16 February, 2021
Self-improvement; Decision-making

It is often true that what is most difficult is most important. Difficult skills are in the shortest supply. And arguably the most challenging soft skill to develop is radical open-mindedness. It is something we all need to get better at. Yet paradoxically, those who are the least open-minded are the least likely to become open-minded. In a quintessential chicken-or-the-egg dichotomy, you need open-mindedness to become open-minded.

In this article I explore:

  1. Why radical open-mindedness is important
  2. How to know if you are close-minded
  3. How to become open-minded

Why Radical Open-Mindedness is Important

If there is one skill that is most closely related to the most important skill it is radical open-mindedness.

Radically open-minded people know what they don’t know. Intellectual humility allows them to fill gaps in their learning. It allows them to suspend their disbelief and pause their emotional reactions in the face of opposing views.

Radically open-minded people detach their intellect from their ego — they recognise that it is more important to get the optimal outcome rather than obstinately prove themselves right.

Radically open-minded people quickly change their mind. Some of the best investment returns in history have come from investors changing their mind. This can be difficult because cognitive dissonance gets in the way.

Finally, radical open-mindedness is a prerequisite for entrepreneurship and early-stage investing.


Because the best ideas often look like the worst ideas at the outset.

This makes sense. If good ideas were obviously good then people would have taken them already.

This makes early-stage investing uniquely challenging, even if it may not seem that way under the rose-coloured glasses of retrospectivity.

How to know if you are close-minded

You are close-minded.


Pause for a second.

How did you respond to that accusation?

Did you consider that you may be close-minded?

No? Well then there is a chance you are close-minded.

‘But I know I’m not close-minded,’ you might be saying to yourself, ‘this is a stupid exercise’.

Well here is the catch: close-minded people never consider they are close-minded. This creates a paradox. When people are bad at open-mindedness, they don’t know it.

In fact, close-minded people are more likely to think they are open-minded than open-minded people.

So how can you actually know whether you are open-minded?

There are a few of signs:

  1. Are you willing to entertain that you could be close-minded? Or do you shut off from the question?
  2. Do others say you are close- or open-minded?
  3. Do you like your ideas being challenged? Close-minded people are more interested in proving themselves right than in getting the best outcome.
  4. Do you speak in absolutes? Beware the person who uses the words never, always, will, must, etc.

How to become radically open-minded

I am constantly trying to do the following to become more open-minded:

  • Recognise that I may be close-minded.
  • Suspend defensive emotional reactions when someone challenges my point of view. Listen with empathy to see if the other person might be right. Meditation helps.
  • Get feedback. Seek thoughtful disagreement. See things through other people’s eyes.

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