The 5 Criteria for Success

I recently watched Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater – the world’s largest hedge fund – speak with Andrew Ross Sorkin on Deal B%k at The New York Times. Dalio grew up in a middle class home, the only child of Italian-American parents. He began investing at the age of 12 and is now one of the most influential people in the world.

As someone who’s been in the executive search business for nearly 40 years, I am fascinated by much of what Dalio has to say. I recently read a piece online in which he shared his 5 Criteria for Success, which I found interesting. I’ve summarized them below.

  1. Letting Pain Stand in the Way vs. Accepting and Managing Pain. “People who fail to overcome the initial pain, effort or boredom that is required to execute on a long-term goal tend to not make it that far. On the other hand, those who accept that they will have to go through some tedious work at first in order to accomplish epic things will look upon the pain as temporary and see it as a necessary evil, while focusing on the light in the end of the tunnel.” Dalio states that good pain comes from pushing through towards one’s goals. Bad pain is what we will end up with if we don’t go after that which we desire.
  2. Avoid Facing Harsh Realities vs. Facing Harsh Realities. “It’s a lot better to face harsh realities RIGHT NOW rather than avoiding them.” Ray Dalio meditates every day in order to better face reality and prescribes the same to others. “The sooner you can face a harsh reality, the sooner you can start to change it.” He goes on to say, “The bottom line is this: you cannot wipe reality out, but reality can wipe you out.”
  3. Worrying about Looking Good vs. Accomplishing the Goal. “If you are playing to win, you accept that you’re going to fall face down and make a fool out of yourself every once in a while and it’s going to be embarrassing or painful in the short term, but in the long term it is going to be A LOT more satisfying. People who cling to the idea of thinking that they know everything are scared to ask questions because they are afraid it might make them seem ignorant. People who think that they are perfect are afraid to do anything that is socially questionable and might make them lose face.”
  4. Short-Term Thinking vs. Long-Term Thinking. “It is important not to confuse ‘goals’ and ‘desires.’ Goals are the things that you really want to achieve, while desires are things you want that can prevent you from reaching your goals.”
  5. Blaming Others vs. Taking Responsibility. “By and large, life will give you what you deserve and it doesn’t give a damn what you ‘like.’ So it is up to you to take full responsibility to connect what you want with what you need to do to get it, and then to do those things – which often are difficult but produce good results – so that you’ll then deserve to get what you want.” Dalio believes that by avoiding personal responsibility, you are being run by your brain’s inherent mechanism to conserve energy. He refers to this state as being deeply in homeostasis. His belief is that this is how the brain keeps you from changing.

Ellen Kinlin


ECK Consulting, Inc.




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