The Principles of Team Building
How one more book changed my thinking on business design, team building and how to just go for it.
I have wasted a lot of time reading books about the exact same subject. My obsession with starting a business has led me to spend years researching everything I could possibly learn. I read everything from straightforward marketing books to volumes that read like instruction manuals. I listened to self-help gurus try to change my mindset into one of a successful business owner. Consuming everything from the latest trend to the oldest business manual became my business. I was like one of those students who can’t quite leave the university. They just keep going back collecting additional masters degrees. And where is all of this scholarship going? Nowhere.
At some point you have to make a move. I realized my constant loop of studying and readying myself was really just another form of procrastination. So I started. I put together a startup pitch deck for a product I plan to launch. I shared it with one friend who loved it. Then I shared it with my sister. And she loved it. I started to build a team.
Apparently, I wasn’t done reading. I was recommended a book. It sounded excellent and I resisted my urge to read it. Don’t get distracted. Then I saw an online video mentioning the same book. Stop it, you have work to do. YouTube disagreed and recommended a Ted Talk. The speaker was Ray Dalio and the book is Principles. Fine, I give in.
When you begin anything in earnest, the road tends to rise up to meet you. As you start to place your focus on your goal, you tend to run into exactly what you need and who you need to achieve that goal. And my path was unfolding perfectly before me.
Ray Dalio is everything I am not. He is measured and detail-oriented where I am emotionally driven. He follows precise systems of analytics and measures results. I tend to feel my way to solutions. His book, Principles, goes into the most in-depth evaluation of the universe and our infinitesimal place in the boundless landscape of time and space. I love reading about it, but calculating that kind of information holds no interest for me.
While I will never calculate the value of a partner or employee with quite the same metrics, I learned some valuable lessons from his philosophy on business design and partnership. His Principles extend well beyond business in their application. What Ray has managed to achieve is a set of rules, not just for building a company, but for building a life that you love.
Do you roll the dice?
“Imagine that in order to have a great life you have to cross a dangerous jungle. You can stay safe where you are and have an ordinary life, or you can risk crossing the jungle to have a terrific life. How would you approach that choice? Take a moment to think about it because it is the sort of choice that, in one form or another, we all have to make.”
― Ray Dalio
I am making that choice right now, today. We all are. Every day when we wake up, we decide if we will continue on our mediocre path of moderate contentment. What holds us back from attempting to cross the jungle? Have we become complacent? We know others have crossed and lived. We know we have all the tools. The real question is: are we interested in pursuing the life we truly want?
Choosing the right people.
“If you choose the right people with the right values and remain in sync with them, you will play beautiful jazz together. If you choose the wrong people, you will all go over the waterfall together. Steve Jobs, who everyone thought was the secret to Apple’s success, said, “The secret to my success is that we’ve gone to exceptional lengths to hire the best people in the world.”
― Ray Dalio
Team building, in every aspect of life, is absolutely key. Anyone who has ever worked on a team can attest that the one negative person can ruin your progress. It is impossible to navigate toward any goal when someone is standing directly in your way. Steve Jobs said he only wanted A players. B players were a distraction. Find the best, hire the best, surround yourself with the best.
You must fail.
“If you’re not failing, you’re not pushing your limits, and if you’re not pushing your limits, you’re not maximizing your potential”
― Ray Dalio
Trying anything involves some amount of failure. Accept that right at the beginning so you don’t get your heart broken at every setback. You will make many attempts, not all will succeed. If you are in the arena the fight is on. Losing is one of the possible outcomes. But sitting on the sidelines is not an option.
Look for the questions, not the answers.
“Look for people who have lots of great questions. Smart people are the ones who ask the most thoughtful questions, as opposed to thinking they have all the answers. Great questions are a much better indicator of future success than great answers.”
― Ray Dalio
Never underestimate intellectual curiosity. People who learn are those who are open to learning. The nature of business is constant change. You must display adaptability to survive in an ever-changing world of technological advancement and consumer growth. You need to surround yourself with people who think about not only today’s problem but what is will mean when we wake up tomorrow, next week and next year.
Resist perfectionism and those who embrace it.
I believe that our society’s “mistake-phobia” is crippling, a problem that begins in most elementary schools, where we learn to learn what we are taught rather than to form our own goals and to figure out how to achieve them. We are fed with facts and tested and those who make the fewest mistakes are considered to be the smart ones, so we learn that it is embarrassing to not know and to make mistakes. Our education system spends virtually no time on how to learn from mistakes, yet this is critical to real learning.
― Ray Dalio
Years ago, I knew a very successful business owner. He was not brilliant or accomplished educationally. Yet he was curious and aggressive and when he saw an opening in the market he took advantage, launching an extremely successful enterprise. He used to say C students run the world. There is success in school and success in life. They are two very different things. C students don’t get so upset if they are wrong. They aren’t used to accolades for the correct answer. If you stop being obsessed with perfection, your mind is open and you have a willingness to try and to be wrong. Making mistakes means you are in the game.
If you are going to accomplish anything, you have to be in the game. That means you have to field a team of excellent players. That means trying and failing and trying again. That means taking chances to reach the ultimate goal. After all, why are we here? Is it to live a mediocre life of reading books about the accomplishments of other people? It’s time to put down the books and get to work. Right after you read Principles.