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Habits

Ray Dalio’s Principles – 4 Steps to Better Decisions

In a previous post, I described Ray Dalio’s Truth Machine and formula for a good life. For those who haven’t read it, “Truth Machine” is my term for the core process Dalio has used to become a billionaire investor and achieve everything else he has in life.

One drawback to Dalio’s process is that it involves multiple steps and coordination. Such complexity makes it tempting to dismiss it as a method that’s only suitable for sophisticated organizations. I think that’s a mistake.

In the interest of making the process actionable for regular humans like you and me, here are four things you can do today to help implement Dalio’s process in your own lives.

CREATE AN ADVISORY BOARD

For most of us – myself included – critical feedback even with the best of intentions, often feels like criticism. We have a natural tendency to dislike people who criticize us and because other people want to be liked, they often refrain from giving us the kind of feedback we need. Thus we have dynamic where people don’t like getting critical feedback and people don’t want to give it. As a result, we often have situations where we don’t get good outside input when we should.

This dynamic is similar to the problem people face when it comes to exercise: e.g. because we don’t exercise, we have no energy, and because we have no energy, we don’t feel like exercising. And as in the case of exercise, the best way to break the cycle is to create a habit or ritual out of the thing we’d rather not do.

To make a habit of critical feedback, I suggest creating an advisory board. Write down the names of at least two other people whose opinions you value. You don’t have to tell them their new roles, just schedule recurring discussions with these people at least once every three months. Buy them coffee and ask them for their unfiltered opinions when it comes to your most important decisions.

But remember, most people won’t automatically give you the kind of honest feedback you’re looking for. You have to ask for honest feedback and demonstrate that you’ll accept it as a way of improving yourself and your decisions. Don’t make people regret being honest with you.  

USE PERSONALITY ASSESSMENTS

“You must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.” – Richard Feynman

A core principle of Dalio’s process for getting what you want out of life is that you must know yourself. But because our egos make it difficult see ourselves objectively this is much easier said than done. To paraphrase the great Richard Feynman, you must know yourself, and you are the hardest person to know.

Personality assessments are the best tool Dalio has found for building a base of self-knowledge. These tests are useful because they take the conversation about how we are out of own heads and into a space of more objective measures. Dalio has had himself, his family, and every employee at his firm take multiple assessments to help them better understand themselves and one another.

Start by taking one of the following three tests that Dalio has his employees take. 

Myers Briggs Type Indicator

Link: https://www.mbtionline.com/TaketheMBTI

Cost: $50

Time: 15 minutes

Workplace Personality Inventory – II

Link: https://us.talentlens.com/workplace-personality-inventory-ii

Cost: $24-$28

Time: 30 minutes

Team Dimensions Online

Link: https://www.discprofile.com/products/team-dimensions-profile/

Cost: $39.95

Time: Unknown

Once you’ve completed an assessment, examine your results and see how they match up with your self-image and personal track-record. Then consider asking trusted friends or colleagues if they think your results paint an accurate picture of you.

FOCUS ON CONSEQUENCES NOT DIFFICULTY

For most problems, we decide whether we need help based primarily on how difficult it feels to determine the right answer. Instead, we should use how important it is to make the right decision as the test of whether we seek other people’s input.

Really bad outcomes are likely to happen not because the decision was hard, but because we were overconfident about an important decision that seemed easy. Shifting the focus from how hard the decision feels to how important it is to get right can help us determine when to call in reinforcements and ultimately make better decisions.

Even when a very important decision feels like a no-brainer, it’s worthwhile to ask for help.

BEGIN A MEDITATION PRACTICE

When Ray Dalio was in his 20’s, he punched his boss in the face on New Year’s Eve and was subsequently fired. Clearly, emotional self-control was not his strength then. And yet today the ability to rise above our emotional selves is an integral part of Dalio’s process. For his transformation from brawler to master truth seeker, Dalio credits his practice of transcendental meditation.

Meditation is complementary to Dalio’s process because it is fundamentally self-awareness training. By resting our attention on an unstimulating rhythm like the breathing or chanting a meaningless word, we can observe how subconscious thoughts arise and create emotional experiences. Through practice we learn to recognize and separate our attention from the emotional pull of our thoughts. That separation allows for better focus on the quality of our ideas and more open-minded dialogue with others.

