Billionaire Ray Dalio founded Bridgewater, one of the world’s largest and best-performing hedge funds. A true entrepreneurial success story, Dalio started his company in a two-bedroom apartment. He was a self-described ordinary kid and worse-than-ordinary student. Forty-two years after starting his company, Dalio decided to share his success secrets in his new book, Principles.
I received an early copy of the book, which weighs in at a hefty 560 pages. But Dalio says one chapter in particular is the most important. In it, he reveals the one roadblock to success that is so engrained in the human experience, and in our DNA, it’s difficult to overcome. But those who recognize it and take steps to knock down the barrier will be in a much stronger position to get what they want out of life.
Dalio’s advice: Be radically open-minded
Good decisions aren’t necessarily the ones that stroke your ego. A good decision is what’s best for you and your company. To make good decisions, argues Dalio, a person must have the ability to explore different points of view and different possibilities, regardless of whether it hurts your ego.
Ask any of your friends or any entrepreneur if he or she is open-minded, and most–if not all–will say they are. But are they? Are you? According to Dalio, here are some cues that will tell if you are truly open-minded.
- Close-minded people don’t want their ideas challenged; open-minded people are not angry when someone disagrees.
- Close-minded people are more likely to make statements than ask questions; open-minded people genuinely believe they could be wrong.
- Close-minded people focus much more on being understood than on understanding others; open-minded people always feel compelled to see things through others’ eyes.
- Close-minded people lack a deep sense of humility; open-minded people approach everything with a deep-seated fear that they may be wrong.
Dalio believes that recognizing these traits in yourself is just the first step. The second step is recognizing them in others. Once you do, “surround yourself with the open-minded ones,” he says.
According to Dalio, it’s critical to reframe a disagreement not as a threat, which is what your primitive brain sees, but as an opportunity to learn. “People who change their minds because they learned something are winners, whereas those who stubbornly refuse to learn are the losers,” he says. Dalio points out that being open-minded doesn’t mean that you blindly accept another person’s conclusions. He recommends being open-minded and assertive at the same time. “You should hold and explore conflicting possibilities in your mind while moving fluidly toward whatever is likely to be true based on what you learn,” he says.
Dalio offers several recommendations to help you develop the habit of being radically open-minded. Among them:
“Sincerely believe that you might not know the best possible path.” Dalio says that recognizing what you don’t know is more important than whatever it is you know for sure.
“Recognize that decision making is a two-step process: First, take in all the relevant information, then decide.” Dalio says it’s here that many entrepreneurs get tripped up. Most people are reluctant to consider information that is inconsistent with their worldview or the conclusion they’ve already arrived at.
“Remember that you’re looking for the best answer, not simply the best answer that you can come up with yourself.” This last piece of advice could be the most important. Dalio points out that when two people disagree, there is a good chance that one of them is wrong. What if it’s you?
For most entrepreneurs, their goal is to build the best company and the best life they possibly can. Disagreements, debate, and feedback all serve the ultimate purpose–to reach the best decision. Setting aside your ego could be your ultimate competitive advantage. “If you are too proud of what you know … you will learn less, make inferior decisions, and fall short of your potential,” says Dalio.