Are we struggling with the wrong things?
I urge you to take the time to read this if you want to make sense of your life and the things you struggle with.
What do you struggle with?
- Your weight? The number on the scales?
- Your career, your income, your bank balance, your business?
- Your life choices, balancing family, kids, marriage, career, life? Do you feel empty, or fulfilled, do you constantly question if you are making the right choices in life?
- Relationships? Love?
- Do you think happiness is something that you will feel in the future, when you lose that weight, when people accept you, respect you, love you? Will you be happy when you are rich, secure, retired? When you can quit the job? Will you be happy for 2 weeks out of 52 when you are on holiday?
Take the time.
Recently, I was reading Ray Dalio’s new book, Principles, and these words struck me, and I just have to share them with you. As always, I’m pressed for time, the last thing I have time to do is type up several hundred words that are not even my own words. But sometimes, you just have to do something that feels important.
Of course, I could do this the quick way, and just photograph the relevant couple of pages from the book and share them in this post saying ‘read this’ – but instead I am going to write the words out, because there is no better way for me to learn this and really take it in, than to write it all out for you. When we share words of wisdom or a passage of text, we not only pass on that gift to others, but we get to learn it and experience it all over again for ourselves. That sounds like a win:win to me.
Ray Dalio - Principles
Context: the author is Ray Dalio. Maybe you have never even heard of him, he’s a superstar in the world of finance, but to the rest of us, he’s largely unknown. In short, he’s probably the most famous and most influential person in the world of hedge funds, ever. He predicted things like the subprime financial meltdown in 2008 and no one else believed him. They do now.
He spent 40 years building a hedge fund company that is ranked by Fortune as the fifth most important private company in the US, Forbes magazine rank him as one of the 100 richest people in the world (he’s worth about $17bn), and Time magazine ranked him one of the 100 most influential people on the planet. He started trading stocks aged 12, he was working neighbourhood jobs for money from age 8, he was not born into millions, he started his company from home working alone, went bust after a few years and had to start again, has been ‘down and out’ in business and finances twice, then became a billionaire. He’s married, got four kids, been through some life drama, and gives away millions and millions to good causes. He’s now retirement age (68) and writing his memoirs and all he learned in life, to pass on after his death. This book is the first half of that work. Seems to me he’s a pretty smart guy.
I’m going to share a couple of pages from his book. This is him closing out the first 120 pages of his book, summarising his life story and then the rest of this book goes on to share the lessons he learned along the way.
Take it away, Ray:
“Watching the same things happen again and again, I began to see reality as a gorgeous perpetual motion machine, in which causes become effects that become causes of new effects, and so on. I realized that reality was, if not perfect, at least what we are given to deal with, so that any problems or frustrations I had with it were more productively directed to dealing with them effectively than complaining about them. I came to understand that my encounters were tests of my character and creativity. Over time, I came to appreciate what a tiny and short-lived part of that remarkable system I am, and how it’s both good for me and good for the system for me to know how to interact with it well.
In gaining this perspective, I began to experience painful moments in a radically different way. Instead of feeling frustrated or overwhelmed, I saw pain as nature’s reminder that there is something important for me to learn. Encountering pains and figuring out the lessons they were trying to give me became sort of a game to me. The more I played it, the better I got at it, the less painful those situations became, and the more rewarding the process of reflecting, developing principles, and then getting rewards for using those principles became. I learned to love my struggles, which I suppose is a healthy perspective to have, like learning to love exercising (which I haven’t managed to do yet).
In my early years, I looked up to extraordinarily successful people, thinking that they were successful because they were extraordinary. After I got to know such people personally, I realised that all of them – like me – make mistakes, struggle with their weaknesses, and don’t feel that they are particularly special or great. They are no happier than the rest of us, and they struggle just as much or more than average folks. Even after they surpass their wildest dreams, they still experience more struggle than glory. This has certainly been true for me. While I surpassed my wildest dreams decades ago, I am still struggling today. In time, I realised that the satisfaction of success doesn’t come from achieving your goals, but from struggling well. To understand what I mean, imagine your greatest goal, whatever it is – making a ton of money, winning an Academy Award, running a great organisation, being great at a sport. Now imagine instantaneously achieving it. You’d be happy at first, but not for long. You would soon find yourself needing something else to struggle for. Just look at people who attain their dreams early – the child star, the lottery winner, the professional athlete who peaks early. They typically don’t end up happy unless they get excited about something else bigger and better to struggle for. Since life brings both ups and downs, struggling well doesn’t just make your ups better; it makes your downs less bad. I’m still struggling and I will until I die, because even if I try to avoid struggles, they will find me.
