How to Achieve Your Goals

Ray Dalio's 5-step method

Hello to every unicorn in the galaxy.

Last week’s post about ex-Microsoft CMO Chris Capossela was a novel.

This week I’m delivering massive value in a 3-minute read.

I was giving someone feedback recently and fell back on some concepts that I’ve held close for the past 5 years.

Today I’ll share what those concepts are and how to use them to build your startup.

Ray Dalio, if you haven’t heard of him, founded Bridgewater, the biggest hedge fund in the world. If he’s good at anything it’s making massive amounts of money.

He’s worth about $15 billion, according to Google.

Anyway - he’s also a shrewd thinker (surprise surprise).

Ray Dalio, rich dude and smart thinker/doer

In 2017 he published Principles - Life & Work, in which he laid out his views on how reality works and how to build effective systems to achieve your goals.

If there’s anything a startup needs, it’s an effective system to achieve its goals.

The frameworks I’m going to share are basically Dalio’s version of first principles thinking.

“Think of yourself as a machine operating within a machine and know that you have the ability to alter your machines to produce better outcomes.”

“By comparing your outcomes with your goals, you can determine how to modify your machine.”

Ray Dalio, Principles - Life and Work

Dalio’s Advice on Achieving Your Goals

Ray’s ideas about achieving goals come down to two central points:

  1. Get real about what’s true (don’t bullshit yourself)

  2. Build a system to move you methodically closer to your goals

We’re going to look at the steps he recommends for both of them:

5 Steps to Get Real About What’s True

  1. Don’t confuse what you wish were true with what is really true

  2. Don’t worry about looking good - worry instead about achieving your goals.

  3. Don’t overweight first-order consequences relative to second- and third-order ones.

  4. Don’t let pain stand in the way of progress.

  5. Don’t blame bad outcomes on anyone but yourself.

“Most people lack the courage to confront their own weaknesses and make the hard choices that this process requires.”

Humility is the gateway to progress.

Only by acknowledging your weaknesses can you make a plan to compensate for them effectively.

5 Steps to Get What You Want Out of Life (Or Your Startup)

  1. Have clear goals

  2. Identify and don’t tolerate the problems that stand in the way of your achieving those goals

  3. Accurately diagnose the problems to get at the root causes

  4. Design plans that will get you around them

  5. Do what’s necessary to push these designs through to results

“Distinguish between you as the designer of your machine and you as a worker with your machine.”

“It is much more important that you are a good designer/manager of your life than a good worker in it…”

What I love about this simple framework is that it reduces problems to inputs and outputs.

Have a goal.

Do stuff to get you closer to it.

See if it’s effective or not.

If not, develop a hypothesis about why and test it.

Get closer to your goal.


This is the essence of building a startup.

Relentless, simple and effective.

That’s it for today.

I wish that each of you can have the grit and determination to attack your goals so methodically.

You will be nearly guaranteed to get what you want.


Recommended reading: