Back in March 2015, Jonathan Karp, the C.E.O. of Simon & Schuster, the behemoth book publisher that is now owned by KKR, asked me to consider “collaborating” with Ray Dalio, the founder of Bridgewater Associates, on a nascent book project about “finance and economics.” In his original correspondence, Karp noted to me that Dalio had written much of the book already, but it still needed to be “simplified” and then “augmented” with interviews with Dalio. Would I consider doing it? It was to be a six-month assignment, paying $200,000.
I was busy at the time working on what would become Four Friends, my book about four of my Andover classmates. But the opportunity to work with one of the world’s most successful hedge fund managers was certainly an alluring proposition. I told Jon that I would consider it. He sent me what Ray had written of the book, with the working title Principles—his moniker for the sort of pseudo-workplace psychobabble that he’s employed inside Bridgewater for his entire career. I have an MBA from Columbia and I spent 17 years as an M&A banker on Wall Street, but I couldn’t make heads or tails of what Dalio had written. It was written in English, but yet not quite.
I pride myself on trying to translate difficult Wall Street jargon and narratives into something that a regular person, who has not worked in the financial services industry, can both understand and enjoy. I told Jon I’d be willing to take on the assignment, but that I would need to spend many hours interviewing Dalio in order to elicit what he wanted to say in language that regular people could understand. I wasn’t trying to be difficult, but if the goal was to disseminate Ray’s philosophies of life and investing to a wider audience, then it had to be rewritten in a comprehensible manner, not just a rehash of some jargony gobbledygook that Ray was pushing internally at Bridgewater.