Radical Open Mindedness: How to See New Truths

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.

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What is radical open mindedness? How does radical open mindedness work, and why do you need it?

Radical open mindedness is a concept that encourages you to accept that you don’t know as much as you think you do, and that you can always learn more and change your perspective. Radical open mindedness is an important part of Ray Dalio’s prrinciples.

Read more about radical open mindedness below.

What is Radical Open Mindedness?

To recognize the truth, you must accept that you are wrong and relentlessly find ways to increase the chances that you are right. Dalio calls this radical open mindedness. Taking in more information, especially from other highly credible people, can only allow you to make better decisions, which will bring you closer to your goal.

We’ll cover a variety of themes and mindsets stemming from this concept.

You Are Blind

Part of radical open mindedness is understanding that you are blind, and that you need to figure out a way to see.

Pain from mistakes is how you learn that you are blind. Review bad decisions that you made because you failed to see what others saw. Ask others to help with figuring out your blind spots.

Recognize the importance of this mindset. If you willingly blind yourself and keep doing something wrong, you will never maximize your potential.

Even if you believe your baseline probability of being right is already high, it is always valuable to raise your probability of being right. And being open-minded to other viewpoints is how you raise your probability of being right.

Get Good Ideas from Other People

Accept the possibility that others might see something better than you and point out threats and opportunities you don’t see.

People who make the best decisions are rarely confident that they alone have the best answers. What is the probability that, with your one brain, you have the best answer that can’t be improved by the other seven billion people on earth?

You’re looking for the best answer that exists, not simply the best answer that you can come up with yourself. The probability of your always having the best answer is very small.

But don’t just trust every opinion you get. Weigh a person’s opinions by how believable they are about the subject. This is the idea of “believability-weighted decision making,” which we’ll cover later.

If multiple believable people say you’re doing something wrong but you don’t think you are, you’re probably biased.

Don’t Worry About Producing the Right Answers

A common problem, especially among high achievers, is wanting to be the one to produce the correct answers. Our environment stresses this—parents and schools want you to have the right answers on tests and be the one producing the bright ideas.

But taken too far, this mindset can make you close-minded to other ideas and what other people have to offer.

If you value being right and having the best ideas above all, you shouldn’t care if the right answer comes from you or from someone else. Focus on finding the truth and the best ideas.

Mental Maps x Humility

Chart yourself on two dimensions: 1) humility and open-mindedness, and 2) mental maps, or what you know and how you reason.

Many people have low values for both, and they remain trapped there. They know little, yet they are convinced they know everything. (Shortform note: This is similar to the Dunning-Kruger effect, a cognitive bias where people who are bad at something are incapable of recognizing how bad they are.)

The other quadrants are also suboptimal. If you have high open-mindedness but poor mental maps, you will have problems picking the right people and ideas to follow.

If you have good mental maps but low humility, you miss out on better ideas, and you leave a lot of value on the table.

Hallmarks of Close-Minded People

Unfortunately, many people are close-minded, and they aggressively seek to close themselves off to better ideas. Here are characteristic behaviors of close-minded people:

  • They get angry when someone disagrees with them.
  • They want to be proven right more than they want to learn other perspectives.
  • They make statements more than they ask questions.
    • Deceptively, some close-minded people make low-confidence statements like “I could be wrong, but…” They’re trying to signal open-mindedness, but really they’ve already entrenched around their opinion.
  • They’re unable to hold multiple points of view simultaneously in their minds. They can only process one viewpoint at once, and often they hang onto their own viewpoint the strongest.
  • They find it embarrassing not to know something. They tend to be more concerned with appearances.

In contrast, open-minded people behave in exactly the opposite ways. They welcome when other people disagree with them; they ask thoughtful questions; they openly admit when they don’t know something and show an eagerness to learn.

Addressing Common Issues

Some people worry that seeking ideas from other people means losing assertiveness. This is totally false. In reality, getting ideas from others will make you right more often; in turn, being right more often will make you more confident

Some people try to be open-minded, but in reality, they’ve already made up their mind before they seek outside opinions. Then, they simply gather information to confirm their prior opinion, instead of opening it up for change. Do NOT settle on an opinion before getting information.

Some people hesitate to get other opinions, saying, “I want to make up my own mind.” This is foolhardy—opposing views shouldn’t threaten your ability to decide independently. It can only make you more accurate and give you more options to make up your own mind.

Tactics of Radical Open Mindedness

When accepting viewpoints from others, suspend your judgment and empathize with their viewpoint. Do not punish others for speaking their mind, like criticizing or mocking them. Make clear you want to understand their perspective and aren’t trying to prove them wrong. After all, they have their own egos to contend with.

Recognize when you’re being close-minded. You’ll feel tense, reactive, and emotional. Use this to trigger responses of calming down and slowing down. While this is difficult at first, practice this over time and it will become a habit.

Review instances when you made mistakes because you had incomplete information or suffered from blind spots.

Before making a decision, ask yourself, “Can I point to clear facts leading to my view?” If not, you’re merely trusting your gut, which is unlikely to be correct. Instead, use radical open mindedness.

Radical Open Mindedness: How to See New Truths

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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

Carrie Cabral

Carrie has been reading and writing for as long as she can remember, and has always been open to reading anything put in front of her. She wrote her first short story at the age of six, about a lost dog who meets animal friends on his journey home. Surprisingly, it was never picked up by any major publishers, but did spark her passion for books. Carrie worked in book publishing for several years before getting an MFA in Creative Writing. She especially loves literary fiction, historical fiction, and social, cultural, and historical nonfiction that gets into the weeds of daily life.

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