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How To Put Your Ego Away

My ego is controlled enough that I don’t have to be the focus. – Herbie Mann

Always hire people who are smarter than you.

These were the words of Steve Jobs. Former Apple engineer Guy Kawasaki quoted it, during Founder World, which took place during a visit to San Francisco a few years back. So yeah, I guess you could say I’m re-quoting a quote, from a quote.

And for good reason.

Kawasaki spoke with vigour, passion and confidence – and is no doubt a talented man; he was an important man for Jobs. So when you’re looking to maintain a team, develop your own business or just generally progress in your career (especially as an entrepreneur) it’s vital to take your ego and box it up at times – because there are so many great minds in this world.

There is this alpha dog mentality amidst many entrepreneurs, top dogs and people with power in this modern age. Sometimes, this mindset makes you take things for granted.

For the most part of my adult life, I’ve felt pretty confident in my own shoes and as I’m sure most who know me will agree; my ego is healthy. I don’t think that’s a bad thing per se, but at times it can certainly make you feel a lot better/smarter thank you think you are.

This is something I learnt in during this American trip – just from dealing with people.

There was one guy in the co-working (and co-living) venue I worked in, StartupHouse. He was a co-founder of a company that aimed to teach Chinese in a simple and easy way to people willing to learn.

He worked tirelessly, had his pitch memorised, never strayed away from asking for help and also loved a beer (or 3).

When I spoke to him I was usually in awe of his focus and passion. He was rewarded during a Bay-Area pitch comp, when he and his business came second overall (massive for a hugely competitive place like SF.) It was much deserved, and you could feel the confidence and passion.

Now stay with me here. During said visit, I also went to a house party in South Beach, and I met a friend of a friend from Sweden. He was in town for work and was an innovation consultant for big companies and brands around the world.

Naturally I was super intrigued and he spoke with me about how he is all about going into big businesses, changing the culture and working on projects that actually breed a new method of thinking via physical work. Rather than the clichéd, one-off presentation from a corporate hero who mentions how “innovation is the future” or how you need to be “agile” in the way you work.

We had two more people in StartupHouse from Sweden also working on a startup together. I spoke with them about how they had some stark business realisations after coming to SF, and how they had to take a step back to see how they could improve. They effectively had to strip away their ego associated with the business.

It can be tough admitting you’re wrong when trying to create your own company or when accepting some people just have better concepts, ideas and plans.

I remember going to an event about patents and legal issues with startups during my time in SF, where one of the two speakers was clearly underprepared. He couldn’t answer some pretty straightforward questions from the audience and constantly mentioned after a slight pause that he would talk to them afterwards. Not exactly the common idea of prepared.

Even those who have ‘made it’ can tend to let their ego get the better of them. And having a healthy ego in itself adds character, charisma and an air of confidence in any line of work and your life in general.

But sometimes you need to put it to one side to embrace and learn from the abundance of talented people all around you.

Gordon D'Mello

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