Ervin Ebalo

Principle 3.1 - Recognize Your Two Barriers

Be Radially Open-Minded. Breaking down Ray Dalio's Principle 3

Ray Dalio's book, "Principles", is where he shares the Principles that have helped him to succeed in life and work, in hope of helping you to uncover and apply your principles. The book is broken down into two parts:

Life Principles - It tells the story of Dalio's career and explains his overarching approach to life using principles that affect everything he does - most importantly, how he pursues meaningful work and meaningful relationships.

Work Principles - The second explains the unusual way Dalio ran Bridgewater Associates for over 40 years, and how the firm's unique approach to working together led to its unique results.

What this is article about?

I found the book to be useful in more ways than the book advertises. One of them is in product management. This is the first article of a series where I will focus on life principle number three, "be radically open-minded" and how that is an important trait to have as a product manager.

Principle 3.1 - Recognize your two barriers

The two biggest barriers to good decision making are your ego and your blind spots  - Ray Dalio

Let' start with ego and look at its definition: self-esteem; self-image; self-importance. Like many things, too much anything can be bad for us because it can start to have a rippling effect. For instance, sleep is good for us but we can't sleep all day nor can we survive for very long on only two hours a night. This is the same thing with our ego or self-esteem or self-importance: we need a healthy dose of it.

The book refers to our 'ego barrier', the subliminal defense mechanism that makes it hard for us to accept our mistakes and weaknesses. It is part of our deepest-seated needs and fears such as the need to survive and fear of not surviving. In this particular case, we are tapping into the need of feeling important and the fear of not mattering. These feelings may cause us to react and make decisions out of emotion, not necessarily because of good evidence.


Everyone has blind spots. Including you! How we process and interpret situations is unique; it is defined by our past experiences. It allows us to recognize patterns and make decisions quickly. However, it can also make us see things inaccurately. When we close ourselves off to other perspectives and possibilities, our decisions could result into costly consequences.

How can we apply this to product management?

It's not about being wrong, it's about learning

The product manager must have thick skin and should not fear being wrong. Instead, we must embrace failure and treat each one of them as learning opportunities. The build-measure-learn feedback loop is a critical part of any product manager's daily journey.

Empathize with your users and your team

PMs must also be great listeners. That's actually harder than it sounds. Great listening is more than just staying quiet. It also seeking to understand what information the speaker is trying to convey. As a great listener, we must try to see the topic at hand from the speaker's point of view. This allows you to better understand what challenges your users are experiencing. It also a great foundation and cultivation of high performing product teams.

© 2020 Ervin Ebalo