In the book The Third Door, the author Alex Banayan Got an opportunity to shadow the founder of Zappos and best-selling author Tony Hsieh. In one conversation with Tony, Alex was floored when he heard Tony admit that he partially published his book to flatter his own ego. Specifically, it was way that Tony said it.
Tony’s tone made it clear that he thought it was okay that he published for ego and that it was best to be honest with himself. Alex, being brought up in a Persian culture, had never seen ego being referenced in a good way. He was taught to view ego as a horrible thing.
Nowadays, there are plenty of influencers in the self-help industry and even in pop culture that are speaking out against ego. The best-selling Ryan Holiday wrote a book called Ego is the Enemy. And Kendrick Lamar wrote a hit song Humble that calls out other musicians for showing off too much.
But ego can sometimes be good for your success, even though it is popularized as a horrible trait by religion, culture, and authors.
First off, I applaud Kendrick and others for introducing the idea that ego is not always good. Frankly, their voices need to be even louder because there is still so much more noise from people showing off their success and thinking they are more amazing than they are. Some people are not better than others even though they think they are.
But you must not confuse the idea that ego can sometimes be bad with ego always being bad. The first is true, but many people believe the latter, especially after they come out of reading Ego is the Enemy, which picks out case studies of successful people and failures and shows how avoiding ego causes their success or embracing ego caused their failure.
To be fair, let’s explore case studies of how ego helped someone succeed.
Donald Trump and Bruce Lee or two good examples of how you go help you believe what everyone else thinks is impossible, which helps you achieve it even when there are doubters that could discourage you. When Trump first campaign for president, most people thought he could never succeed since his background was as a celebrity and businessman, so no one took him seriously. But the rest is history.
After reading Bruce Lee’s biography, I discovered he had a huge ego And that caused him to fight or lead roles in Hollywood films in an era when no director would even consider casting an Asian man for that role. He still believed that he could be the star that he would walk away from movie opportunities for lesser roles, even when he needed the cash.
I sat down with the biographer Matthew Polly for my podcast, and he told me how Bruce Lee would not have been Bruce Lee if it wasn’t for his arrogance. He needed to fight for those lead roles and his arrogance caused him to do it, which eventually led him to start in some iconic, revolutionary films that influenced the entire world.
Ego helps you attract women by signaling your effectiveness as a potential father through your excessive, conspicuous resources and achievements
Our greatest biological driver is survival and reproduction. Thus, it makes sense that ego exists to this day in most of us as a biological trait to push us to show off to women. This type of signaling is fairly effective though crass.
That said, there are downsides to ego. One drawback is when ego starts to overflow into achieving and obtaining more and more beyond what you need for the pure purpose of satisfying your yearning to be that much better than other men.
Runaway ego can ruin relationships and cause unhappiness by making you focus on the wrong things. During the podcast interview, the biographer mentioned how Bruce Lee’s ego was his greatest strength and weakness, like a double-edged sword.
In two episodes of Red Table Talk with Will Smith as a guest, Willie explains how he spent years and years doing stuff that he believed was for others only to eventually realize it was for himself and his ego. He had his daughter continue to go on tour when she didn’t want to anymore and shaved her head out of protest. He built a massive house “for her wife” and named it, Her House, despite her his wife saying it was too big. Eventually, he realized the house is named was an ego cover so others didn’t believe he built it for himself.
Ego can have drawbacks. In this case, Eagle can cause you to focus too much on external material success thinking that it will bring happiness than the success of relationships, when the strength of relationships really hinges on building bonds, creating experiences, and meeting each other’s values and dreams.
So when it comes to ego, I suggest adopting the best parts of ego and avoiding the worst parts that can ruin you. To start, find others who can call out when you are acting out of ego because you yourself have a hard time seeing why you’re doing things. Heck, it took Will Smith years.
People naturally want to grow everything indefinitely — their wealth, their muscles, their business. Ask yourself if growing for the sake of growing really the right thing for you?
You must acknowledge and remove yourself from the “glamour” that clouds everyone else’s eyes. By doing this, you can do better than them.
Ask yourself why you want to grow.
Be deeply honest with yourself. Don’t lie to yourself.
Why do you want to grow to seven figures to eight figures and beyond?
Here are common reasons:
- I want to make more money
- I want to help more people
- I want to reach more people
- I want to be more recognized
- I want to be more successful
Many entrepreneurs as of this very moment are fueled by these main goals.
But is that the right thing to do?
Let’s examine some of these:
“I want to be more recognized.” “I want to be more successful.”
These are not always going to be fluidly recognized. It requires true honesty to dig these out.
Just because you’ve made a lot of money in comparison to the average person does not make you an expert at everything.
Some people are still obsessed with the glamour: they want to be known as the man behind a seven or eight figure business to be recognized as successful or amazing.
But this can be an endless pursuit.
For instance, for a lot of founders, an IPO is one of those glamorous things. To some, it means they have made it into the big leagues.
