On my post regarding you being very smart and no one caring, I got into a personal story where an acting manager summarily eviscerated my whole “I’m special and smart” persona that I was holding onto like a big baby, and ended up helping me in the long term because of it. I still remember it, I still feel it, but I also recognize that on occasion that whole “smart” thing can still get to my head.
Every time it does – and I’m emphasizing, every time – I stagnate in my life. It’s not something that happens very frequently anymore, but it’s something that I have to be consistently aware of – it’s easy for that investment of being special and smart to get to my damn head.
And this is precisely what I mean when I say you need to crush your dumb ego, and be hyper aware of it as you progress and achieve success in life.
Let’s first make some clarifications here before annoying philosophical egoists who can’t think straight go after my throat – self-interest and self-respect are vital. Never put yourself down under pain of death – learn to laugh at your mistakes and learn something from them. Understand that you’re capable of achieving the things you want (within the confines of reality, of course), but you have to do the work for them. Your interests always come first. That’s egoism or enlightened self-interest, and it’s a healthy thing to have.
But one of the things that tends to happen is, the moment people start to gain some self-respect, some egoism and some success, their heads inflate to absurd degrees. It’s kind of like when democrats get into power in the US – things just suddenly inflate and bananas are really expensive. But hey, money printer go brrr and I HaVe A BiG SaLaRy OmG – fucking idiot.
I digress. When people make progress, it often gets into their head, because they’ve never felt the rush of that progress before. Their whole existence prior to that success was a struggle, a grind and more often than not met with despair.
So when they taste the juicy flavour of progress, it starts to inflate their ego. Recognizing that you can get shit done is really healthy, but then people start to see themselves as some kind of superior being when they gain great success.
This is where the problems arise, and people very, very quickly forget what got them there in the first place. Success comes from struggle, feedback (positive and negative), resilience and grit. The degree is arbitrary – the method is always the same.
When that inflationary, stupid ego hits though, people relax and forget about that work completely. They invest into this ego of being successful alpha man, they think they’re invulnerable, and while that dopamine infused glory feels amazing, the moment mistakes are made – an unavoidable fact of the process that is living – they don’t learn anymore.
Blame becomes the go to.
“I worked my ass off to get here, and you’re just jealous!”.
“I’m smart and I deserve better!”
“She was a bitch anyway, good that she left!”
“You’re just rationalistic, you’re not on my level!”.
All cope, all rationalizations, all excuses over the fact that only you are responsible for your life – but now you’ve created a false image of yourself and as things begin to tumble, instead of reflecting – you double down.
This kind of “ego” investment into one’s identity is common in all areas of life. You can see it in the stock market too – prices keep dropping but “no no, it’ll bounce, I’m sure of it! I’ll make my money back!”.
Yeah, maybe. There’s always a chance – but there are times where you need to learn to let go, take the damn L and accept the fact that you made a mistake.
The fact that a company failed to be successful is the fault of the company, but the fact that you didn’t recognize the potential red flags showing they would not succeed is on you. It always is, and never will not be.
Same with ego investments into your dumb identities. Yeah, I am smart – but I don’t know everything and I know that. I learned that through thinking I was the absolute shit without fault and getting absolutely crushed for it in many spheres of my life. I fucked up, but in the rubble I learned where the fire started, and it was all in that identity that I had created for myself, which was “being smart”.
I don’t write about these things out of just thinking about it from thin air. I write about them from experience. Failing fucking sucks, it can really hurt, but those scars are the best lessons of my life. Subsequently I observe this ego investment issue with razor sharp clarity now in the information age and age of narcissist me brands on social media and the LARPing that a lot of people do.
Don’t bullshit yourself and make sure to not grow a giant head when you feel the glory of success hitting your life. Progress is good, but progress stops when you forget the method that got you there and start LARPing about how you’re the shit. You ARE the shit, but within context. Kill the fucking ego.
In some sense, this is an argument for modesty. People often take modesty to extremes (given where I live, I see it day in and day out), but it’s important to remain modest about the progress you made. Feel the pride, have a little healthy narcissism (I fuckin’ love me, all things considered) but do not let the pride consume you. Ask yourself what you learned, enjoy the fruit of it, then get back to continuing to scale.
In essence, people get invested in their egos because they don’t want to go back to where they were before it. They don’t want to feel like they’re nobody, and I totally get that.
But I’ve written about the deification problem before. This is the deification problem made explicit – people deify their success and hold onto it as the defining aspect of who they are. Wrong. It isn’t.
Your success is certainly an extension of your existence, but you are far more than that. Remember that more can always be done – once you reach for the stars, don’t let the brightness blind you. Temper your ego, take perspective, and remember how you got there. It wasn’t through your massive head – it was in the work.
Kill the dumb ego before it kills you.