The writer Ryan Holiday has said, "True will is quiet humility, resilience, and flexibility. The other kind of will is weakness disguised by bluster and ambition." That sounds like the right sentiment from someone who wrote a book called Ego Is the Enemy.
But how tenable is it for most of us to truly set our ego aside in the modern-day world of social media and 24/7 personal branding? When we look around us, the evidence sure seems to suggest that the spoils tend to flow to those who never tire of hyping themselves up at every opportunity. It's easy to get caught up in milestones like amassing 100,000 followers on TikTok, and begin to believe your own hype.
Think of how even the most modest amounts of publicity or attention can swell your head, and then imagine how that is MAGNIFIED for those who end up on magazine covers or billboards. Think of how easy it is to lose the plot--your compass, your sense of mission, your reason why--when you get caught up in the superficial trappings of success that delude you into believing that you have nothing left to learn.
I have learned the hard way that in order to succeed, you have to swallow your pride and silence your ego. Here's why:
Nobody wants to work with you
A Stanford professor wrote a great business book a few years ago that minted the "no assholes" rule. He summed it up well: Life is too short to spend it cooped up in meetings with jerks. My whole life, I have gravitated toward wanting to share my knowledge with others. But over time, I've realized that I need to shut my mouth and listen more often, or nobody is going to want to hear my thoughts.
When you dismiss people, you regret it later
It never makes sense to me that so many people today persist in the "ghosting" phenomenon, or discount the contributions of junior professionals. For one thing, we live in a very small world today thanks to the ways technology links us together. Think of overhauling a reputation as an egomaniac as akin to deleting an offensive tweet. You may have taken it down, but it will still live on the internet forever. And consider how the smallest gestures of kindness can pay off in karma over time. You may be the senior professional on the rise now, but you never know who may be in a position to help you in the future.
Ego stands in the way of life's greatest gifts
Ego often comes in the form of pride: You don't want to admit that you need help. It won't allow you to give someone else credit or admit that you can't shoulder the burden alone. In closing down your vulnerability and openness to others, you will miss out on so many wonderful relationships and blessings.
I wish I had not learned these lessons the hard way on my journey on the way up. My advice is to not let your ego hold you back on your own journey. Let yourself experience authentic moments of joy. Help those around you. And let them help you. When we start out, many of us want to disrupt the world. But if we set our egos aside, we can open ourselves up to letting the world disrupt us.