FOR EVERYTHING THAT COMES NEXT, EGO IS THE ENEMY



Chapter 26 

FOR EVERYTHING THAT COMES NEXT, EGO IS THE ENEMY . . .


I don’t like work—no man does—but I like what is in the work—the chance to find yourself.

—JOSEPH CONRAD

In William Manchester’s epic biography of the life of Winston Churchill, the middle volume—a third of the set—is titled Alone. For a full eight years, Churchill stood more or less by himself against his shortsighted peers, against the rising threat of fascism, even among the West.

   But eventually, he triumphed again. And faced adversity again. And was vindicated again.

   Katharine Graham stood alone as she took over her family’s newspaper empire. Her son, Donald Graham, must have felt similar pressure as he sought to preserve the company during the dramatic declines of the industry in the mid-2000s. Both made it through. So can you.

   There is no way around it: We will experience difficulty. We will feel the touch of failure. As Benjamin Franklin observed, those who “drink to the bottom of the cup must expect to meet with some of the dregs.”

   But what if those dregs weren’t so bad? As Harold Geneen put it, “People learn from their failures. Seldom do they learn anything from success.” It’s why the old Celtic saying tells us, “See much, study much, suffer much, that is the path to wisdom.”

   What you face right now could, should, and can be such a path.

   Wisdom or ignorance? Ego is the swing vote.

   Aspiration leads to success (and adversity). Success creates its own adversity (and, hopefully, new ambitions). And adversity leads to aspiration and more success. It’s an endless loop.

   All of us exist on this continuum. We occupy different places on it at various points in our lives. But when we do fail, it sucks. No question.

   Whatever is next for us, we can be sure of one thing we’ll want to avoid. Ego. It makes all the steps hard, but failure is the one it will make permanent. Unless we learn, right here and right now, from our mistakes. Unless we use this moment as an opportunity to understand ourselves and our own mind better, ego will seek out failure like true north.

   All great men and women went through difficulties to get to where they are, all of them made mistakes. They found within those experiences some benefit—even if it was simply the realization that they were not infallible and that things would not always go their way. They found that self-awareness was the way out and through—if they hadn’t, they wouldn’t have gotten better and they wouldn’t have been able to rise again.

   Which is why we have their mantra to guide us, so that we can survive and thrive in every phase of our journey. It is simple (though, as always, never easy).

Not to aspire or seek out of ego.

To have success without ego.

To push through failure with strength, not ego.





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