The Call to Adventure, Part 5: Your Ego and Your Blind Spots

In Part 5 of the Capture Higher Ed blog series, The Call to Adventure, writer Sean Hill continues his examination of Ray Dalio’s “Principles of Success” and how they can be used in the admissions office. Be sure to read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 and Part 4. Today’s installment is about Dalio’s sixth and seventh principles — “The Barriers” and “Open-Mindedness.”

6. The Barriers

Once you see the Truth, you see that risk and reward naturally go together. Your task is to balance the two. There are, problematically, two main barriers to seeing the fact of reality: your ego and your blind spots, according to Ray Dalio. Let’s look at each.

Your ego’s main problem is its need to be right. The ego is the part of your brain that prevents you from acknowledging your weaknesses objectively — and it’s your weaknesses that can keep you from attaining your goals. To see your weaknesses clearly allows you to figure out how to deal with them. As Dalio points out, our “need to be right” will often overwhelm our “need to find out what’s true.” Examine your beliefs; stress-test them.

Your blind spots are related to the belief that you can see everything, every detail, every fact. You know it all, as it were. Of course, you can’t — but try telling that to the ego. It will undoubtedly have nothing of it. Dalio points to Aristotle’s idea of “Tragedy” — I’m sure a lot of us have read Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, from which Aristotle draws his idea that tragedy is the terrible outcome that arises from a person’s fatal flaw, whether it’s anger, impatience, the fear of failure, whatever. Find that flaw.

But how do you see around the blind spots to discover what you don’t even know exists? That’s simple — ask someone else.

7. Open-Mindedness

Don’t be just open-minded, but radically open-minded. There is a joy (we all know it) that comes with “being right.” However, you have to replace that joy with the joy of learning what’s true. Seeing reality, saying, “Oh!” or “Eureka!” means learning what’s true. The way to do this is to surround yourself with thoughtful people who disagree with you. Get help from others who are good at what you’re not!

Everyone, as Dalio recognizes, has a different framework for viewing reality, and you’ll need to draw on their perspective to increase your own, to see things in a new light, to discover tactics and answers that you couldn’t conceive of from your own, limited mindset. That’s right: your mindset is limited. All of us, really, are limited to this degree. We are, in fact, hard-wired to believe the way we do — so you can go about weighing people’s thinking and testing what they see to see how beneficial their thinking proves to be to you.

In short, other people can see risks and dangers you can’t. For that matter, they can likely also see rewards that you can’t, as well. Talking with other people will free you from the distortions of both your ego and your blind-spots. And now you’ll be ready to deal with things.

In the next installment of this series, I will discuss Dalio’s eighth and final idea of “Principles of Success” — “Struggle Well and Fail Better.”

By Sean Hill, Senior Content Writer, Capture Higher Ed