What can a self made multi-billionaire teach you about lobbying

I have just listened to Ray Dallio‘s book “Principles”.

He  is the founder of the investment management firm Bridgewater.

His investment funds has done well. It has made him, his employees and clients wealthy, very wealthy.

He is in the process of writing down his principles.  He has kindly written out his “model” for making decisions.

Dallio is direct. Some people think he is too direct. He embraces an ideal of radical honesty and transparency. I can see how some people find these principles tough. I am fortunate. I like it. I had a Danish boss when I was young. You like it or leave.


Can you use a billionaire’s principles for  lobbying and political campaigning?

I have listed some of the ideas that I find directly relevant for political campaigning and lobbying.

The whole basic of hyperrealism seems core but is too often absent in political campaigning and lobbying. Hope is a great slogan, but it is not a political strategy.

Looking beyond the first order consequences and considering the second and third order impacts needs to be sidelined. All too often, I have learned in more than 25 years of political campaigning  and lobbying, if you ask for everything, you lose everything. Politics is the art of the compromise and if you don’t, you risk loosing everything.

The whole use of AI, computers and data, is perhaps the most undeveloped area in lobbying. In political campaigning, it is more evolved, had a huge impact in the UK’s Brexit campaign. “The Victory Lab” explores this.

Over time, I’ll look at his principles in terms of political campaigning and lobbying, and write up.


1. Embrace Reality and Deal with It
1.1 Be a hyperrealist.
a. Dreams + Reality + Determination = A Successful Life.
1.2 Truth—or, more precisely, an accurate understanding of reality
—is the essential foundation for any good outcome.
1.3 Be radically open-minded and radically transparent.
a. Radical open-mindedness and radical transparency are
invaluable for rapid learning and effective change.
b. Don’t let fears of what others think of you stand in your way.
c. Embracing radical truth and radical transparency will bring
more meaningful work and more meaningful relationships.
1.4 Look to nature to learn how reality works.
a. Don’t get hung up on your views of how things “should” be
because you will miss out on learning how they really are.
b. To be “good” something must operate consistently with the
laws of reality and contribute to evolution of the whole; that
is what is most rewarded.
c. Evolution is the single greatest force in the universe; it is the
only thing that is permanent and it drives everything.
d. Evolve or die.
1.5 Evolving is life’s greatest accomplishment and its greatest
a. The individual’s incentives must be aligned with the group’s
b. Reality is optimizing for the whole—not for you.
c. Adaptation through rapid trial and error is invaluable.
d. Realize that you are simultaneously everything and nothing
—and decide what you want to be.
e. What you will be will depend on the perspective you have.
1.6 Understand nature’s practical lessons.
a. Maximize your evolution.
b. Remember “no pain, no gain.”
c. It is a fundamental law of nature that in order to gain
strength one has to push one’s limits, which is painful.
1.7 Pain + Reflection = Progress.
a. Go to the pain rather than avoid it.
b. Embrace tough love.
1.8 Weigh second- and third-order consequences.
1.9 Own your outcomes.
1.10 Look at the machine from the higher level.
a. 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.
b. By comparing your outcomes with your goals, you can
determine how to modify your machine.
c. Distinguish between you as the designer of your machine
and you as a worker with your machine.
d. The biggest mistake most people make is to not see
themselves and others objectively, which leads them to
bump into their own and others’ weaknesses again and again.
e. Successful people are those who can go above themselves to see
things objectively and manage those things to shape change.
f. Asking others who are strong in areas where you are weak to help
you is a great skill that you should develop no matter what, as it will
help you develop guardrails that will prevent you from doing what
you shouldn’t be doing.
g. Because it is difficult to see oneself objectively, you need to
rely on the input of others and the whole body of evidence.
h. If you are open-minded enough and determined, you can
get virtually anything you want.
2 Use the 5-Step Process to Get What You Want Out of Life
2.1 Have clear goals.
a. Prioritize: While you can have virtually anything you want,
you can’t have everything you want.
b. Don’t confuse goals with desires.
c. Decide what you really want in life by reconciling your
goals and your desires.
d. Don’t mistake the trappings of success for success itself.
e. Never rule out a goal because you think it’s unattainable.
f. Remember that great expectations create great capabilities.
g. Almost nothing can stop you from succeeding if you have
a) flexibility and b) self-accountability.
h. Knowing how to deal well with your setbacks is as important
as knowing how to move forward.
2.2 Identify and don’t tolerate problems.
a. View painful problems as potential improvements that are
screaming at you.
b. Don’t avoid confronting problems because they are rooted in
harsh realities that are unpleasant to look at.
c. Be specific in identifying your problems.
d. Don’t mistake a cause of a problem with the real problem.
e. Distinguish big problems from small ones.
f. Once you identify a problem, don’t tolerate it.
2.3 Diagnose problems to get at their root causes.
a. Focus on the “what is” before deciding “what to do about it.”
b. Distinguish proximate causes from root causes.
c. Recognize that knowing what someone (including you) is
like will tell you what you can expect from them.
2.4 Design a plan.
a. Go back before you go forward.
b. Think about your problem as a set of outcomes produced
by a machine.
c. Remember that there are typically many paths to achieving
your goals.
d. Think of your plan as being like a movie script in that you
visualize who will do what through time.
e. Write down your plan for everyone to see and to measure
your progress against.
f. Recognize that it doesn’t take a lot of time to design a
good plan.
2.5 Push through to completion.
a. Great planners who don’t execute their plans go nowhere.
b. Good work habits are vastly underrated.
c. Establish clear metrics to make certain that you are
following your plan.

