What Today's Top Hedge Fund Manager Can Teach You about Focus

Dan Richards

At some point, we’ve all become completely absorbed in an activity and lost track of time. Psychologists refer to this process of complete focus and concentration as being in a “state of flow.” Beyond the obvious benefits in improving productivity, a recent Inc. Magazine article pointed to a Harvard study that found the ability to focus and keep our minds from wandering is also related to overall happiness.

Two simple strategies will improve your level of focus. One is 10 minutes a day of meditation, which Ray Dalio, the founder of the world’s largest hedge fund, said is central to his success. If meditation summons up images of sixties’ hippies, another option is 60-second sessions of controlled breathing, the subject of a recent article in the New York Times.

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“Gaining perspective”

Three years ago, Rupert Murdoch of Fox News and Wall Street Journal fame caused a stir when he went public about the fact that he was building meditation into his routine. But as this article about 10 successful business people who meditate points out, he is not alone. You might not be surprised that Oprah is on the list, spending 20 minutes meditating twice a day. Less expected is Dalio, founder of Bridgewater, the world’s largest hedge fund with assets of more than $150 billion.

Here’s what Dalio said in an interview:

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. Meditation 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.

And here’s a two-minute video in which Dalio describes how meditation opens the mind and enhances creativity.

Controlled breathing

For people who don’t want to spend 10 minutes a day meditating, 60-second periods of controlled breathing through the day can offer an alternative. A recent New York Times article on controlled breathing described how spending a minute throughout your day to take slow, deep breaths has been shown to reduce stress, increase alertness and improve the immune system.