You could forgive Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo for feeling pretty good about himself.
Antetokounmpo is a five-time NBA All-Star. Two-time NBA Most Valuable Player. Along with Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon -- heady company indeed -- he is only the third player to win that and the Defensive Player of the Year Award in the same season. He just scored 50 points in game six of the NBA Finals to bring Milwaukee its first championship in 50 years.
So yeah: Giannis has every right to be a little full of himself.
Except he's also a bit of a philosopher.
Here's what happened in a press conference when Antetokounmpo was asked by Sam Amick how, at such a young age, he had seemingly managed to figure out the "ego thing."
"When I think about, 'Oh, I did this,' or, 'I'm so great,'" Antetokounmpo replied, "usually the next day you're going to suck. The next few days, you're going to be terrible."
It's a good line. Not quite a George Costanza mic drop line, but still. Reporters -- often the toughest of tough crowds -- laughed, and Giannis could have moved on.
But he had more to say.
The mindset to have? When you focus on the past, that's your ego. 'I did [this] in the past. I won [that] in the past.'
When I focus on the future, that's my pride. 'I'm going to dominate.' That's your pride talking.
I try to focus on the moment. In the present. That's humility. That's being humble. That's a skill I'm trying to master. And it's been working so far. So I'm not going to stop.
The reporters laughed, but this time in appreciation.
As Ryan Holiday would say, ego is the enemy. Ego is swagger. Ego is boasting. Ego is the overt pretense of bravery. Ego is a loud and inflated sense of self.
Ego is stupid.
Confidence, on the other hand, is quiet. Confidence is a result -- and then a driver -- of ability, expertise, and self-regard. Confidence is humble enough to take a step back, admit to struggles or failures, and find a different way.
Confidence is smart. Humility is smart.
Confident humility is smarter yet.
And makes you a better leader. A 2012 study published in the Academy of Management Journal found that humble leaders tend to be more effective.
But humble people don't just make better bosses; a 2011 study published in Personality and Individual Differences found that humility was a "unique predictor" of job performance.
Yep: Humble people are better leaders and better followers. Which means they're better teammates.
Which means everyone wins.
Want to stay grounded after achieving outsize success?
Want to focus not on what you did yesterday, or what you might do tomorrow, but on what truly matters: What you will do today?
Take a page from the Antetokounmpo playbook:
When you think about the past, that's your ego.
When you think about the future, that's your pride.
When you think about the present, that's humility.
That's a great way to make sure your past successes -- or future aspirations -- don't keep you from achieving success in the present.