Do You Think That Your Thinking is the Best Way to Think?

Ryan Gottfredson

by Ryan Gottfredson

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Do you think that your thinking is the best way to think?

I think that you do. The reason why I feel comfortable saying that is because if you didn’t think that, you would change the way you think.

But, of course, the reality is that your thinking is not the best way to think (sorry to break it to you ;).

I agree, you are doing the best you can with the knowledge and skills that you have as well as your social influences. But, that still does not mean that you are thinking optimally.

How do you feel about this?

I bring this up because I am learning more and more that what is standing between where we are and the success we want to achieve is OURSELVES; and in particular, our thinking.

In fact, what tuned me into learning this is a fantastic book that I couldn’t recommend more. It is called Principles, written by Ray Dalio. If you are not aware, Ray Dalio is the founder and former CEO of Bridgewater Associates, the largest and most successful hedge fund in history.

In his book, it explains that one of the keys to their success is a principle called radical open-mindedness.

I have come to learn that it is also a key to our own personal success.

Below are some of my favorite quotes from the book that clearly articulate the value, even the necessity, of radical open-mindedness.

There are a lot, but they are all golden! I keep coming back to them over and over again.

Let’s start with his definitions of radical open-mindedness:

  • “To be radically open-minded, you need to be so open to the possibilities that you could be wrong that you encourage others to tell you so.”

  • Open-mindedness is “motivated by the genuine fear of missing important perspectives.”

  • “Open-mindedness doesn’t mean going along with what you don’t believe in; it means considering the reasoning of others instead of stubbornly and illogically holding on to your own point of view.”

  • “Being radically open-minded requires you to have an accurate self-assessment of your own and others’ strengths and weaknesses.

  • Our biggest barriers to being open minded are “our ego barrier and our blind spot barrier. The ego barrier is our innate desire to be capable and have others recognize us as such. The blind spot barrier is the result of our seeing things through our own subjective lenses; both barriers can prevent us from seeing how things really are. The most important antidote for them is radical open-mindedness, which is motivated by the genuine worry that one might not be seeing one’s choices optimally. It is the ability to effectively explore different points of view and different possibilities without letting your ego or your blind spots get in your way.”

Next, consider what he has to say about being close-minded:

  • “If you’re like most people, you have no clue how other people see things and aren’t good at seeking to understand what they are thinking, because you’re too preoccupied with telling them what you yourself think is correct. In other words, you are closed-minded; you presume too much. This close-mindedness is very costly; it causes you to miss out on all sorts of wonderful possibilities and dangerous threats that other people might be showing you—and it blocks criticism that could be constructive and even lifesaving.”

  • We all have terribly incomplete and/or distorted perspectives…Seeing this will help you evolve. At first most people remain stuck in their own heads, stubbornly clinging to the idea that their views are best and that something is wrong with other people who don’t see things their way. But when they repeatedly face the question ‘How do you know that you’re not the wrong one?’ they are forced to confront their own believability and see things through others’ eyes as well as their own. This shift in perspective is what produces great collective decision making…Most people initially find this process very uncomfortable. While most appreciate it intellectually, they typically are challenged by it emotionally because it requires them to separate themselves from their ego’s attachment to being right and try to see what they have a hard time seeing.”

  • “Closed-minded people see being right as being a winner and being wrong as being a loser. But, that is not the case. To me, it’s pointless when people get angry with each other when they disagree because most disagreements aren’t threats as much as opportunities for learning. People who change their minds because they learned something are the winners, whereas those who stubbornly refuse to learn are the losers.”

  • “Holding wrong opinions in one’s head and making bad decisions based on them instead of having thoughtful disagreements is one of the greatest tragedies of mankind. Being able to thoughtfully disagree would so easily lead to radically improved decision making in all areas—public policy, politics, medicine, science, philanthropy, personal relationships, and more.”

  • “If you’re truly looking at things objectively, you must recognize that the probability of you always having the best answer is small and that, even if you have it, you can’t be confident that you do before others test you. So it is invaluable to know what you don’t know. Ask yourself: Am I seeing this just through my own eyes? If so, then you should know that you’re terribly handicapped.”

  • “To be effective you must not let your need to be right be more important than your need to find out what’s true. If you are too proud of what you know or of how good you are at something you will learn less, make inferior decisions, and fall short of your potential.”

Finally, consider what he has to say about the difference open-mindedness can make in our lives:

  • “Radical open-mindedness allows you to… consider all the good choices and make the best possible decisions. If you can acquire this ability—and with practice you can—you’ll be able to deal with your realities more effectively and radically improve your life.”

  • “For me, there is really only one big choice to make in life: Are you willing to fight to find out what’s true? Do you deeply believe that finding out what is true is essential to your well-being? Do you have a genuine need to find out if you or others are doing something wrong that is standing in the way of achieving your goals? If your answer to any of these questions is ‘no,’ accept that you will never live up to your potential. If, on the other hand, you are up for the challenge of becoming radically open-minded, the first step in doing so is to look at yourself objectively.”

  • “Radically open-minded people know that coming up with the right questions and asking other smart people what they think is as important as having all the answers. They understand that you can’t make a great decision without swimming for a while in a state of “not knowing.” That is because what exists within the area of “not knowing” is so much greater and more exciting than anything any one of us knows.”

  • People interested in making the best possible decisions are rarely confident that they have the best answers. They recognize that they have weaknesses and blind spots, and they always seek to learn more so that they can get around them.”

  • You, like me, probably don’t know everything you need to know and would be wise to embrace that fact. If you can think for yourself while being open-minded in a clearheaded way to find out what is best for you to do, and if you can summon up the courage to do it, you will make the most of your life. If you can’t do that, you should reflect on why that is, because that’s most likely your greatest impediment to getting more of what you want out of life.”

  • If your objective is to be as good as you can be, then you’re going to want criticism.”

  • “If you know that you are blind, you can figure out a way to see, whereas if you don’t know that you’re blind, you will continue to bump into your problems. In other words, if you can recognize that you have blind spots and open-mindedly consider the possibility that others might see something better than you—and that the threats and opportunities they are trying to point out really exist—you are more likely to make good decisions.”

  • “If you can learn radical open-mindedness and practice thoughtful disagreement, you’ll radically increase your learning.”

  • “While it pays to be open-minded, you also have to be discerning. Remember that the quality of the life you get will depend largely on the quality of the decisions that you make as you pursue your goals. The best way to make decisions is to know how to triangulate with other, more knowledgeable people. So be discerning about whom you triangulate with and skilled in the way you do it.”

  • Being open-minded is much more important than being bright or smart. No matter how much they know, closed-minded people will waste your time.”

What I have learned is that if we think that our thinking is the best way to think, we put a cap on our success.

Let me encourage you to be more open-minded across all facets of your life including work, politics, religion, leadership, parenting, etc.

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