January 2, 2013

The Value of the Ego

The best businessmen I know are masters of the ego. They understand what forces compel them to do certain things, but even further they understand what forces compel others. The ego is that part of all of us that desires, craves and wants – its only natural that the best entrepreneurs in the world fully understand the processes behind this in order to give people what they need.

If we didn’t have egos, not only would the entire capitalist system fall apart, but individuality and uniqueness would take a nosedive too. In peoples’ drives to be unique and stand out, the ego decides what products they’re willing to buy, which places they want to go and how they want to present themselves to the world. I truly believe that in order to understand the driving forces behind peoples’ egos, one has to fully conquer one’s own. This is the sign of a master entrepreneur.

To understand the ego, one first has to tame it. The single best method to keep the ego in check is meditation. Its amazing what a daily 30 minute breath watching session can do to the other 23:30 of your day, and I highly recommend this to anyone that wishes to be more grounded and balanced in life. This has the effect of making you acutely aware of your thoughts and feelings in every moment, which brings about a better understanding of what drives you.

The ego can be described in physical, spiritual and psychological terms. Behind each of these sets of explanations are centuries of human research and understanding, knowledge that would take lifetimes to learn through direct experience. Set aside time to read books on psychology, marketing and philosophy, and you will have the power to back up your intuitive understanding of people with harder facts.

To keep the ego in check, one has to watch it constantly. Mindfulness, or being in the moment, allows you to watch your actions and thoughts without being owned by them. Every time I watch a compelling advert and feel the distinct craving to make a purchase, I make a mental note of the thoughts and feelings that led up to that craving. This helps me understand and decode the process that marketers use, and see directly what techniques are being used on me that affect my purchase decisions.

Conquering Fear
Not only does the ego make us want things, it is also responsible for many of our irrational fears. Dodgy marketers use fear tactics on customers to influence purchasing decisions, but if you understand and conquer your own fears you can effectively negate these effects. As the saying goes, do something every day that scares you. I think that one of the most exciting parts of being alive happens when you face something just outside of your comfort zone and proceed to conquer it. The more you expose yourself to new situations and obstacles, the more you grow as a person and understand your own triggers and drives, and ultimately the triggers and drives of those around you.

The Medici Effect
Following through from the previous point, the exposure to new experiences begets something known as the Medici Effect. Its a place where ideas from different fields and cultures meet and collide, ultimately igniting an explosion of extraordinary new discoveries. The highest amount of creativity and learning comes from these collisions, and its a relatively easy way to really start to understand yourself. If you’re a nerdy accountant, spend a few weeks backpacking in a remote country. If you’re a programmer, go to a few business workshops and events. If you’re a fashion designer, go help out your community at an NGO. You get the picture :)

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