Life throws so many decisions at us. Which city do you live in? Which job? Do you marry? Self-made billionaire Ray Dalio has a reassuring perspective on how to approach big questions. According to Bloomberg, he's one of the 100 richest people in the world--and he made his wealth himself. At 68 years old, experiences that have shaped him including professional crashes and a scandal at his firm Bridgewater, plus many professional successes over the decades that have made his hedge fund into one of the world's largest and most successful.

He says success as a human being comes down to one thing. 

"For me, there is really one big choice to make in life: are you willing to fight to find out what's true?" he writes in his book, Principles. "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 goal? If your answer to any of these questions is no, accept that you will never live up to your potential."

Re-read that last phrase. Pretty strong stuff.

Acceptance versus accuracy.

He believes being accepted by your peers, which is to say,  going with the status quo, is a poor consolation prize to learning to be accurate. If you're accurate, you can change the world and see things others can't by being open-minded to what truth truly is, without filters. Accepting people are everywhere. They accept "truth" as a given--as in, whatever their social or peer group is giving out.  He hit group-think head on in hiring. As he built his firm into a legend, "At first, I thought that hiring smart people--for instance, the top students out of the top schools--should get me capable employees, but as often as not, those people didn't turn out well. Book smarts didn't equate to the type of smarts I needed."

A diversity of perspectives is critical. So is being open-minded.

He found our natural biases and our upbringing influence our thinking too much to point the needle north on truth. The daily grind, and too much club-mentality, pushes against finding, much less considering, a diversity of perspectives.  Yet diversity of thought is a necessary condition for seeking truth--there have to be some competing ideas in the first place.

His approach is to allow yourself a learning period in as open-minded a way as you can. Refuse to make a decision until your learning has revealed options. Then, and only then, decide among those options. Track why you decided, and what the options were, so if you are later proven wrong, you can go back and check how you got off track.You might even find the "right option" was there all along. With this kind of focus, you can train yourself to be more accurate and open minded. He says for him, the pain of failing has been a great teacher.

Start at home: with yourself.

"I attribute as much of my success to what I've learned about the brain as I do to my understanding of economics and investing," he shares. Finding truth is a journey, not a destination and he says it starts in your own mind first with your commitment to fight to find truth.

"The courage that's needed the most isn't the kind that drives you to prevail over others, but the kind that allows you to be true to your truest self, no matter what other people want you to be," he shares. 

Published on: Mar 8, 2018
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