Make things that people want to buy.
Really, that's about it. In the private sector you will either be doing this or working for someone that does it. And when it comes to innovation, it's wierd when you think about it: humans have lived thousands of years without [whatever it is you invented]. So why would they want it? The thing is humans are curious creatures, always interested in new things, so it's always possible to get them to try new things. (It's not always about innovation though, sometimes it's about being more efficient and winning on price.)
(Also contained within this directive is the (sad) fact that you can spend quite a lot of time focused on the 'want' side, manipulating people into wanting to buy something.)
The innovation route is a daunting task. There is already so much good stuff out there, created by people no less intelligent or diligent than yourself. But that innate human restless, curious quality will always favor the underdog, so why not make new things that people want?
That's my story, and I'm sticking to it! Good luck, Dan!
"Self-interest and society’s interests are generally symbiotic: more than anything else, it is pursuit of selfinterest that motivates people to push themselves to do the difficult things that benefit them and that contribute to society. In return, society rewards those who give it what it wants. That is why how much money people have earned is a rough measure of how much they gave society what it wanted—NOT
how much they desired to make money"
Innovation for its own sake is dumb. Don't build a house with 8 doors instead of 8 windows just because you can.
It's related only in the sense that your post implied that you're filtering out the advice you've been given. And I wanted to add this in because I think its the most important thing, and easy to lose sight of.
One more thing, before I forget: another useful thing to do is to contrast "make things that people want to buy" with some common alternatives: "make cool things" or "make something the way it should be made" or even "think about how to make things". These are all easy traps to fall into.
In many ways, I feel like "make things people want to buy" is the economic equivalent of the Buddhist prescription to end suffering, "Eradicate craving and aversion." Simple enough sounding, but it has far-reaching repercussions and quite a lot of fruit for thought.
I'll look up Dalio - although strictly speaking he is wrong. There are plenty of ways to make money without making what people want. For example, any kind of passive income. You would have to stretch the definition of "thing" beyond breaking to let it describe "capital". Passive income is at best a kind of 'second-order' "making things" fraught with every kind of moral hazard.