Napoleon. Khan. Stalin. Hitler. Alexander the Great.
History is littered with leaders who were driven by ego to gain power—and who ultimately landed in ruin. Seems like a reoccurring pattern these days doesn't it?
“History is also made by individuals who fought their egos at every turn, who were not about the spotlight, and who put their higher goals above their desire for recognition,” reminds Ryan Holiday in his book, “Ego is the Enemy.”
Make no mistake. Your ego is one of your greatest mental enemies in life.
It stops you from recognizing when you’re wrong.
It stops you from apologizing.
“Early in our careers, ego impedes learning and the cultivation of talent,” says Holiday. “With success, it can blind us to our faults and sow future problems. In failure, it magnifies each blow and makes recovery more difficult.”
Holiday describes our ego as an “unhealthy belief in our own importance—the need to be better than, more than, recognized far past any reasonable utility.”
“Most of us aren’t ‘egomaniacs,’ but ego is there at the root of almost every conceivable problem and obstacle,” he says.
That’s why setting aside your ego is liberating. It frees you from self-judgment and delivers the objectivity you need to correct your course and make the right decisions for your life.
Of course, setting aside your ego is difficult. That’s why I'm sharing this Ego Exercise to help you separate your ego from the true you and put you on the path towards your vision.
Now, I must warn you. This Ego Exercise hurts. Several times, I’ve asked a few clients and friends, to give me no-holds-barred feedback. You can brace yourself, but nothing fully prepares you for the wise counsel of friends who know you well and want the best for you.
Fortunately, the Ego Exercise has allowed me to improve as a speaker, a writer, a business owner, a friend, and ultimately a person. That’s why I've been using this exercise. It’s also an exercise that can benefit you right now.
Here’s how to do the full version of the Ego Exercise.
It's just three simple steps:
1. Find someone you trust, admire, and respect.
2. Ask them to share what they believe to be your 2 or 3 biggest strengths.
3. Then, ask them to share your 2 or 3 biggest weaknesses and how you can improve.
Of course, you might not be able to get a mentor or coach that wants to do this for you. Or, you simply might not be ready for the brutal honesty about your weaknesses. That’s fair. It’s not easy to lean into this difficult conversation.
The good news is that after having done this exercise with clients and friends, I’ve discovered there are 2 universal strengths and 2 universal weaknesses in nearly every ambitious person.
Below is a somewhat generic follow-up to the Ego Exercise that acknowledges your strengths while pointing out your weaknesses—and giving you suggestions on how to improve each of them. When you’re done going through this exercise, don’t harbor regrets or guilt about your weaknesses. Instead, celebrate your strengths and take action to improve. That’s the secret to turning the pain of the Ego Exercise into improved personal performance.
Nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight.
1) Your Persistence
You never give up. The world has thrown everything at you: Heartbreak, chaos, tragedy, career and business setbacks, and daily obstacles. But you’re still standing, and have never given up. Each day, you wake up and you take on the world. You often do it alone (I’ll address that in a moment) while often supporting others in their journeys, too.
The world will never extinguish the fight and fire within you. And people notice. You motivate others when you live this way. It’s inspired me, and everyone around you.
2. Your Generosity
“You cannot out-give the universe.” Well, if anyone’s tried, it’s you. Your heart shines through in good times and in bad. You’re always there for everyone.
You have nurtured so many people and helped them grow. You’ve been there when their lives were falling apart, when their businesses and marriages were failing, and when they were ready to quit. YOU played a huge role in turning them around.
No one has ever thanked you enough for all that you’ve done. You are the catalyst for change that so many of us needed in our lives.
So let me be the first to thank you—on behalf of everyone.
THANK YOU for being so generous with your time, your energy, your strength, and your love.
The world is lucky to have you.
I could spend hours talking about your strength, loyalty, commitment, honesty, and generosity. But now, it’s time to shift gears and look at how to overcome obstacles—never forgetting the strengths that will support you in the next phase of your journey.
1. You Forget About You
You’ll do anything to take care of the people around you, but you forget to take care of you. That leaves you tired, unfulfilled, overworked, and with no time or energy to replenish yourself.
This can only go on so long before you crash.
I understand you are physically and emotionally spent after taking care of everyone at home and trying to grow in your career at the same time. But you have to carve out time for yourself. As the old airplane safety cliché goes, “Adjust your own oxygen mask before helping others.”
2. You Hold Back
People are out there “crying themselves to sleep” because they don’t have your help. You know it. You’ve heard them. And yet you’re still not being the leader that you can be for your family, team or your customers.
You are handcuffing your personal and professional growth because you aren’t willing to leave your comfort zone. I can understand that. Most people are scared of making the big leap. But this inability or indecision is creating a hard ceiling on your ability to reach your peak potential.
Yes, you’ll need to go through a short period of discomfort. But nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight.
You need to build your leadership skills through deep, uncomfortable conversations. This will build you and everyone around you in every area of your life.
3. You Are Being a Pushover
You’ve done so much great work in your industry. People owe you. Yet you’re afraid to ask what you are worth. This is holding you back from enjoying the wealth and personal growth you deserve.
When you allow yourself to be treated as a pushover at work and at home, you do not get what you are worth.
Look at those who motivate and inspire you. They aren’t afraid to command their value. You must follow their lead.
This requires you to step up, act with greater confidence, set boundaries on meetings, and stop doing free work for friends. Demand more of yourself and everyone around you will treat you with greater respect. It all starts with you.
Here's to the optimization of your mind, body, finances, relationships. LIFE!!!
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