In business career: ‘Ego is the enemy’

Published April 18, 2018, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Zoilo P. Dejaresco III

In his best-seller international book, author Ryan Holiday has proven that in a business career “Ego is the Enemy ” (also his book title).

Holiday picks out examples of famous persons and their acts which can prove one’s undoing when applied in one’s chosen career.

Take John DeLorean, automotive genius, who threw out all the things his previous company General Motors stood for – discipline, organization, and strategic planning. He was an egomaniac on the loose: Unable to delegate and fleeting from one unfinished project to another. His company tumbled; he was caught in a drug deal he thought could bail his ailing company.

Steve Jobs, on the other hand, was fired by Apple. But he took with him the values he learned in that company and set up his highly successful company Pixar; he was rehired by Apple and became one of the leading business gurus of his time (though he died early).

The book warns of three things that ego brings in one’s business path: A sense of entitlement, over control and paranoia.  Entitlement assumes this is mine. I earned it. Thus, the uncalled tirades against people who work for them and ridiculous expectations of others.

Control means – “it must be done my way” – leading to paralyzing perfectionism and millions of pointless battles just to assert oneself. And paranoia says “I cannot trust anyone.” I am surrounded by “fools,” so he endlessly machinates “before they get me” or get back at them for even wrongly perceived slights.

To keep one’s sanity in a competitive career environment, one is told to “know what is REALLY important to you.”  Oftentimes, precious time is wasted doing things we do not like, for people, we do not respect and to get things we do not want.

It is wrong, for instance, for the ego to tell us to value ourselves only if “you’re better than, have more than, everyone everywhere.” Because somewhere along one’s career, one meets people whose achievement would make one so insignificant no matter what one has already achieved.

This insecurity can lead one to unhealthy compromises in life. Ego tells one to cheat, even if he loves his own spouse. “Because you want what you have and what you do not have.” Ego tells one that just as one gets the hang of things, one jumps off right in the middle of another. Or to always have one’s cake and eating it, too.

One must, therefore, fully know what is important to oneself.

Katherine Graham, famous publisher of The Washington Post, overcame the suicide of her husband, threats of closure by the government and a workers’ strike by strongly adhering to her enduring principles of a publishing legacy and the freedom of the press.

It is best that fulfilling one’s “own standards in work” is the one that fills oneself with pride – not the attachment to the outcomes of one’s work.  When the effort – not the results – good or bad is enough.

Bill Wash, the Super Bowl genius, did not think first of victories when he led his team. He was more of exacting everyone’s adherence to “Standards of Performance” calling for excellence in and outside the playing field.  He knows the winning,  as in business, the promotions and rewards would follow.

The book warns us of pride, the sweetheart of the ego  that blunts one’s ability to continue learning while at work, to be flexible, to adapt and build relationships. Ego takes a minor accomplishment and makes it feel like a major one.

The author Holiday warns against this gratifying label making: Don’t count your chickens before the eggs are hatched; don’t cook the sauce before catching the fish; the way to cook a rabbit is to catch the rabbit first and so forth.

Pat Riley, famous coach of the LA Lakers and the Miami Heat,  cited the natural cycle of things: Moving from the “Innocent Climb” to the “Disease of Me.”  With success in the organization, the simple bonds that joined individuals initially begin to fade. Players calculate their own self-importance. Chests swell; frustrations emerge and ego appears.

This is an organizational disease when people become non-team players. It’s Shaq and Kobe unable to play together; it’s Michael Jordan punching his own teammates.

“Ego is the Enemy” instead recommends to all career path workers: Always be a student, help others along the way, restrain anger, practice sobriety, work hard and live ably with success.

Make full use of an apprentice relationship with a mentor is one advice. All the fabled artists and leaders like Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and Benjamin Franklin went through this route.

Being with a mentor places one’s ego under the hands of someone else,  putting a ceiling imposed on the ego. “Every fighter, to become great, needs someone better they can learn from.”

Now, this other advice is not about being a sycophant or kissing ass.  It says: Provide the support so that others will look good. “Clear the path for the people above you and you will eventually create a path for yourself” is a good an advice as any for a budding business player in the organization.

It is often quoted that mastery of others is good but mastery of oneself is the best. Jackie Robinson was a hot head from birth, angered at the discrimination against the color of his skin.  Fights and prison terms after he became a changed man. Able to control his temper, Robinson not only became the first black baseball professional player but won Rookie of the Year and MVP for the “Dodgers.”

Practicing sobriety inside the corporate walls is another needed virtue. And the prime example of this is German Chancellor Angela Merkel, an asset which made her a three-term country leader. A story is told about how the impetuous Russian leader Vladimir Putin tried to intimidate Merkel in a meeting by allowing his Russian mongrel dogs to barge in their meeting room (Merkel was known to hate dogs).

Merkel, sensing Putin’s ploy, merely smiled and made a joke about it.

Of course, nothing beats old-fashion “hard work.” There is no triumph without toil.

Ego likes the hype without the effort. “Fake it till you make it,” the ego says.

But for basketball star Bill Bradley who became an All-Star, NBA champ, and US senator: He summed it all up: “When you are not practicing, remember, someone, somewhere is practicing, and when you meet him, he will win.”

Work is finding yourself on the tracks when the weather keeps everyone indoors.

“Ego is The Enemy” is a fine book. Read it when you can.

(Dejaresco, a former banker, is a financial consultant, media practitioner, and a book author. He is a Life Member and Chair of Broadcast Media of Fines. His views, however, are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of Finex. [email protected])