The ego comes from a narrow place of right and wrong. It has a need to be right and a need to make others wrong. It likes to overvalue it’s own brilliance, and contribution to life, while at the same time belittling the contribution of others. Worst of all…. it is blind. The more powerful the ego becomes, the more weak and unaware its host becomes.
The ego is not capable of bonding with children. That is because it is far too important, with far too much to do to sit on the floor to play. It does not listen to its children, because their opinions have no value and so the ego likes to give a lot of advice and tell children how much better they could be doing. The children without fully developed egos keep seeking the attention of presence from their parents. Unfortunately, the ego is not capable of seeing this seeking as a deep and healthy need to connect, but rather as an ‘annoyance’ from all its important work. Children with healthy egos themselves will start to openly resent their ego based parent and the battle begins. Both parties think the other is totally stupid. Perhaps they are both right!
“Always say “yes” to the present moment… Surrender to what is. Say ‘yes’ to life – and see how life starts suddenly to start working for you rather than against you.” Eckhart Tolle.
The ego is not grounded in feminine energy. So it is hard, distant and emotionally void. It does not understand or value the power of presence. The value of deep emotional bonds and connections. Marriages are tattered, and often eventually break, when they are dominated by the ego. The ego loves to judge the difference between itself and others. It makes others wrong for their way of being rather than to seek understanding. Seeking to understand does not mean we actually do in fact understand. It just means we are open and willing to learning. So even if we don’t understand, the other person leaves feeling heard. This leads to a connection because the driving intent is grounded in a desire to learn and bond vs dismiss and be right.
In business, the ego likes to feel self-important. The ego is sure its way and its knowledge are far superior to everyone else especially as it achieves more titles and compensation. What the ego fails to recognize is no matter how much it acquires; it will never be enough. For the ego the brass ring is always over there. The deals have to be bigger. The accolades are never enough. The ego screams “don’t they know how important I am. Don’t they know how much I’ve done. Don’t the see without me this never would have happened.” The answer is of course they really don’t care. They are either too busy getting their own ego needs met or they are much more interested in emotional connections. Since the ego is incapable of giving them, or itself, what we all truly seek “connection” people lose interest in our ego accomplishments.
Sometimes leaders who have the greatest desire to prove their value, have the biggest ego because they function from a place of insecurity. Insecurity is grounded in a lack of understanding of self. If we do not understand self, we are incapable of understanding others. For the ego, those things it does not understand, it will attack. It may be with small digs, little statements of belittlement of another’s work or an outright aggressive and hostile attack on their character. The ego is unconscious, so it is not capable of recognizing its inferior leadership style.
If we are a leader and able to step outside our own ego the toughest lot for us are those with a ‘victim mentality’. These insecure types are often the most dangerous, the first to walk out of a job, micro-focus on their ‘little’ needs and are incapable of seeing the big picture. They have an excuse or a complaint for every challenge. They suck up time and resources and are the most ineffective but that’s because everyone else is at fault. There is a leadership coaching style I use with this type because sometimes they are like this as a result of being managed instead of being lead. However, if they are not coachable they must go immediately as they are the sowers of discourse and create too many distractions. If they selfishly walk out and leave you hanging; don’t worry they did you a favor because allowing this type to emotionally black mail you will not lead to success!
Inversely managers that manage, are not the same as leaders that lead. Leaders don’t micro-manage. It’s so ironic how large organizations cry out they wish they could find talent. Talented people are entrepreneurs at heart. Entrepreneurs are visionaries and can often see patterns that are not obvious to others. So often large companies make the mistake of attracting this type of leader and then give them a ‘manager’ to report to. Entrepreneurs will work tirelessly, simply because they love what they do. What happens is little minded ‘managers’, grounded in their ego, are scared of this visionary. So they immediately think they have to control them, reign them in and manage them. The end result is the manager is frustrated and the leader is stifled; all because the ego has infected the process of creativity.
