The ego is your greatest opponent.
It’s sneaky, treacherous, and knows your biggest weaknesses.
We must all learn to fight it. Or we’ll end up like the board of directors at Enron.
Ego is an unhealthy belief in your own importance. It is there to undermine us on our journey.
Fortunately, the ego can be managed and directed.
In his book The Ego Is the Enemy, Ryan Holiday shows us how.
Keep your ego in check
Mixed martial arts champion Frank Shamrock has a great system for keeping the ego in check. He calls it the plus, minus and equal.
Each great fighter needs:
- Someone better that they can learn from. (+)
- Someone lesser who they can teach. (-)
- Someone equal who they can challenge themselves against. (=)
The purpose of Shamrock’s formula is simple: to get real and continuous feedback about what you know. It purges out the ego that puffs us up. Shamrock observes:
False ideas about yourself destroy you. For me, I always stay a student. That’s what martial arts are about, and you have to use that humility as a tool. You put yourself beneath someone you trust.
Ego keeps you from real, sustained success. It’s better to adopt a beginner’s mind.
Who is your plus, minus and equal opponent?
Be an anteambulo
An anteambulo is someone who “clears the path” for his patron. In modern terms, we’d call that doing an internship.
I look back on my own internship at Spoon with interest. I was an anteambulo without knowing it. I did everything I could to make others succeed.
And it was a recipe for success. I now work there full-time, enjoying good relationships with my co-workers.
When you’re just starting out, you must face a few fundamental realities:
- You’re not nearly as good or as important as you think you are.
- You have an attitude that needs to be readjusted.
- Most of what you think you know or most of what you have learned in books or in school is out of date or wrong.
Be more humble, make yourself useful, and stay a student.
Above all, remember: you’re not entitled to anything.
Choose purpose over passion
Passion is about. I am so passionate about ______ .
Purpose is to and for. I must do ________. I was put here to accomplish ______. I am willing to endure _____ for the sake of this.
What humans require in our ascent is purpose and realism. Purpose, you could say, is like passion with boundaries. Realism is detachment and perspective. – Ryan Holiday
Purpose deemphasises the I. It creates a willingness to do the work and endure.
Purpose builds character. It’s about pursuing something outside of yourself as opposed to pleasuring yourself.
Realism forces you to act. What’s our next step? What can we do right now? What do we need to learn? How will we know if we’re on the right track?
Purpose, paired with realism, paves the way forward, without a bloated ego. You maintain your own scorecard, and you don’t fake it till you make it — you make it.
As Holiday points out:
We must think big, but must act and live small to accomplish what we seek.
Don’t let the ego stand in your way.