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Ray Dalio: More than anything else, I attribute my success to one thing

·Former Correspondent
Raymond "Ray" Dalio, chairman, founder and co-chief investment officer of Bridgewater Associates LP, arrives at a state dinner in honor of Chinese President Xi Jinping at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Sept. 25, 2015. The U.S. and China announced agreement on broad anti-hacking principles aimed at stopping the theft of corporate trade secrets though President Barack Obama pointedly said he has not ruled out invoking sanctions for violators. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Billionaire Ray Dalio, the founder of $160 billion hedge-fund behemoth Bridgewater Associates, says that Transcendental Meditation has been “the single biggest influence” on his life.

Dalio,  66, is considered the most successful hedge fund manager of all time. He’s been practicing Transcendental Mediation for more than 40 years.

“When I look back at my life, I am happy to have had what most people would consider a successful life, not only in terms of business, but in my relationships and in lots of ways.  More than anything else, I attribute it to meditation—partially because of the creativity, partly because of the centeredness.  TM has given me an ability to put things in perspective, which has helped a lot.  I think meditation has been the single biggest influence on my life.”

Dalio is featured in a new book called “Super Mind: How to Boost Performance and Live a Richer and Happier Life.”

Written by noted clinical psychiatrist and best-selling author Dr. Norman E. Rosenthal, M.D., “Super Mind” explores how the practice of Transcendental Meditation has helped business leaders achieve a super mind state of consciousness.

Our every day lives tend to be lived in three states of consciousness — wakefulness, sleep, and dreaming. However, through Transcendental Meditation there’s a “fourth state of consciousness” that “lies deep within the mind of every human being,” Rosenthal writes. That fourth state is “Transcendence.” Beyond this stage, though, lie even more states of consciousness, which Rosenthal refers to collectively as the “Super Mind.”

Rosenthal describes the “Super Mind” as “an experience of not only heightened aptitude and problem-solving ability, but also a state of emotional sensitivity, empathy, perspective and diplomatic skills.”

“It is the mind in peak condition not just momentarily – as we have all experienced – but with a consistency that may grow over time,” Rosenthal writes.

For the book, Rosenthal surveyed 600 practitioners of Transcendental Meditation. What he learned is that there are those who are “super-performers” in their respective fields and that’s not an accident.

“I now think that all high performers have in common, knowingly or unknowingly, qualities and characteristics of the Super Mind. That is, they are calm under pressure and uncannily resilient to stress. They take care of their health, set high standards of innovation and creativity, and are not only intensely engaged in their actions, but also capable of detaching when need be. They choose their projects carefully, keep the big picture in mind and ignore trifling details," Rosenthal writes.

Moreover, Rosenthal is convinced that almost anyone can achieve this super mind state through the practice of Transcendental Meditation. Most practitioners of Transcendental Meditation do it for twenty minutes, twice a day. Rosenthal found that a habit of meditation affects the daily consciousness, unlocking this super mind state.

"It is not necessary, however, to be a super performer in order to develop your Super Mind. What matters is to reach your own potential, not some idealized standard."

'Like a Ninja'

Dalio tells Rosenthal that meditating helps him remain “centered.” It’s a calmness that he describes as being “like a Ninja.”

“It means when things come at you – challenges, stresses, disruptive events – you can be calm and analytical and approach them almost, I imagine, like a Ninja sees things coming at him in slow motion so that he’s obviously in control.  Being “centered” is that state in which your emotions are not hijacking you.  The ability to think clearly, put things in their right place and have perspective: That’s what I mean by ‘centered.’”

Dalio's success in the financial markets comes from making multiple good decisions over time.  Meditation helps him make those decisions.

“I think that every single day there are many decisions that people make, and they all have consequences. And your life essentially depends on the cumulative quality of the decisions you make.  I’ve made a whole bunch of decisions and they have generally speaking worked out for me. I love markets; that’s my thing, but the way I’ve made my business is totally different from most other investment management firms. It’s totally unique but, on the other hand, totally right, meaning that other firms are now starting to build their businesses in the same way. I think [our success] was the result of clarity of thought in various ways that have had a cumulative effect,” Dalio tells Rosenthal.

It’s been well-known on Wall Street that Dalio has incorporated the practice of Transcendental Meditation into his investing style. It’s also infiltrated Bridgewater’s unique culture. Dalio offers to subsidize any of his 1,400 employees who want to learn the practice. According to Dr. Rosenthal, about 40% of Bridgewater’s staff has taken him up on it.

Other benefits of Transcendental Meditation for Dalio include calmness and creativity.

“Meditation helped my creativity,” Dalio says. “I find that creativity is not one of those things you sort of muscle in on in your conscious state.  Instead, it’s like when you’re very relaxed, like when you take a hot shower, and really cool ideas pass through your brain and you just want to grab them.  That’s very much like a meditative state.  One of the challenges for me is that as meditation got better and better, so did these thoughts.  I didn’t want to put them away! I wanted to have a pad and pen next to me to write them down.  [But if I stopped to write them down, I’d stop meditating].  It was almost like the way it’s hard to hold onto a dream.  So TM had a beneficial effect on my creativity, and everything got easier as I became more settled and centered – and it was easy to continue meditating despite having to allocate time for it.”

A Wall Street trend

Dalio isn’t the only Wall Street professional mentioned in the book. Wealth managers Mark Axelowitz, a managing director at UBS private wealth management, and Ken Gunsberger, a senior vice president at UBS, are also practitioners of Transcendental Meditation.

There are many others not mentioned by name in the book who work in financial services. In fact, it's not uncommon to come across a hedge fund with a meditation room.

Rosenthal asks Axelowitz if he thinks meditating can help people get rich. According to Axelowitz, who's an actor and a philanthropist outside of the office, it helps in all areas of life, including investing.

"I think it will because I think TM helps in general, no matter what you want to do, whether it’s manage money, teach, be a doctor. If you think clearer in life, you’re going to make better decisions. When you’re stressed out and emotional, you’re not going to make the proper decisions," Axelowitz says. 

"In fact, one of the greatest money managers of all time, working in the 80s and 90s, was Peter Lynch from Fidelity. He had a saying: To master investing you need to master your emotions. You cannot get emotional in making investment decisions. And the same applies in life every day, with regard to all kinds of decisions: Should I cross the street right now? Should I run across the street because I’m late for an appointment? If you make an emotional decision because you’re late and you run across the street when the light is red, you can get killed. So I think TM helps you think and see clearer, and certainly with investments."

Julia La Roche is a finance reporter at Yahoo Finance.

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