We probably all fall into a feeling of excitement, getting all hyped up when we achieve a success of one kind or another throughout life. It feels utterly human, after all, to bask in at least a little glow at a job well done.Leaders and creators, the heart of both business and innovation, are at highest risk in taming the beast ego presents to the human psyche.Click To Tweet
Oh, the ups and downs of humans being human.
But what we often don’t realize is the significant part our ego plays or doesn’t play in how we approach the world. Leaders and creators, the heart of both business and innovation, are at highest risk in taming the beast ego presents to the human psyche.
I never thought much about ego as a player in how we conduct ourselves but, in his book, Ego is The Enemy, Ryan Holiday shows the significant role it does play.
From ego-maniacs to egoless, Ryan’s book illuminates how ego can cause an imbalance in logical and productive thinking. Or keep balance in a chaotic world.
Ryan demonstrates through examples ego’s devastating maneuvering in the brain by inflating one’s thinking to beyond reality. Even, at times, stunting a person’s ability to progress or function at an optimal level. And sometimes, when a brain takes off on an ego trip, it finds a roadmap overriding better thinking and escaping what’s REAL.
Ego blocks more than accentuates your genius. How big a factor is an ego in your life?
The book’s lessons go beyond helping you realize and understand the nature of ego and how it shapes human spirit and behaviors. I’m happy to report I, for one, am right in line with many thoughts Ryan shares in this enlightening read. You know, maybe these ideas and principles make more sense as you mature and study over years.
Whether lessons or reminders, what Ryan Holiday has to say gives you some worthwhile insight.
Ego: a Driving Mentality
Whatever the case, in this post I want to share some thoughts and lessons from Ryan’s book for you to think about or use in your life and business style. Hat tip to Aaron Orendorff who referred to this book in his writing, making me get a copy!
Positioning yourself against your own ego, the enemy, is an interesting take, don’t you think? You may think of ego as a show of confidence propping you up.
Or, your ego may drive you like a propelling force, keeping you going. But, hold up. What if your ego is nothing more than a bold and gusty wind, blowing your boat furiously, but haphazardly into a treacherous sea? What if you’re not in control?
Perhaps that’s where the saying, “check your ego” comes from but, I’m just floating an idea by you here. Because Ryan shares tale after tale of egos run amuck, creating the perfect storm for destruction, taking down even the brightest and most talented people in history. Sure, it’s a wild ride but, I’m one to want to build not destruct.
So, controlling your ego by acknowledging it as a behavioral and social human factor is a first step. It’s kind of like accepting another human condition engrained in each of us like, say, perceptions are.
In the book, Holiday asserts, ego is “an unhealthy belief in our own importance. Arrogance. Self-centered ambition.”
Turning It Around
I’m not sure, and Ryan doesn’t say if there’s a correlation between ego’s impact on men versus women. But, in thinking over what I read and how I feel about the topic, it makes me wonder about this aspect of the discussion.
The examples the book shows of women in leadership roles do back my theory demonstrating a less ego-lead approach in their executive styles. If there’s no correlation, perhaps it’s that I’m biased by my own experience and things I’ve learned over 30 years running a business.
And since that’s the case, I’m going to relate the book’s points as I see them in a leadership lessons outline for you. Not only is it likely that men and women see the effects of ego differently but, every individual needs to consider the value of gaining control of the ego going forward. Ryan believes, and so do I, it’s in your best interest!
But, for some of us, it may be a matter of awareness and understanding to see and embrace why this concept is so critical and why putting the ego aside, so essential.
Leading With Less Ego
In Ego is The Enemy, Ryan Holiday asserts, “Only when free of ego and baggage can anyone perform to their utmost.” Why this is so important to be successful, Ryan explains, is because, “When we remove ego, we’re left with what is real.”
And in this realization, he says, “…we’re inching our way to real improvement, with discipline rather than disposition.”
Finding a place of humility, maintaining objectivity, and viewing your world from an attitude of gratitude are repeated themes in the book’s examples. But, as a continuous learner and company owner, the next quote sums up a key position for developing to your fullest, without ego.
First, Ryan talks about staying action-oriented and education focused, stressing that learning and growing take “putting in the time.” Then he says each of us “…needs to have someone better that they can learn from, someone lesser they can teach, and someone equal they can challenge themselves against.”
Again, especially as a business owner, this resonates with me, deeply, and reflects my past and future path for business and leadership. Working from these three key realms, here are my leadership lessons, gleaned from reading Ryan’s book. Plus, my take, of course.Ego changes your perception of where you stand in the world. It takes you from a mere speck with everything to learn to center of the universe.Click To Tweet
Leadership Without Ego Wins
#1- Start with an Attitude of Gratitude.
Thank your customers often so they know they are appreciated at all times. But, don’t forget to extend appreciation in other directions, too. Do you show appreciation to your suppliers, employees, the janitor? Are you sure to say thank you for a job well done?
Saying thank you is easy, free, and goes a long way. It was the only promotions in sight when I was a brand new business owner. People appreciate being appreciated and acknowledged so, “thank you” is a good start.