Following Dalio’s example and beginning a meditation practice is something anyone can do to set the stage for better decision making. Having said that, although meditation can seem as easy as sitting on a pillow, developing a practice takes time. Below I’ve listed some helpful resources for taking the first steps to beginning a meditation practice:  

Oak Meditation (Free)

Link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/oak-meditation-breathing/id1210209691?mt=8

Headspace (Paid)

Link: https://www.headspace.com/headspace-meditation-app

MUSE Meditation Brainwave Detector (Paid)1

Link: http://www.choosemuse.com/

Transcendental Meditation (Paid)

Link: https://www.tm.org/

 

  1. I hope to have a post reviewing this item soon


My Favorite Tools For Escaping Social Media and Taking Back Attention

Social media is addictive. That it’s addictive is not an accident: Social media is built to be addictive. In the same way casinos design slot machines, the companies behind services like Facebook, Tinder, SnapChat, and BuzzFeed spend billions of dollars researching how to maximize your time spent on and continued use of their products. After all, more time on their sites = more advertisements served = more profits – it’s just good business.

But what’s good for Mark Zuckerberg’s net worth is not what is good for our lives. Social media habits can rob us of our ability to concentrate, to get sh*t done and even disrupt our relationships.

The good news is there are new tools that can help you take control of both how you use social media and your ability to focus. After a few weeks of experimenting with a number of these tools, I’ve achieved a level of social media use that lets me get the most out of what good these services do offer while maintaining control over my attention during the most productive hours of my day.

Here’s what I’m using:

Freedom App (Paid) 

An app called Freedom is the best tool I’ve found for taking control of media use and attention. Using VPN technology, Freedom allows you to control when and what you can access, across all your devices. Freedom lets you to block not only apps like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat but also specific websites, as well.

What really makes Freedom powerful is the level of control it gives you. It allows you to create customized lists of blocked services and then associate those lists with schedules that can be specified to times of day, days of the week and different devices.

For example, I created the above Blocklist titled “SansGmail” to block a number of social media services. I then associated that Blocklist with the below schedule to restrict those services from  6:30am to 8:00pm, Monday through Saturday, just on my phone.

 

By scheduling blocked-out times in advance Freedom allows you to stop relying on your finite supply of willpower to change. I made progress changing my social media use before using Freedom, but this app is what has allowed me to automate those changes to the point that they now feel like a habit

Strict Workflow Chrome Extension (Free)

The Strict Workflow chrome extension is a simple but effective tool for re-training yourself to focus and avoid mindless content while working. The app inserts a timer icon into your browser that will block any websites you specify for a set amount of “work time”, followed by an interval of “break time”, when nothing is blocked. For example, you would set the timer to block Facebook, Twitter and other news sites for a 45 minute work interval, followed by a 15 minute break interval.

After just a few months of using this extension, my ability to concentrate has improved dramatically. That said, at least once a week I still find myself reflexively going to Facebook or Bloomberg and I’m happy that all I have to do is press the timer to cut me off and keep me focused.

Turn Off Notifications (Free)

For anyone who wants to decrease their social media use turning off all notifications is an easy first step. Let’s face it, there’s no reason for your phone to buzz every time someone likes the latest photo of your lunch.

Similarly, moving social media apps from the first page into the depths of your phone can make it easier for you to resist the urge to sign into these services. If nothing else, having to swipe or click through numerous screens will make you more aware of how often, and how much time you spend reaching for social media dopamine hits.

Deleting Apps Method (Free)

Ok kids… time to turn off the Instagram……

Do you remember when your parents would tell you to turn off the TV for the night? I do. And I’ve adopted a similar strategy for tuning out habit forming apps like Instagram. I delete the app every evening, reinstalling it during my approved viewing hours at night, then delete it again before going to sleep.

I started doing this because I became so disgusted at how reflexively I checked Instagram. I realized that just seeing the Instagram app on my screen increased the likelihood that I’d try to open it, whether it was blocked or not.   

Airplane Mode (Free)

When I first started to take control of my ability to focus I used a combination of the Strict Workflow app and my phones airplane mode. Many people will balk at the idea of being completely cut off from their cell-phones. But if you do any kind of thoughtful work it’s more important for your career that you find a way to keep your attention on producing quality then it is to take every call the instant it arrives.

Placing your phone on airplane mode and setting a timer for 30 minutes is a great way to begin practicing attention and deep work habits.

One Day At A Time  

Habits are hard to change. It’s a rare person who can go to sleep one night saying they are going to be different and jump out of bed the next morning a changed man or woman. In reality we change incrementally: Bad habit’s don’t just stop, instead they are modified or replaced with more benign ones – one day at time.

I wrote this post because using these tools to change my social media use and take back my attention has changed my life. Being free of the mindless urge to look at Facebook, Twitter or Instagram is like having a whole other compartment of your brain freed up. I couldn’t be happier with the results and I think you will be too.

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So… have you tried to quit or change your social media use? If so please share your experience in the comments.

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