“MY OPPONENT IS MY TEACHER. MY EGO IS MY ENEMY.”
— RENZO GRACIE
ENT (601) – EGO IS THE ENEMY
In his book Ego is the Enemy, Ryan Holiday breaks down different aspects of Ego and offers a comparison between individuals who let their ego define who they are and others who learned to control it effectively, for the greater good. An interesting concept is that he defines, and uses, the term “ego” in the colloquial sense rather than “ego/egoism” as a medical term used in a clinical setting (Holiday, R. (2016)). As such, the ego defined throughout this book, as it applies to the Entrepreneurs, is referred to as arrogance or self-centered ambition, and an unhealthy belief in our own importance (Holiday, R. (2016)).
As we see in the world around us, many entrepreneurs with a great product or service idea end up driving it to dust shortly after its birth. There are many factors that contribute to the failure of small businesses in such large quantities. Most notable factors include lack of funding, inability to hire, train, and assemble the right team, marketing, and lack of need for the products & services (Mansfield, Matt (2019)). On the flip side, the small businesses that do succeed are responsible for producing most of the new jobs in the economy. According to the Small Business Administration (SBA) report from 2012, small firms accounted for 64 percent of jobs created between 1993 and 2011. The trend was expected to continue through 2018.
With so much potential and available market share, wouldn’t the new entrepreneurs and small business owners realize the benefits of a successful venture? According to Smallbiztrends article of “Startup Statistics”, the numbers show quite the opposite; only about 18 percent of the first-time entrepreneurs succeed, and 44 percent of these can’t stay alive past the 5-year mark (Mansfield, Matt (2019)).
The question is why?
If we apply Ego in the sense in which Ryan Holiday defined it, we can deduct the conclusion that ego plays a big part in the aforementioned factors. For example, the ego can play a big role in funding and the inability to hire the right people. If the Entrepreneur does not consult with the appropriate SMEs in finance industry (the lenders & bankers) one could easily fall into the trap of self-worth (ability to self-fund) and end up not having enough funds to produce the product, offer the service, purchase/lease the necessary machines, hire and train labor, and market the product/service accordingly. As the author eloquently described, if ego is the voice that tells us we’re better than we really are, we can say ego inhibits true success by preventing a direct and honest connection to the world around us (Holiday, R (2016)).
Furthermore, if we carefully examine the examples of some of the most influential individuals from recent history, we can see how ego made them fail or helped them succeed in various aspects of their lives. Take as an example a young United States military officer name William Tecumseh Sherman, who became one of the greatest generals and strategic thinkers this country has seen. However, regardless of the influence, he had on the outcome of the Civil War, and the strategies he put in place to defeat the Union army when offered the presidency of the United States, Sherman refused (Holiday, R (2016)). He knew his worth and appreciated the opportunity to serve the country in the best possible manner he could and eventually became the most loved man in America by the end of the war, without ever running for public office or getting involved in the political arena (Holiday, R (2016)).
We can all learn a valuable lesson from the respected William Sherman and work on suppressing our inner desires to let ego and aspiration pave the path for us by controlling our ego and doing our part in making the world a better place for everyone, even if we don’t get any credit or recognition for it.
Holiday, R. (2016). Ego is the Enemy: Penguin.
Mansfield, Matt (2019, March 28). Startup Statistics – The Numbers You Need to Know. [Blog post]. Retrieved from: https://smallbiztrends.com/2019/03/startup-statistics-small-business.html