Power Players

Ray Dalio says this tactic helped him go from 'hardly any money' to successful billionaire

Raymond Dalio, co-chairman and co-chief investment officer, Bridgewater Associates, speaks at the 2019 Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California, May 1, 2019.
Lucy Nicholson | Reuters

Billionaire Ray Dalio runs one of the world's largest hedge funds — Bridgewater Associates, which manages about $150 billion in global investments.

Dalio, who is worth $18.7 billion, according to Forbes, said Tuesday that one of the most important strategies he used to go from having "hardly any money" to rich and successful was taking into account the opinions of smart people who disagree with him.

Dalio first Tweeted on Nov. 14 that one of his principles in business is to listen to and asks questions of experts, because doing so raises his "probability of being right."

When one of Dalio's Twitter followers noted that "it helps when you have a lot of money, and can leverage it to hire multiple experts," Dalio disagreed.

On Tuesday Dalio tweeted that he didn't always have billions of dollars at his disposal to spend on soliciting expert opinions.

"For most of my life, I hardly had any money and I still found tremendous benefit from triangulating with the smartest people I could get to speak with," Dalio wrote in response.

"It was my doing that that got me the success in what I do, which got me the money."

Dalio grew up in Queens, New York, the son of a jazz musician. He started working as a caddy on a golf course making about "$6 a bag," he has said, and used the money to buy his first stock when he was just 12.

When he was 26, Dalio founded Bridgewater Associates out of his apartment (in 1975), and at one point had to borrow $4,000 from his father just to stay afloat. 

He'd misjudged the market and "lost so much money I couldn't afford to pay the people who worked with me. One by one, I had to let them go," he wrote in his 2017 book, Principles: Life and Work." "To make ends meet, I even had to borrow $4,000 from my dad until we could sell our second car."

It's that experience that lead Dalio to his strategy of encouraging "thoughtful disagreement" and "triangulating" various opinions to come to an answer. 

"I learned a great fear of being wrong that shifted my mind-set from thinking 'I'm right' to asking myself 'How do I know I'm right?' And I saw clearly that the best way to answer this question is by finding other independent thinkers who are on the same mission as me and who see things differently from me," he wrote in "Principles."

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Dalio talks often about the importance of open-mindedness in helping to spur success. "If you understand that radical open-mindedness, the ability to take in from others and to then learn is so powerful," Dalio told CNBC Make It in 2018. "Don't be attached to your opinions."

The billionaire advises people to "stress test" their opinions by seeking out "the smartest people who disagree with you the most to stress test your thinking."

"If they disagree, then the conversation in that disagreement will be enlightening," Dalio previously told CNBC Make It. "That's the quickest way to get an education."

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