2.6 Remember that weaknesses don’t matter if you find solutions.
a. Look at the patterns of your mistakes and identify at which
step in the 5-Step Process you typically fail.
b. Everyone has at least one big thing that stands in the way
of their success; find yours and deal with it.

2.7 Understand your own and others’ mental maps and humility.

3 Be Radically Open-Minded

3.1 Recognize your two barriers.
a. Understand your ego barrier.
b. Your two “yous” fight to control you.
c. Understand your blind spot barrier.

3.2 Practice radical open-mindedness.
a. Sincerely believe that you might not know the best possible
path and recognize that your ability to deal well with “not
knowing” is more important than whatever it is you do know.
b. Recognize that decision making is a two-step process:
First take in all the relevant information, then decide.
c. Don’t worry about looking good; worry about achieving
your goal.
d. Realize that you can’t put out without taking in.
e. Recognize that to gain the perspective that comes from
seeing things through another’s eyes, you must suspend
judgment for a time—only by empathizing can you properly
evaluate another point of view.
f. Remember that you’re looking for the best answer, not
simply the best answer that you can come up with yourself.
g. Be clear on whether you are arguing or seeking to understand,
and think about which is most appropriate based on your and
others’ believability.

3.3 Appreciate the art of thoughtful disagreement.

3.4 Triangulate your view with believable people who are willing
to disagree.
a. Plan for the worst-case scenario to make it as good as

3.5 Recognize the signs of closed-mindedness and open-mindedness that you should watch out for.

3.6 Understand how you can become radically open-minded.
a. Regularly use pain as your guide toward quality reflection.
b. Make being open-minded a habit.
c. Get to know your blind spots.
d. If a number of different believable people say you are doing
something wrong and you are the only one who doesn’t see
it that way, assume that you are probably biased.
e. Meditate.
f. Be evidence-based and encourage others to be the same.
g. Do everything in your power to help others also be open-minded.
h. Use evidence-based decision-making tools.
i. Know when it’s best to stop fighting and have faith in your decision-making process.


4 Understand That People Are Wired Very Differently
4.1 Understand the power that comes from knowing how you and others are wired.
a. We are born with attributes that can both help us and hurt
us, depending on their application.

4.2 Meaningful work and meaningful relationships aren’t just nice things we chose for ourselves—they are genetically programmed into us.
4.3 Understand the great brain battles and how to control them to get what “you” want.
a. Realize that the conscious mind is in a battle with the subconscious mind.
b. Know that the most constant struggle is between feeling and thinking.
c. Reconcile your feelings and your thinking.
d. Choose your habits well.
e. Train your “lower-level you” with kindness and persistence to build the right habits.
f. Understand the differences between right-brained and left-brained thinking.
g. Understand how much the brain can and cannot change.

4.4 Find out what you and others are like.
a. Introversion vs. extroversion.
b. Intuiting vs. sensing.
c. Thinking vs. feeling.
d. Planning vs. perceiving.
e. Creators vs. refiners vs. advancers vs. executors vs. flexors.
f. Focusing on tasks vs. focusing on goals.
g. WPI characteristics.
h. Shapers are people who can go from visualization to actualization.

4.5 Getting the right people in the right roles in support of your goal is the key to succeeding at whatever you choose to accomplish.
a. Manage yourself and orchestrate others to get what you want.
5 Learn How to Make Decisions Effectively

5.1 Recognize that 1) the biggest threat to good decision making is harmful emotions, and 2) decision making is a two-step process (first learning and then deciding).


