Being Self-Reliant Is Not Necessarily a Good Thing

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform summary of "Principles: Life and Work" by Ray Dalio. Shortform has the world's best summaries of books you should be reading.

Like this article? Sign up for a free trial here.

Are you the type of person who always tries to be the jack of all trades? Do you pride yourself on being self-reliant?

Being self-reliant is generally a good trait to have but it has downsides. You will never be able to be proficient at all the things necessary to reach your goals. Be humble about this, and look toward working with good people to fill in those gaps.

Here is why being self-reliant is not always a good thing.

Extreme Self-Reliance Limits Your Success

Being self-reliant is good to an extent. However, to accomplish your goals, you need to rely on other people. You need to be humble and recognize that you lack both the objectivity and the complete skill set to achieve all of your goals. Instead, other people will 1) help you see your blind spots, and 2) provide complementary skills to cover for your weaknesses. If you want to believe that happiness is working with great colleagues, you’ll be willing to rely on others.

Other People See Your Blind Spots

You will never be able to view yourself objectively most of the time. As we learned, often your ego will get in the way and bias you. In other cases, you might simply be blind to certain aspects of yourself. Part of the idea of “happiness is working with great people” means that others can pick up where you miss things, and you can do the same for them.

You should get others to be radically truthful with you so you can see the truth about yourself. As founder and CEO of Bridgewater, Dalio had complete authority to do things his way, yet he willingly built himself a management committee to oversee him. He knew that relying on others was the best way to arrive at the truth, and believes that at work, happiness is working with great colleagues.

To get the most out of other people’s viewpoints, practice thoughtful disagreement. This is an important part of the idea of “happiness is working with great people.”

  • Seek out the smartest, most believable people in the area of concern. Especially find people who disagree with you so you can understand their reasoning.
  • Afterward, find other people who disagree with the people you just talked to. Listen to their thoughtful disagreements.

Other People Complement Your Weaknesses

You will never be able to be proficient at all the things necessary to reach your goals. Be humble about this, and look toward working with good people to fill in those gaps.

Nobody can be proficient at everything. Do you think Einstein was a great basketball player? Probably not. Despite his strengths, Einstein was incompetent at a lot of things. Do you think less of him for not being able to make free throws? If not, then you shouldn’t think poorly of yourself for having weaknesses. If happiness is working with great colleagues, then you can be happy knowing you have people around you to help you.

Don’t be upset if you find you’re bad at something—be happy you found out, since this will improve your chances of meeting your goal. When you find a weakness, you can deal with it. This is a better situation to be in than to be blind to your weaknesses. It will also help you turn to your colleagues in time of need, and further explore the ideas that happiness is working with great people.

Once you find your weakness, figure out whether it’s something you should improve yourself or something you should get others to help you with. You can try to work at your weaknesses, but sometimes it’s just inconsistent with your nature. For example, some visionaries are bad at execution and details, and trying to get better can only take them so far. In cases like these, it’s probably better to ask others to fill the gap so you can focus on where you’re strong.

(If you do want to work on your weaknesses, Dalio recommends doing mental exercises, which are just like physical exercises for the mind. This includes reflecting on your painful mistakes and deliberately practicing the things that are currently uncomfortable for you, such as being more or less talkative or following through on your plans.)

Since we know that when it comes to work, happiness is working with great people, you should look for an environment that pursues a culture of collaboration. Happiness is working with good people because it helps you and the company succeed.

Being Self-Reliant Is Not Necessarily a Good Thing

———End of Preview———

Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best summary of Ray Dalio's "Principles: Life and Work" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Principles: Life and Work summary:

  • How Ray Dalio lost it all on bad bets, then rebounded to build the world's largest hedge fund
  • The 5-step process to getting anything you want out of life
  • Why getting the best results means being relentlessly honest with everyone you work with

Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *