Influential Books

Influential Books

Principles by Ray Dalio

  • I read Principles by Ray Dalio (back when it was still just a PDF) during the spring of my junior year of college. At the time I was President of my fraternity and was going through a very tough time as the head of our 100-person organization.
  • Principles was the first time I came across the concept of radical transparency and throughout the next few years would consistently be something I’d try to people around me, would seek, and would help me to refine my own thinking.
  • I applied the principle of radical transparency at two notable times over the next year. The first was at our first all hands meeting at the start of the next semester. Over the summer, something had happened that risked the potential of getting the organization in serious trouble. As a result, I had a very tough decision to make about waiting for a final verdict vs. taking very cautious preventive measures. I knew that taking preventive measures was the right way to go, but also knew that would frustrate the entire organization. I took this time to be radically transparent with the organization and laid out in explicit detail everything that had happened to get to this point, how I was thinking about next steps and potential outcomes of (a) waiting for verdict or (b) being precautious. To my surprise, when I laid all the cards on the table and went into explicit detail about my thinking on the situation, the group came away generally aligned that being extra cautious and taking some preventative steps was the right approach.
  • This was somewhat of a one-off though. My future experiences being radically transparent with people (who don’t know that you are being ‘radically transparent’) can lead to you coming off as too strong. It’s a bit of a balancing act, but one of the reasons why I seek other people who share that this is a high and important value.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

  • I seem to be one of the few people who did not read the Alchemist in middle or high school.
  • I read it for the first time during the winter of my senior year of college. This was a time where I was at what I’d consider to be a bit of a critical juncture where I was unsure what I wanted to do after graduation and closed off one path of retreat. It was nerve-wracking and I was far from sure that things were going to work out, but something about reading the Alchemist for the first time around this period gave me the spirit to persevere.

Lying by Sam Harris

  • Lying helped me to think about the value of telling the truth from a more philosophical perspective. (You can think of ‘Lying’ by Sam Harris as an easily digestible version of Kantian philosophy on the prohibition of lying).

Stranger in a Strange Land

  • Excellent Sci-fi that makes you think about things from first principles