5.2 Synthesize the situation at hand.
a. One of the most important decisions you can make is who you ask questions of.
b. Don’t believe everything you hear.
c. Everything looks bigger up close.
d. New is overvalued relative to great.
e. Don’t oversqueeze dots.
5.3 Synthesize the situation through time.
a. Keep in mind both the rates of change and the levels of
things, and the relationships between them.
b. Be imprecise.
c. Remember the 80/20 Rule and know what the key 20 percent is.
d. Be an imperfectionist.

5.4 Navigate levels effectively.
a. Use the terms “above the line” and “below the line” to establish which level a conversation is on.
b. Remember that decisions need to be made at the appropriate level, but they should also be consistent across levels.
5.5 Logic, reason, and common sense are your best tools for synthesizing reality and understanding what to do about it.

5.6 Make your decisions as expected value calculations.
a. Raising the probability of being right is valuable no matter what your probability of being right already is.
b. Knowing when not to bet is as important as knowing what bets are probably worth making.
c. The best choices are the ones that have more pros than cons, not those that don’t have any cons at all.

5.7 Prioritize by weighing the value of additional information against the cost of not deciding.
a. All of your “must-dos” must be above the bar before you do your “like-to-dos.”
b. Chances are you won’t have time to deal with the unimportant things, which is better than not having time to deal with the important things.
c. Don’t mistake possibilities for probabilities.

5.8 Simplify!

5.9 Use principles.

5.10 Believability weight your decision-making.

5.11 Convert your principles into algorithms and have the computer make decisions alongside you.

5.12 Be cautious about trusting AI without having deep understanding.

3 checklists to help you write better public policy writing

If you want to learn to write public policy well, or improve your existing public policy writing, get Catherine F. Smith’s ‘Writing Public Policy’.


The author shows you how to:

  1. Write clear public policy
  2. Provides good written examples
  3. Checklists to help you prepare policy memoranda, position papers, briefings
  4. Helpful insights



The  11 Chapter, 226 page book, is worth it for the checklists alone.


I have copied 3 of checklists.

1. Checklists


Checklist 1: General method of communicating in a policy process


Step 1: Prepare

First, ask questions about the policy process.



  • To what policy action does the communication relate?
  • Does a policy already exist?



  • What conditions are problematic?
  • What problem do these conditions present?
  • How do I define the problem?
  • How do others define the problem?
  • What narrative does my definition suggest?
  • How do I frame or characterize the problem? What is it like, metaphorically?
  • What stories, frames or metaphors are apparent in other definitions of the problem?



  • Who are the actors?
  • What are their roles?
  • What are their interests?
  • Who else has a significant role interest in the process?



  • What are the major disagreement or conflicts?
  • What are the major agreements or common interests?
  • Which actors are most likely to influence the process?



Step 2: Plan

Second, ask questions about communication.



  • Why is this communication needed?
  • What do I want to accomplish?



  • What story do I want to tell?
  • What is my message?
  • How does my message differ from that of others on the topic?
  • What argument will I make to support my message?
  • How does my argument relate to that of others on the topic?



  • What is my role in this process?
  • What is my interest in the outcome?



  • Whose name will be in the document(s)?
  • For whom does the communication speak?



  • Who is the named recipient(s)?
  • Who will use the information?
  • How do I want the information to be used?
  • Will the document(s) be forwarded? Circulated?



  • What will the recipients know after reading the document?
  • What all the users you use of its information do?
  • What is likely to happen as a consequence of this communication?


Setting and Situation

  • What is the occasion?
  • What is the time frame for communicating?
  • Where, when, and how will this communication be presented?
  • Where, when and how will it be received and used?

Form and Medium

  • Is there a prescribed form or do I choose?
  • What is the appropriate medium for presentation and delivery?


  • What information will support the message?
  • Where will a succinct statement of the message be placed?
  • How will the contents be arranged to support the message?
  • How will the document’s design make information easy to find?


Tone and Appearance

  • How do I want this communication to sound?
  • What attitude do I want it to convey?
  • How do I want the document to look?


Document Management

  • Who will draft the document?
  • Will there be collaborators?
  • Who will review the draft?
  • Who will revise it?


Step 3: Produce


Write the document in 3 phases: (1st) draft, (2nd) review, and (3rd) revise.


Do not mix the 3 stages.



