Well, happy new year to y’all.
Are we having fun yet?
I was kinda hoping my first blog post of this brand-spankin’ new year would be a positive one, full of good tidings and all that.
But I waited too long. One week into aught-seven, and the fur is flying already.
So my first post is on… ego.
This’ll be quick.
We caught the first episode of Trump’s Apprentice shenanagins last night, and it looks like I’m hooked again. Damn. What a fabulous bunch of ego-maniacs, ripe for humiliation and merciless reality checks.
I won’t bore you with a long synopsis. They had a task, the producers cruelly set up someone to go down in flames, and Trump got to ride his High Horse a lot.
He wuvs his High Horse, yes he does.
In previous editions of The Apprentice, there were actual marketing lessons to be learned. But that part of the show has been down-graded… confused too many Nielson families… and what’s left is an interpersonal grudge match of twenty-something Type A overachievers.
Gosh, it’s fun to watch.
And lo, there arrived a lesson, after all, at the climax of the show. When Trump lowered the boom on the loser, the guy was shocked beyond belief. Actually beyond his capacity to absorb.
This couldn’t be happening. His ego couldn’t handle it.
And he said: “This is unheard of.” Sort of a non-sequitor, given that he must have been clear enough on the rules to know that someone was getting the boot each episode.
What he meant, of course was: “My ego does not accept this.”
It’s the equivalent of stamping your foot and demanding the world bend to your will.
Man, ego will kill you. When Mr. Evil Ego is in charge, your head is trapped in an echo chamber, where all input is muffled, and the only thing to drink is your own fetid Kool-Aid.
When the wise dude said “Pride goeth before a fall”, he was talking about ego. That annoying “me first, me always” attitude of people who have trouble playing well with others.
I find people with big egos hilarious. One of the first cool, useable things you learn in Psychology 101 is that, whenever someone goes overboard on attitude, it’s a sure bet they’re hiding a frightened inner child deep inside. Their arrogance is a shield for the fraility of their sense of self-worth.
(Humans are rife with contradictions like this. Have you ever hung out with professional comedians? They are NOT funny in private. Glum, yes. Depressed, often. But almost never funny. Their sharp wit was honed as protection, not entertainment.)
I’ve been accused once or twice of having an oversized ego, but only by people whose own ego feels threatened. If you think I’m full of myself, you’re not paying attention. I’m the butt of my own favorite jokes, and I know I have too much to learn yet in life to be smug about anything. I’ll happily listen to any fool with a good idea, and I’m always open to new ways to skin cats. If I have a stake in anything, it’s truth… not being right.
But I DO know an awful lot of stuff about advertising and life, because I struggled so hard for so long to dig myself out of the slacker rut I was in. I figured some things out, lucked out with a few good mentors, and kept after the goal of getting really good.
Not talking a good game. Actually getting good in my chosen career.
Do not confuse pro-level confidence with ego problems. Confidence means “Yeah, I know how to do that” with the juice to back it up. Without “guessing” that you maybe possibly could sorta pull it off to some extent, if nobody looked too close.
Ego is “Of course I know how to do that”, minus the skill, knowledge and experience to actually DO it.
And this disparity is what makes this new edition of The Apprentice so promising.
What is the sound of two egos clashing? Lots of crying, ranting and sputtered blame for someone else.
In my seminars, I start each session by asking attendees to write “My Ego” on a piece of paper… wad it up… and throw it across the room at the trash can. Symbolic, sure. But effective.
It’s hard to learn anything when your ego’s in the way.
This is why Army recruits are reduced to exhausted obedience in boot camp — so they can learn how to follow orders without ego. And it’s why law schools and medical schools deprive students of sleep — to reduce the influence of ego.
Almost every problem I’ve ever had with a client or partner (or lover, for that matter) has been the result of ego. It’s the bugaboo of Western business culture, and it’s tiring.
Don’t tell me what you’re gonna do. Just do it, instead… and leave the attitude at home. Let’s see what kind of actual chops you’re packing.
If you suspect you’re burdened with too much ego — and that’s what it is, a burden — experiment with deflating it yourself for a while. Enjoy a little shock-to-the-system reality check, and try playing well with others. Just try it.
Ego is dark energy, based in fear.
And it’s not making your life better. It’s hurting you. You’re possessed.
Oh, I do enjoy a good ego-slaughter… and Trump’s got a fine limo-load of them primed for the kill…
Note: For hard-core psych sticklers, the word “ego” actually refers to the part of your mind that recognizes your own existence. It’s what supposedly separates us from other animals. The other parts — and this gets into Freud and Jung and Maslow and James too much for easy clarity — include the Id (your base animal nature, which pretty much only wants to eat, screw, sleep and stay warm) and the Super-ego (which is, essentially, that shaming voice of Puritanical authority inside your head, always wanting to ruin the party). I’m using the colloquial version of the word “ego” in this post — meaning the very common “it’s all about me” attitude we all know and love.