Punt your ego and help oth­ers meet their goals

The Hamilton Spectator - - BUSINESS - JAY ROBB

One of the all-time great­est coaches broke into the Na­tional Foot­ball League by do­ing un­paid grunt work.

Bill Belichick, who’s coach­ing in his sev­enth Su­per Bowl this Sunday, got his start by an­a­lyz­ing thou­sands of hours of game film for the Bal­ti­more Colts.

“You gave him an as­sign­ment and he dis­ap­peared into a room and you didn’t see him again un­til it was done and then he wanted to do more,” he said of the Colts coaches.

Belichick didn’t de­mand to get paid. He didn’t tell the coaches that he was too smart and tal­ented to waste his time watch­ing film. He didn’t ex­pect to be show­ered with praise for his in­sights and ideas. He didn’t walk around the of­fice boast­ing that he was des­tined for a Pro Foot­ball Hall of Fame ca­reer.

In­stead, Belichick qui­etly got to work, paid his dues and adopted what “Ego is the En­emy” au­thor Ryan Hol­i­day calls the can­vas strat­egy.

It’s a strat­egy where you help yourself by help­ing oth­ers. You trade short-term grat­i­fi­ca­tion for a longer-term pay­off.

“Find can­vases for oth­ers to paint on. Whereas ev­ery­one else wants to get credit and be re­spected, you can for­get credit. You can for­get it so hard that you’re glad when oth­ers get it in­stead of you — that was your aim, af­ter all. Let the oth­ers take the credit on credit, while you de­fer and earn in­ter­est on the prin­ci­pal.”

The cul­mi­nat­ing ef­fect of the can­vas strat­egy is pro­found, says Hol­i­day. You learn from solv­ing di­verse prob­lems for other peo­ple. You earn a rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing in­dis­pens­able. You de­velop new re­la­tion­ships and build a bank of favours that you can later cash in.

We can adopt the can­vas strat­egy at any time and at any stage in our ca­reers.

“Clear the path for the peo­ple above you and you will even­tu­ally cre­ate a path for yourself. The per­son who clears the path ul­ti­mately con­trols its di­rec­tion; just as the can­vas shapes the paint­ing.”

Fol­low­ing the can­vas strat­egy is one way to keep our egos in check and avoid an un­healthy be­lief in our own im­por­tance.

Ego is our en­emy, says Hol­i­day. Ego se­duces us by telling us we’re spe­cial, bet­ter than ev­ery­one else and the rules don’t ap­ply to us. It’s “the petu­lant child in­side ev­ery per­son, the one that chooses get­ting his or her way over any­thing or any­one else. The need to be bet­ter than, more than, rec­og­nized for, far past any rea­son­able util­ity — that’s ego. It’s the sense of su­pe­ri­or­ity and cer­tainty that ex­ceeds the bounds of con­fi­dence and tal­ent.”

Learn­ing to man­age our egos will keep us hum­ble in our as­pi­ra­tions, gra­cious in our suc­cesses and re­silient in our fail­ures.

“What is rare is not raw tal­ent, skill or even con­fi­dence but hu­mil­ity, dili­gence and self­aware­ness,” says Hol­i­day. “If the be­lief in yourself is not built on ac­tual achieve­ment, you are set­ting yourself up for a pre­cip­i­tous rise fol­lowed by a calami­tous fall.”

So­cial me­dia does us no favours. Talk and hype have re­placed quiet ac­tion away from the spot­light, warns Hol­i­day.

“We seem to think that si­lence is a sign of weak­ness. That be­ing ig­nored is tan­ta­mount to death. So we talk, talk, talk as though our life depends on it. The only re­la­tion­ship be­tween work and chat­ter is that one kills the other.”

And when faced with life’s in­evitable set­backs, we con­sole our­selves on so­cial me­dia and in­dulge in self-im­mo­la­tion. We cry how it isn’t fair and how oth­ers are out to get us. We traf­fic in con­spir­acy the­o­ries, prom­ise re­tal­i­a­tion and plot our re­venge.

“We don’t need pity — our own or any­one else’s,” says Hol­i­day. “We need pur­pose, poise and pa­tience.”

We need stoic re­silience and in­creased self­aware­ness, some­thing that an unchecked ego will block.

Learn­ing to sup­press, sub­sume and di­rect our egos is the best guar­an­tee that we’ll make a dif­fer­ence and leave our mark, whether we’re lead­ing a small busi­ness, a ma­jor or­ga­ni­za­tion, an NFL team or the most pow­er­ful na­tion in the free world.

@jay­robb serves as direc­tor of com­mu­ni­ca­tions for Mo­hawk Col­lege and lives in Hamil­ton.

“Ego is the En­emy” by Ryan Hol­i­day Port­fo­lio/Pen­guin, $34

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