  • Produce a complete working draft in accordance with your preparation and plan



  • Compare the draft plan and highlight any differences
  • Get additional review of the draft by others, if necessary
  • Referred to the checklists shown next to assess the draft’s effectiveness and quality and to highlight the need for revision


  • Make the changes called for by the review


Checklist 2:  Features of effectiveness


  • Address a specific audience about a specific problem.
  • Has a purpose related to a specific policy action?
  • Represents authority accurately
  • Uses appropriate form
  • Is designed for use


 Checklist 3: Measures of excellence

  • Clarity
  • Correctness
  • Conciseness
  • Credibility

Can you write and say it?

Smith says, “In policy work if you can’t write it, and say it, you can’t do it.”  A lot pf public policy practitioners can do neither.

So, if you don’t turn up to the public consultation, you can’t be surprised if you position is ignored.  If you do not turn up the comment, or don’t raise the key issue, or go into gobbledygook overdrive, you will miss the chance to contribute. It is a lot more common than you would think.  Few civil servants are telepaths, so if the reader does not understand what have put down in writing, they will ignore it. Only you are to blame.




Few Surprises

Smith notes most procedures are regular and the players tend to be established.

For example, once a year the European Commission prepare a Work Programme.  A limited group of people determine the main legislative and policy cycle for the Commission for the next 12 months. Despite the regular cycle, many interests just ignore it.

The preparation of legislative proposals, the passage of ordinary and delegated legislation, all have, more or less, common steps.  Whilst there are certain procedures that are less frequent, or where vagaries turn up, around 90% of your day to day work will be regular.

This has an advantage. You know most of the steps and key players in advance. More importantly, with Smith’s book, you will get to present your case in the best way possible. Her book will help you write out many public briefing letters, briefings and memos months in advance.

How to know if you don’t want to win?

It is clear that not many people want to genuinely influence public policy writing. First,  many interests do not want to positively persuade and influence. Too many interests are in the business of points scoring.  Second, you are involved, whether you like it or not, in the business of change. If you are against change, the chance of success is limited.

A guarantee to be ignored is to misrepresent your position. Along with showing you don’t your argument and issue, both will have your position being ignored and locked out of the public policy making process. Policy makers are busy and time is too limited.



Signs you want to win?

You want to persuade and want to win over key decisions makers over to your side.

Your audience are the policymakers, political advisers, officials, and legislators. I am guessing you know most of them.

The information you communicate is relevant, make things happen, have consequences should be publicly available.

It is intelligible, understandable, applicable, useful and credible. Your reader’s view is the only test for what is relevant, and how they see things the relevant criteria.

All too often, it is too easy for the reader to quickly put the public policy memo aside. You will not copy many of your colleagues.  No cluttered, unintelligible, abstract and confusing memo from you. You will be one of the few whose writing stands out for being clear, easy to read and clear.


The Missing Link: The Policy Entrepreneur

The Missing Link: The Policy Entrepreneur

When you think of the key actors in making laws, most people will mention:

Ministers, Civil Servants, elected Politicians, Political Advisers, Political Staffers, Academics, Consultants, Firms, Lobbyists, Lawyers, the Media, Public Opinion, NGOs, Trade Unions, Think Tanks and Trade Associations.


The Policy Entrepreneur

John W. Kingdom, in his classic “Agenda, Alternatives and Public Policies”, mentions a special class “the policy entrepreneur”.
The policy entrepreneur is hardly discussed in academic literature . It is like they don’t exist.  These are the people who really make things happen. “These are the people who make sure that problems, policies and politics join together at the right time. Only if these three specifics are in alignment can the item be placed on the decision agenda (see p.179)”.

This “confluence of streams”, “things coming together at the same time” does not usually happen by accident. It happens because of policy entrepreneurs. They are “advocates who are willing to invest their resources – time, energy, reputation, money – to return for anticipated future gain.”

They ‘policy entrepreneur’ is unlikely to have that title.  They can be a lawyer, lobbyist, career civil servant, minister.

In Kingdom’s study, he assessed that in 15 out of 23 case studies their role was important to very important.


Who is the policy entrepreneur

I have worked with them.  I learned a lot from them. You’ll know them when you meet them.  Without them, your cause is doomed. You’ll miss the real opportunity to advance your interest, and be blind to what is really happening. In fact, as so very few people know this pivotal position exists, they will be content by not know what is really happening.