Yet there are thousands of companies that have IPOed making 100 million in revenue per year that no one have heard of or care about. Many are considered the smallest size stock on the exchange by investors: a micro-cap. It’s an endless cycle.
Having studying more of the full spectrum of businesses than most people, it seems like a rather fruitless pursuit.
Examining the history of celebrities and social media, the same rings truer than ever these days.
There are hundreds of Youtube channels that get tens of millions of views per week and you’ve NEVER heard of them if I bring them up.
Casey Neistat is a Youtuber that was all the buzz on the Youtube scene for over a year. Many big Youtubers talked about him, he went from 1 million to 2 million subscribers in less than 2 months, he’s had several viral video hits with tens of millions of views each. After years of buzz, his latest viral video got him a mention on Ellen Degeneres..
and Ellen pronounced his last name wrong. It was clear it was the first time she heard of him. In fact, if you walk on the street and ask, 99% of people won’t know who he is.
The point is that the world is a vast place. More and more people are coming online everyday for the first time, further showing how vast the world is.
A trip to China in my childhood illustrated this: they were living in their own world on the opposite side of the world. Literally. They had their own movie stars, their own pop idols, and it was clear that hundreds of millions of people couldn’t care less what you were doing in America.
Chasing fame is a similar thing.
So many people want to be famous and recognized. But then when they do, they can’t stop the cycle and some of them get so famous that they can’t go anywhere public without being mobbed by paparazzi and people.
If you search for paparazzi videos online, it’s ridiculous. Hundreds of teens will follow you endlessly to get a photo with you. It’s rather stupid. What makes your photo with a celebrity so special? Do you really think annoying someone who has to put up with hundreds of photos a day and putting that photo on Facebook will really make you that much cooler? And yet.. they continue to do it.
You can argue that many famous people never get to that state but the point is the same. Overemphasis on fame and your own ego-gratification, which is unfortunately what a lot of entrepreneurs and people do, can lead to arrogance and putting yourself over the success of your business or career.
Tyga has written a song about how he hates fame and wish he was just rich called 40 Mill.
Tim Horton of P90X has worked with a lot of famous and rich people and remarked about how surprisingly unfulfilling and a wreck their lives were.
The Best Businesses Do Not Come From A Place Of Ego
One of my favorite business books is Good To Great. It’s based on years of scientific analysis of the best businesses in history.
One thing they said that separates a level 4 and level 5 leader is an emphasis on the values of the business rather than themselves.
Look at this story of a level 4 leader Lee Iacocca:
“He diverted his attention to making himself one of the most celebrated CEOs in American business history. Investor’s Business Daily and the Wall Street Journal chronicled how Iacocca appeared regularly on talk shows like the Today show and Larry King Live, personally starred in over eighty commercials, entertained the idea of running for president of the United States, and widely promoted his autobiography… in the second half of his tenure, Chrysler’s stock fell 31 percent behind the general market.” -from the book Good to Great by Jim Collins
So what’s the point of it all?
Ask yourself why do you want to grow. Then ask yourself why again to your answer.
If your why is, “I want my business to be a 100 million dollar business and be recognized as the #1 ____ in the ____ industry…”
Ask yourself why? again.
And be honest.
….well… It’s because I want to be known as the creator and founder of the best ____ of all time.
……….because I want to be known as the best.
Because then I will be cool and recognized. And people will respect me.
Why do you want people to respect you?
As you can see, it can get deeply psychological. It might go back to childhood.
And “people” is a general, broad phrase.
Capturing 10 million people’s attention for more than a few seconds is close to impossible, even for Pewdiepie who has 50+ million subscribers. Don’t think you can capture 7 billion+.
Again, look to Good To Great for better examples of greater values of a business to have.
A simple shift in values that is clearly expressed for a business can have incredible results.
I want to be the founder of #1 digital agency in the world -> I want this agency to help the most people in the most effective way in the digital and social space.
The point of this article is to get you to think and for you to not under-emphasize big priorities in a pursuit of a goal that may be partially meaningless to you.
Every year since the dawn of time, people have sacrificed their health, energy, free time, overburdened themselves with stress, cut out family time, and cut out their needed sleep to pursue a goal that was not necessary.
Don’t shave off a year of your life in the pursuit of an extra $1 million or a plaque on your cemetery when you’re already in the wealthiest top 1% in the world ($32,400 a year). You’re probably in the top 1% of the 1% already.
Remember, it could be a fruitless chase. One in a million still puts you in a group of thousands more in a world of billions.
In his early twenties, Steve Jobs was already making millions. It did not matter to him, nor did it change his lifestyle. Because it wasn’t about the money.
“Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me. Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful… that’s what matters to me.” -Steve Jobs
My top recommended related books: Start with Why, Good To Great, and Man’s Search For Meaning
Has this article changed your thinking? If so, how? Let me know in the comments.
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