“There is nothing more important than understanding how reality works and how to deal with it”, says Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates. Dalio firmly believes that this principle, along with others outlined in his book PRINCIPLES, helped him create the “fifth most important private US company” according to Fortune magazine, and amass over $18 billion in net worth.
While executives know it’s important to see reality as it is, it’s not easy for everyone to do. Recently, CEO’s and senior executive members of Renaissance Executive Forums shared their own experiences dealing with life and work reality. Together we discovered how reality can sometimes be blurred by our egos, and we also uncovered blind spots that prevent us from seeing reality clearly. And when you are leading at the highest level of any organization, employees reporting to you are unlikely to let you know that you aren’t seeing things clearly. It’s lonely at the top and tough to get some honest feedback.
Ego is an issue when we focus on how others see us, rather than seeing ourselves as we really are. We become susceptible to “illusory superiority”, a cognitive bias that causes us to overestimate our qualities relative to others. For example, a recent study reports that 93% of Americans say they are better than average drivers. Another ego problem is our subliminal defense mechanisms that make it hard to accept our own mistakes and weaknesses. When someone else makes a mistake, we may tend to put the blame on their lack of capability; when we make a mistake we are more likely to blame it on our situation. As we know, the more we feed our ego, we are likely to damage how others see us, and also limit our personal and professional growth. Dalio warns that “you must not let your need to be right be more important than your need to find out what’s true”; in other words, you need to get real and deal with it.
Looking beyond ego, we all have blind spots that prevent us from seeing reality. Sometimes other people can see our blind spots clearly, while sometimes we purposely hide them from view. The first step to seeing reality clearly is to remove these blind spots. While our brain creates filters to more efficiently process information, these filters can create unconscious bias, working against our ability to see reality. In addition, we each see things in our own way. The focus required from us to make things happen can work against us. We may remain too narrowly-focused on details, without stepping back to see the big picture. Alternatively, we may naturally see the big picture only to miss important details.
Our emotional frame of mind can also create blind spots. And, as the saying goes: “love is blind” Whether it’s love, hate, anger, compassion, optimism or pessimism, our emotions cause us to confuse what we WANT to be true with what is ACTUALLY true. How can we shift from not knowing what we don’t know? By intentionally seeking out people who think differently and then actively exploring these different points of view without letting our ego or blind spots get in the way.
Whether it’s our ego or blind spots, we all have much more to discover about reality. Experts in brain research tell us that our emotional intelligence increases when we improve the reality embracing skills of self-awareness and social awareness. Executive coach, Marshall Goldsmith suggests we start by asking others, “How Can I Do Better?”. Members of Renaissance Executive Forums are committed asking this question and others on a monthly basis. These CEOs, business owners, and their senior executives have found that a confidential peer group can be the best resource to become better leaders because it helps them put their egos aside. By trusting each other to challenge their thinking, they can see reality more clearly.
Embracing reality and dealing with it takes time, effort and a willingness to get beyond our egos. But choosing to learn more about ourselves, others and the world around us, can produce tremendous growth and success. And as we evolve and get better at both leading and embracing reality, the exhilarating feeling of striving and succeeding can propel us towards future growth in a continuous upward spiral.
How the Best Ideas Win: Radical Truth & Transparency
Want to learn more about Dalio's Principles? Join us for our special event, How the Best Ideas Win: Radical Truth & Transparency on May 23, 2019. To learn more and register, go to https://www.executiveforumsnova.com/events