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After the Talk with Ray Dalio
We caught up with Ray Dalio after his talk at Summit LA18.
What does the American dream look like to Ray Dalio?
Ray: There's no other country in the world with so much diversity and opportunity presented. The American dream is inclusive. It brings people from all over the world to participate on an idea-meritocratic basis, and appreciates the diversity of thought, the diversity of approaches, and a continued pursuit of equal opportunity.
Are you optimistic about the future?
Ray: I'm concerned because we're not working together around our common principles. How do you bring together all of these disparate ways of operating, and operate for the benefit of the whole? I think that we're at odds with each other. The amount of tolerance there is for the differences, the amount of empathy, the desire to work it out and find the common solutions, is diminished. I don't know that we could identify the common principles that bind us together as easily today as we could have in the past.
You’ve been known for making prescient assumptions about market and societal trends. Can we use disjointedness and despair as stimulus for positive change?
Ray: There's a fear and greed element that actually produces motivation. What we're missing in a lot of the climate change conversation, for instance, is that element, "maybe one day," and, "the world will take care of it." If instead you actually started to get people understanding what the consequences of these are by 2025, 2030, you start to think about where you are living and what that will mean. I think they have to personalize it. It's okay to feel fear. I want to make it palatable, but also I think they have to feel it.
In times where we spend 95% of our time indoors, how can we enable people to experience and personalize nature?
Ray: Through entertainment, through social media, through that actual experience. That's what I'm trying to do with OceanX. I've got this ship with explorers who are going down in the ocean like Joshua Steel did. Take them down in there and then put them in a position where they're seeing that happen real time, so that they empathize and understand they're love for it. I think that's the first thing. Then I think you can change the mindset.
Some things become "in" and then become "out," like smoking or polluting. I'm now drinking my water out of a paper box. I think you can start to change the mindset about drinking out of a plastic bottle – in versus out, good behavior versus bad behavior. You can change that mindset, but it has to come through experience and over time.
Experience does change perspective. As you're talking about boxed water versus plastic and "what's in," mindfulness and meditation are becoming more mainstream in the West. Has your practice of transcendental meditation influenced your view of business?
Ray: I started meditating in 1969, so I've been doing it for a very long time. It's not a matter of business or anything else. It takes my thoughts away and I settle in to a subconscious state. From that subconscious state, I get this calmness, equanimity, and creativity.
Where do the ideas come from? It's not like you say, "I'm going to work hard and be creative," it's more relaxed than that. When you're taking a hot shower, a great idea comes to you and you grab it, it comes from the subconscious state.
Meditation has been essential in all of my decision-making. That emotional hijacking – or not reconciling your subconscious feelings with your conscious output – is a barrier to your effectiveness and your well-being. That's what meditation has taught me.
From philanthropy to investment to environmentalism to transcendental meditation, your experience can seem a bit superhuman. What makes Ray Dalio human?
Ray: I'm just experiencing these things and I evolve. I know that I want meaningful work and meaningful relationships. I do different things because my goal is to evolve as fast as I can – to cram as much as possible into life. I make the most out of failure, each one is an opportunity for growth.
What brought you to Summit? What do you hope people will take away from your talk?
Ray: My objective is to pass along the things that have helped at a certain stage in my life, there are these three stages: first stage, you're dependent on others. You're a kid, you're learning, you're studying in school. In your second phase, you are working, others are dependent on you, and you're trying to be successful. The third phase, you're usually more independent and afforded reflection.
A lot of the people in this audience are curious people who are in the early phases of their second stage in life. I'm at the end of that second stage of my life, and I've been wanting to pass along these things, not to say that they should do them, but to put them out there and let them decide for themselves whether it's going to be helpful. This is an audience that I can communicate with and feel that maybe it's helpful for.