Ray Dalio and Lawrence Summers – Lawrence’s Listening Challenge

Where Lawrence Summers Could Improve

Start the video at 37m 30s

Lawrence Summers: You’ve emphasized, meritocracy of ideas, power of argument, correction, careful and extensive reflection based on evidence as pre-eminent values. Many people would say that government by tweet is kind of the opposite of that and is very dangerous, precisely because it doesn’t embody those values and it basically maximizes, in your phrase, the amygdala rather than minimizes the amygdala, yet since we inaugurated the  current regime which, many people in the United States would say, is sort of government by tweet. Markets are up 25%, the economy is feeling better than it was 15 months ago. I dare say, no White House has operated very much like the meritocracy of ideas that happen at the internal culture of Bridgewater but there would be a lot of evidence which would lead a lot of people to conclude that this one has been further from those ideals than most. Is that a consequential problem for the formulation of policy? How do you square it with the superficially good results, in terms of markets that we’ve seen? Maybe reflect on that.

I think this is a great example of a bad question. Let me explain…

Succinctness

It is not succinct at all. The question took 2 minutes and 20 seconds for him to relay. It was full of useless information. What did he say?

It boils down to this:

“You evangelize a healthy culture of disagreement, the president tweets a lot and that is dangerous, the economic markets are up, what do you think about that?”

The above question requires 7.75 seconds to speak. Because Lawernce fills his sentences with unneeded phrases like “we inaugurated the current regime….” or “there would be a lot of evidence that a lot of people…”, his questions are long and sleep-inducing.

The long-winded question is not the core problem though, it’s the question.

The Core of the Conversation

To me, it sounds like he is just asking Ray Dalio to say mean things about the President.

If you watch the video, they go on like this for the next 13 minutes. Here is how I would paraphrase it:

Dalio: The economy is largely unrelated to the president and the stock market isn’t as good of an indicator of economic power as it once was. I think it’s important to have honest, open questions with the person I’m communicating with to improve the chances that we will improve our chances of achieving our goals.

Summers: Yeah, but say something degrading about the president. He should be asking a group of people before he tweets, right?

Dalio: I don’t know if the President of the United States should use Twitter to communicate with the people of the United States. I’m humble so I don’t like to make statements about how others should do their jobs.

Summers: Yeah, but why don’t you say something bad about the president?

Dalio: I don’t find gossip to be a tool to help me achieve my goals. Gossip is arrogant and unconstructive.

Summers: Alright. I’ll let you get out of this conversation with saying bad things about the president, despite the fact that I really wanted you to.

Conclusion

Ray Dalio was suggesting a way of being in their conversation.  His success at Bridgewater is the reason that he was invited to share. He was there to help teach people about the process he used to be successful.

Lawerence Summers was there, but he wasn’t listening.

Core to Dalio’s philosophy is the idea that you have open, honest conversations with those that you hope to achieve goals with. Saying negative things about someone not present is contrary to that philosophy.

Therefore, Summers was actively breaking the philosophy of the person who had just laid out that philosophy.

This is a common problem when it comes to politics. People become so wrapped up in being on this side or that, that they become unable to deviate from the path of bashing the other side.

I do hope Summers can think back on this and work to develop his ability to listen and act on the lessons provided.

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