Be open-minded

"It always has to be said that Bill Clinton was one of the most gifted American political figures in modern times. Trust me. I learned this the hard way. ... But one of the great blessings is the way one-time political adversaries have the tendency to become friends, and I feel such is certainly the case between President Clinton and me."

President George H. W. Bush

The more you feel it has to be your way, or else... the greater the chances that your way will end in tragedy.

Our world has become far too complex for one idea or one set of principles to work every time. We need blended solutions that take into account a range of diverse ideas and beliefs. This is true in politics, business, the arts, science and education.

I'd like to suggest that you keep two thoughts in mind:

1. Be open-minded to the ideas of others, because none of us are always right.

2. Look for win/win outcomes, not because you are selfless, but because you are selfish.

Let's face facts: none of us fully understands the big picture. I can't name one person - myself included - who understands in detail how to design, code, package, market, sell, and service a complex product. Each of us understands bits and pieces, but it's easy to delude ourselves that we know enough to be 100% sure our perspective is right.

Likewise, none of our politicians (or economists) understand how the interplay between taxes, regulations, laws, and the economy really works. I cannot comprehend how any among us can think with absolute certainty that their ideas are best.

The one thing school taught me was that human history is filled with societies in which the leaders were convinced they knew everything about, say, healthcare... and that bloodletting was the way to go. Or shock treatment. Or burning witches at the stake.

It is okay to have strong opinions, and to have the courage of your convictions – as long as you often challenge your own convictions and open yourself up to new ideas. Even when it comes to self-insight, we can be dead wrong.

I once took an aptitude test that measured whether I work best alone or with other people. The administrator asked me whether I wanted to guess the test result. I guessed alone. The result was strongly in the other direction, with people.

Human beings are extremely complicated. You want to eat; you want to lose weight. You want to take more chances; you are afraid of taking chances. Your parents were unpredictable so you always try to be predictable; you are bored to tears with how predictable your life has become.

We are doing our best. We are only human, and we make mistakes. We see the world through our own biases and preconceptions; that is not going to change. What can change is the degree to which we open ourselves to other ideas and experiences.

Travel outside your country. Read books that argue a different perspective than your own. Volunteer on a farm, or in an inner city. Attend lectures. Go to art shows and exhibitions that make you a bit uncomfortable. Or even better, just listen – really listen – when other people speak.

Next: Adaptable

Want to leverage these principles in your own career and life? Read my book How to Self-Promote without Being a Jerk.