Every piece of legislation I have worked on over 21 years has had this individual. They were usually in the background. They did not have a name badge announcing who they were. The people who counted just gravitated to them for advice.  All of them were real experts. They also had the rare gift to communicate to all the players. They were not geniuses, but they all had an uncanny ability to bring the right people together at the right time to secure the right solution.

Kingdom identifies some of the qualities the policy entrepreneur has. This will help you know who they are:

  • ‘They will be listened to by the people who count either because:
    • (1) their expertise,
    • (2) an ability to speak for others, or
    • (3) an authoritative decision-making position’.
    • Some have all 3.
  • They are ‘known for their political connections or negotiating skills’.
  • Their vital ingredient is their ‘persistence’. ‘These are the people who spend a great deal of time giving talks, writing position papers, drafting bills, testifying, having lunch.’ Persistence is the vital ingredient.
  • They lie in wait for a window of opportunity to open.
  • Hook solutions to problems, proposals to political momentum, and political events to the political stream.

Put simply, without the political entrepreneur, the linking of the streams may not take place.  They push the door open at just the right moment.  ‘Policy enterprises try to make linkages far before windows open so they can bring a prepacked combination of solution, problem, and political momentum to the window when it does open.’


How often does the window open up?

My gut tells me every 10 years. Sometimes, I have seen it open up more often. This is based on my own experience.

It is not hard to plan when there is a big sign telling you when things are going to start. First, a lot of European legislation has review clauses. I have found that going in early, framing the debate and solutions a few years out from a mid-term review, can set things up. Second,   the Commission’s Annual Work Programme is an obvious opportunity. This will be firmed up by the end of the summer, outlined on 13 September during the State of the Union, and published on 24 October. Third, after that, work will start for the Work Programme of the next Commission, set to come into office on 1 November, 2019.  The key opportunities are often staring people in the face.

Bringing the streams together

I think the opportunities to change laws should not be taken lightly. This is what should be done if you want to win:

  • You would the tee thinking up, have the reports written, draft bill in hands, and get a flow of think tanks discussion your issue, and put it higher up the policy agenda.
  • You would target the few people in Europe who are taking the key decision on your issue and those who are influencing that. You are not the person to leave that to chance.
  • Too many people think this all happens by chance. If telepathy worked you would use it. Instead, you would go and speak to many of them, ask them how they see things, and give them constructive solutions. Every time I have done this, I find the same ideas repeated back to you in the proposal.


What does this all cost?

Can this all be engineered. It can.  There are no guarantees it will work. Anyone who tells you there is sure thing should return to the snake-oil salesman academy.

It will take a commitment of 10 years. If you, and your funders, are not prepared for the long term, it is better not to start.

I conservatively estimate that a serious effort costs around €150k to €500K a year.  €150K for staff costs and the rest for studies/events, you may need. Again, it is best to be funded up front for the duration.

Some people will think this is a lot of money. I disagree. If you really want to win, these are the basic commitments.

These figures are realistic. I have cross checked this with cases I have directly worked on and examples I know about.

Whilst that may seem a lot, it’s a lot less than many organisations will pay in the passage of legislation. This is despite once the proposal is out the door of the Commission, most organisations are only going to have at best marginal, if any, influence.

I am also reminded that a few € million is a lot less than the bitter taste of defeat.

Further Reading

John W. Kingdom in his classic “Agenda, Alternatives and Public Policies”.


How to run the European Parliament


How to run the European Parliament by Mariyln Political


This concise 93 page pamphlet book is well worth reading. It will take you an hour. It is full of useful gems.


It’s a practical how to get ahead as a MEP guidebook. The firm behind it, http://www.marilynpolitical.com/,  have packed a lot of useful information in.


Even if you don’t want to be a MEP, it’s useful to read to better understand how successful MEPs work. I was lucky to work for two good British Labour MEPs in my late 20s. On every page, I came across passages that resonated with me.


10 things I liked


Everybody who reads this book will come away with different key insights. Here is my top 10:



  1. Showing expertise. Show this by producing free newsletters and briefing notes.


  1. Answer emails from constituents within 24 hours.


  1. Fight for your vision, but avoid wars you cannot win.


  1. Be faster than everyone else. Be the 1st to present and push for compromises. Steer the debate.


  1. Don’t leave any votes to chance.


  1. Regularly lay down short and long-term media action plans.


  1. The news interviews boil down to 10 second sound bites.


  1. Hire good people or better people who know more than you.


  1. Don’t forget back home


  1. Get re-elected – get top on your Party’s list – your constituents won’t vote for your work in Brussels.