Principles 1.7

"Pain + Reflection = Progress."

In 1.6, I shared a favorite quote. "Try again. Fail again. Fail better." In 1.7, Dalio gets into the magic that lies hidden inside this quote. Between failing again and failing better there is space, and in that space there is reflection.

If we interpret Dalio's 'pain' as failure, this Principle says, 'progress comes from reflecting on failure.'

We have three pathways to consider after any failure. We can:

1. Never try again. Quit. Go home.

2. Try the same thing again. Hope for a different result. Insanity.

3. Learn from our mistakes. Iterate. Progress.

Dalio recommends we choose option 3. We should do the difficult work of reflecting on our failures and owning our mistakes. It is this reflection that leads to learning, growth, and progress.

But there's another way to read this Principle and another area of life to which it applies. Instead of failure, pain can be loss. It can be a disease, a divorce, or the death of a loved one. In these instances, this Principle asks us to reflect on the pain and find a way to grow.

Dalio writes, "The quality of your life will depend on the choices you make at those painful moments."

How can something that seems terrible become a stepping stone to growth? How can a loss make us stronger?

There is no correct answer. Only by reflecting on tough situations can we learn to handle them, and in so doing, make progress as humans. Only by acknowledging the pain and thinking about what it’s teaching us can we hope to learn a lesson.


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