#2- Share the Spotlight with Your Team.
Not only does this reinforce your appreciation for people who help you but, it also makes you look better. I’m much better at promoting others than I am at promoting myself. When I was new in business, I was so scared I may fail, I didn’t talk about the business or promote it much.
Once you have a team, promoting them IS promoting you. Giving credit is like giving a gift. It’s more fun to give than receive. Giving others credit is a way to contain ego and demonstrate a practice of humility.
#3- Luck is Often Hard Work in Disguise.
My old dad is semi-retired for the last 25 or so years but, at 87 he’s in no hurry to stop working. He has no desire to stop because, well, then what? He says, “The harder you work, Suz, the luckier you get,” and I believe him.
Hard work is the main thing I have going for me as the path to success in business. That’s since my first day working for myself and continues on today. Doing the hard work, the legwork, the grunt work, pays off.
Sweat equity powers many great companies who started with nothing else. It also allows you to understand a business from the bottom up. Inside and out. Working hard makes you appreciate things more as you climb to bigger successes. In the book, Ryan talks about life and business success as “a process of accumulation,” and so each step along the way matters.
Greatness comes from humble beginnings; it comes from grunt work. It means you’re the least important person in the room—until you change that with results.”~Ryan Holiday
#4- Seek Out Objectivity to Improve and Grow.
When you dump ego and lean into continuous improvement, you realize learning is never-ending. By seeking out knowledge and staying in a constant learning mode, you better position yourself to improve. And grow.
When you are up-to-date and on top of your industry’s latest and greatest, you also increase your ability to stay innovative, an industry leader. Staying ahead of the pack also makes you unique in the marketplace. And, sets you up as a resource and partner to your customer base.
The tricky part, as Ryan proves more than once in his book, is to remain objective. Therefore, review yourself or your business with an honest eye, always seeking to make reality-based assessments and decisions.
Beware, your ego may fight you on this!
He elaborates by saying that once we realize we have them, we can work towards balance through objectivity and acceptance. Mike explains that the first step is understanding this problem exists and recognizing it as a problem.
With that perspective in mind, you can actively make an effort to learn and do better. Getting clear in this way requires breaking down deep-set beliefs and digging deeper to upset what you think you know. Listening to other points-of-view is imperative, but often not embraced at all.
Cracking your stubborn ego is sometimes hard. But, seeing yourself or your business with clarity allows you to develop. You have further to go if you allow it and open up to what’s real.What part does ego play in your life or business? Are you willing to tame the beast to go from all knowing to needing to know all?Click To Tweet
#5- Kill Ego with Love
This isn’t exactly what I expected to say in this section but here goes.
Part of losing the ego begins by finding acceptance and humility through understanding.
Learning from each other and appreciating our differences happens when you view things from a lens of love. Because I have many friends via my digital community from all over this country and around the world, especially since starting my online writing journey, my feelings of inclusion and the belief that we are all one, only heightens. And, it illuminates my thinking that we can even agree to disagree and still love and respect one another.
There are three quotes I highlighted from Ryan’s book, pulled from different pages in a section he calls, “Always Love.” These quotes not only align with me business-wise but, they feel all the more appropriate after the recent tragedy in my nearby Pittsburgh neighborhood.
My heart breaks trying to imagine the idea of someone slaying innocent people while in prayer or wanting to hate or kill over one’s religion, or really for any reason. Value life. Find love.
Profoundly, the following quotes from Ryan’s book give me a small voice to share with you on the subject. And I wonder how much it is that ego impacts or grows such hate?
Hate at any point is a cancer that gnaws away at the very vital center of your life and your existence. It is like eroding acid that eats away the best and the objective center of your life.” ~Ryan Holiday, page 204.
In failure or adversity, it’s so easy to hate. Hate defers blame. It makes someone else responsible.” ~Ryan Holiday, page 206.
Meanwhile love is right there. Egoless, open, positive, vulnerable, peaceful, and productive.” ~Ryan Holiday, page 207.
Love for Learning and Leading
When you take a learning attitude in life and work, fill your heart and mind with acceptance and compassion for differences, and try to look at things objectively, you open room to improve.
No matter your opinion or which side of an issue you are on, leading with hate won’t work—not when it comes from “them” or from you. But, leading with learning equals improving and growing and goes hand in hand with success in business and life.
Ego changes your perception of where you stand in the world. It takes you from a mere speck with everything to learn to center of the universe. It closes you off from seeing far beyond. From growing.
Ego grows to self-centered arrogance, arrogance to superiority, superiority to hate. Even despair, as Ryan’s book, proves. Even though you strongly believe in your viewpoint, be careful not to be a hater, too. Open-mindedness comes from leading from a place of love.
In control, ego’s steady unassuming, always learning, head of humility and acceptance promises you enlightened growth.
What part does ego play in your life or business? Are you willing to tame the beast to go from all knowing to needing to know all? Most importantly, do you have people look up to you, peers to challenge you and collaborate with to mutually grow, and also people you look up to, simultaneously? I think I do and that makes me happy. How about you?