“To complain is always nonacceptance of what is. It invariably carries an unconscious negative charge. When you complain, you make yourself into a victim. When you speak out, you are in your power. So change the situation by taking action or by speaking out if necessary or possible; leave the situation or accept it. All else is madness.” Eckhart Tolle
So what’s the solution as a parent, spouse and owner? Simple like all things. Run a marathon by simply placing one foot in front of the other. Simple idea. Now go do it! The tough part is ‘doing’. The concept is to simply be mindful of ego and be quick to recognize it within your team. As a parent use the mantra “the only important thing is my ability to connect with others. The rest of this is just ‘noise’.” Whenever our children interrupt, we can stop and say “you are the most important thing in my life. I will stop right now and play for 5 minutes. Then I have to go back to my good work.”
WIth our spouse when we can pretend we really love them! I say that because so many of us just go through the motions, at some point in our marriage, to the point we don’t like our spouse, and we don’t like who we are when we are with them. This can be turned around, although it takes a lot of mindful work, and the willingness to set our ego asides. We have to set aside all the perceived pain we believe the other person is responsible for. Again simple concept, but mission impossible for some of; so we think. What we believe will be our truth. For us with these thoughts it will be impossible.
If we have a good marriage we can make it even better by opening our hearts to hearing their message. The next time your spouse is reactive, instead of jumping into those same patterns of banter, look them in the eyes, hold their hands, and say “what I hear is your desire to connect, let’s sit down and do that’. This also works in companies but the language is different. Whenever I want to clear the air or believe a relationship has gone off the rails, I ask the person for face time and tell them it’s of a personal nature. That immediately lowers their defenses. It is personal; we are working on our relationship even if we don’t use that language at work. Often times when someone wants to talk of a ‘personal’ nature it means they are leaving the company or have some emergency. So not only will the person not be defensive, but they will actually be relieved you are not bringing some hairy deal for them to resolve! Never ever come from a place of blame. Seek to understand first why they may have the position they have which is often not personal. Ask them what they think can get things back on track. If you set this call up as a confrontation no matter how effective they are as leaders you will lose. So ego must be set aside here if you expect a breakthrough.
Within our company if we want to attract talent, then we have to hire leaders that know how to manage this talent. There is a company that takes all their executives out to dinner as a part of their interview process. They watch to see how that executive treats the wait staff and that helps them determine what kind of person they are dealing with. A manager comes in and says “don’t worry I, I, I, I, I can do this, or that, or will handle this.” A true leader comes in and asks questions. They don’t ‘tell’ people how to do their job, they ask their people questions. They collaborate. They engage in healthy discourse. They value their team and their team feels valued. No matter how great we think we are, it’s what our teams would say about us that definer our leadership effectiveness. What would your children, your spouse, your teams say about you? If the answer is uncomfortable when you think about it, then you are probably a true leader. You are willing to see yourself clearly and have learned to be both honest, and to sit with discomfort; which is a natural part of life even though our hyper ‘feel good now’ society tells us otherwise.
If you started getting defensive in your own mind after asking this question and going through a list of excuses then you may need the most overhauling. Your life has been too maniac to live in presence and to slow down and consider this question. You are probably a real pain in the ass to deal with because you think you ‘got it’ but you are unconscious even though you may be trying really, really hard. So stop being a pain in the ass. Look to see the wisdom and greatness in others. Listen more. Ask more questions. Don’t think you have to take over a project for it to be successful.
“To know yourself as the Being underneath the thinker, the stillness underneath the mental noise, the love and joy underneath the pain, is freedom, salvation, enlightenment.” Eckhart Tolle.
We all have a bit of all of this inside of each of us. We are human after all and this is part of the human condition. Congratulate yourself for even taking the time to read this blog. Many people don’t even spend 5 minutes a day thinking about their higher purpose or self. Life is hard. It has been hard since the beginning of the beginning of time. We only need pick up any history book to understand this. So be gentle with you. You are not the worst. Let your ego remember you are also not the best. Do your good work. Look for moments to bond with others. Be kind. Those are the moments in life you will be remember.
“Boredom, anger, sadness, or fear are not ‘you,’ not personal. They are conditions of the human mind. They come and go. Nothing that comes and goes is you.” – Eckhart Tolle.