Life Principles: Putting It All Together
In order to have the best life possible, you have to: 1) know what the best decisions are and 2) have the courage to make them.
In Life Principles, I’ve explained some principles that helped me do both of these things. I believe that because the same kinds of things happen over and over again, a relatively few well-thought-out principles will allow you to deal with just about anything that reality throws at you. Where you get these principles from doesn’t matter as much as having them and using them consistently – and that you never stop refining and improving them.
To acquire principles that work, it’s essential that you embrace reality and deal with it well. Don’t fall into the common trap of wishing that reality worked differently than it does or that your own realities were different. Instead, embrace your realities and deal with them effectively. After all, making the most of your circumstances is what life is all about. This includes being transparent with your thoughts and open-mindedly accepting the feedback of others. Doing so will dramatically increase your learning.
Along your journey you will inevitably experience painful failures. It is important to realize that they can either be the impetus that fuels your personal evolution or they can ruin you, depending on how you react to them. I believe that evolution is the greatest force in the universe and that we all evolve in basically the same way. Conceptually, it looks like a series of loops that either lead upward toward constant improvement or remain flat or even trend downward toward ruin. You will determine what your own loops look like.
Your evolutionary process can be described as a 5-Step Process for getting what you want. It consists of setting goals, identifying and not tolerating problems, diagnosing problems, coming up with designs to get around them, and then doing the tasks required. The important thing to remember is that no one can do all the steps well, but that it’s possible to really on others to help. Different people with different abilities working well together create the most powerful machines to produce achievements.
If you’re willing to confront reality, accept the pain that comes wit doing so, and follow the 5-Step Process to drive yourself toward your goals, you’re on the path to success. Yet most people fail to do this because they hold on to bad opinions that could easily be rectified by going above themselves to objectively look down at their situation and weigh what they and others think about it. It’s for that reason I believe you must be radically open-minded.
Our biggest barriers for doing this well 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 blinds spots get in your way.
Doing this well requires practicing thoughtful disagreement, which is the process of seeking out brilliant people who disagree with you in order to see things through their eyes and gain a deeper understanding. Doing this will raise your probability of making good decisions and will also give you a fabulous education. If you can learn radical open-mindedness and practice thoughtful disagreement, you’ll radically increase your learning.
Finally, being radically open-minded requires you to have an accurate self-assessment of your own and others’ strengths and weaknesses. This is where understanding something about how the brain works and the different psychometric assessments that can help you discover what your own brain is like comes in. To get the best results out of yourself and others, you must understand that people are wired very differently.
In a nutshell, learning how to make decisions in the best possible way and learning to have the courage to make them comes from a) going after what you want, b) failing and reflecting well through radical open-mindedness, and c) changing/evolving to become ever more capable and less fearful. In the final chapter of this section, Learn How to Make Decisions Effectively, I shared some more granular principles for how to do all of the above and weigh your options in specific situations to determine the right path to follow.
You can of course do all of these things alone, but if you’ve understood anything about the the concept of radical open-mindedness, it should be obvious that going it alone will only take you so far. We all need other sot help us triangulate and get to the best possible decisions – and to help us see our weaknesses objectively and compensate for them. More than anything else, your life is affected by the people around you and how you interact with each other.
Your ability to get what you want when working with others who want the same things is much greater than your ability to get these things by yourself. Yet we have’ talked about how groups should operate to be most effective. That’s what we’ll do in Work Principles.
Work Principles is about people working together. because the power of a group is so much greater than the power of an individual, the principles that follow are likely even more important than those we covered up to this point. In fact, I wrote them first and then wrote Life Principles in order help others make sense of the approach I was implicitly applying in running Bridgwater. My Work Principles are basically the Life Principles you just read, applied to groups. I will show you , principle by principle, how an actual, practical, believability-weighted decision-making system converts independent thinking into effective group decision making. I believe that such a system can work to make any kind of organization – business, government, philanthropic – both more effective and more satisfying to belong to.