Ego plays a key part in our lives. In fact, a moderate, healthy ego is often crucial to success. It is our ego that allows us to engage in competition. After all, if you didn’t have an ego, you would not care about winning or losing. It also plays a part in convincing others of our strengths and gives us the drive to improve and achieve bigger and greater things. However, ego is also very often our downfall. What starts off as a strength can quickly become a weakness. Success can go to our heads and our ego can become inflated. This clouds our vision, and we can lose perspective. This inevitably leads to spectacular failure. Therefore, learning to control your ego and maintain humility is an essential skill to acquire. Ryan Holiday’s book ‘Ego is the enemy’ outlines ways in which we can achieve this. So, what can we learn from the book?
There is always more to learn
There was a famous Ancient Greek philosopher known as Epictetus who once said, “It is impossible to learn that which one thinks one already knows.” This nicely sums up how our ego can hold us back. Our ego is often the difference between being good and being great. Ego often affects those that are good at what they do. They achieve something of note, but then fail to push on to the next level. Humility allows you to avoid falling into this trap. Take guitarist Kirk Hammett as an example. He was asked to join Metallica in 1980 and they went on to sell over 125 million records. Despite the success of Metallica, Hammett never let it go to his head. In fact, after joining Metallica, Hammett became a student and spent a year taking guitar lessons! By remaining a student and continuing to learn different styles he was able to take his work to an entirely different level.
Pride leads to complacency and decline
Where would Microsoft be today if Bill Gates decided that creating Windows 95 was good enough? What would have happened to Apple if Steve Jobs decided that the Apple computers of the 1980s were his crowning achievement? The world would certainly be a different place than it is today. But when you look at the world, there are tons of examples of people resting on their laurels after one big success. There are music acts that are still playing that one hit they had decades ago. There are sports stars who were tagged as the next big thing languishing in obscurity after some early success. There are countless businesses that had one good idea and eventually went bankrupt. Resting on our laurels and living off of past glories is a result of pride. Pride helps us to justify our ego. It tells us that one success is a sign of how great we are at everything. But as the saying goes, pride comes before a fall.
We do not succeed alone
Ego has an awful habit of making people think that they succeeded on their own. They didn’t. No one is an island. You might be a great salesperson, but you did not sell the product on your own. There was the team that developed the product or solution that you sold. There was the marketing team that put together all of the materials. The legal team that helped with the contract negotiations and so on and so forth. The same is true for pretty much any other role. Sure, you might be the CEO. But did you make the sales or create the product? No. In order to maintain success it is important to remember that it was all a team effort. You will have been helped by numerous people. If you want to continue being successful, then remembering them and ensuring they receive recognition would be a good start.