Thanks to all the struggling and learning, I have done everything I wanted to do, gone everywhere I wanted to go, met whomever I wanted to meet, gotten everything I wanted to own, had a career that has been enthralling, and, most rewardingly, had many wonderful relationships. I have experienced the full range, from having nothing to having an enormous amount, and from being a nobody to being a somebody, so I know the differences. While I experienced them going from the bottom up rather than from the top down (which was preferable and probably influenced my perspective), my assessment is that the incremental benefits of having a lot and being on top are not nearly as great as most people think. Having the basics – a good bed to sleep in, good relationships, good food, and good sex – is most important, and those things don’t get much better when you have a lot of money or much worse when you have less. And the people one meets at the top aren’t necessarily more special than those one meets at the bottom or in between.
The marginal benefits of having more fall off pretty quickly. In fact, having a lot more is worse than having a moderate amount more because it comes with heavy burdens. Being on top gives you a wider range of options, but it also requires more of you. Being well-known is probably worse than being anonymous, all things considered. And while the beneficial impact one can have on others is great, when you put it in perspective, it is still infinitesimally small. For all those reasons, I cannot say that having an intense life filled with accomplishments is better than having a relaxed life filled with savouring, though I can say that being strong is better than being weak, and that struggling gives you strength. My nature being what it is, I would not have changed my life, but I can’t tell you what is best for you. That is for you to choose. What I have seen is that the happiest people discover their own nature and match their life to it.
Now that my desire to succeed has given way to a desire to help others succeed, that’s become my current struggle. It’s now clear to me that my purpose, your purpose, and the purpose of everything else is to evolve and to contribute to evolution in some small way. I didn’t think about that at the start; I just went after the things I wanted. But along the way I evolved.”
That is packed with profound wisdom in my opinion.
That passage encapsulates so much that I talk about in the Mother Nature’s Diet lifestyle.
- Comfort and an easy time is not the grand goal of life. Life is about the struggle, it’s about the journey, it’s about working for something you care about
- Be passionate. Do what you love to do. Care
- Get away from “end result attachment” thinking “I’ll be happy when I get to X point – when I have that amount of money, that partner, that job, that love, that waist measurement, that number on the scale” – you won’t. Happiness isn’t a salary, it’s who you become on your way to earning that salary. There is no personal growth in a winning lottery ticket. Happiness isn’t a number on the bathroom scales, it’s who you become and what you grow through on your way to shaping a fit strong healthy body. Happiness isn’t cash in the bank, it’s meaningful relationships, it’s a life spent in pursuit of your passions, it’s a life shared with people who excite you, people you resonate with, it’s meaning, it’s purpose. There is no happiness in retiring to put your feet up, I will struggle til the day I die
- Decide to be happy. Happiness is an inside job
- Happy doesn’t have to mean “easy” or “comfortable” and happiness certainly doesn’t mean drinking wine and watching TV all day, that’s just distraction and numbing. Happiness comes from striving for things you care about, and the personal growth you will experience along the way
- Millionaires and billionaires have just as many problems as the rest of us, they are no happier because of the zeros on their bank statements
- Even billionaires feel hopeless trying to solve the world’s problems. Just do your part. 5 billion people giving a pound, or giving an hour, or giving a fuck, will do more to save the planet, cure cancer, and help the poor, than any billionaire can ever do
- Love life, embrace your struggles, they are the making of us all, the only people with no problems are in a graveyard
I had to share this with you guys.
There is a ton of learning in this.
Personally, I shall re-read it a hundred times over the next year or two.
Big thanks to Ray Dalio.
‘Principles. Vol 1. Life and Work.’