore it and develop your own.
And you can do that by reading The Fund for yourself.
It’s a highly recommended read.
If Dalio, the author, or Bridgewater want to weigh in, I will add their notes here below.