Ego in Extreme Ownership. Week 4 Reflection. WCU ENT601.

For the first few years after receiving my bachelor’s degree I worked for American Express Financial Advisors. A leader that I looked up to there once told me a story; If you are driving to the store to get some milk and the car next to you cuts you off and then the driver flips you the bird you will have two choices. You can engage with them, flipping them the bird back and no telling where it will lead, or you can continue your mission to get your milk. If you let your emotions get to you and engage with them then they win…regardless of outcome. You may not accomplish your main goal of getting milk and at the very least, you will lose attention and focus on your mission.

Willink and Babin can probably tell a similar story but I am sure the consequences would be greater. Losing a life greater. Throughout the book they give countless reasonings and examples of how ego can cause interference with their and/or their teams objectives and mission. Willink states that “Ego clouds and disrupts everything: the planning process, the ability to take good advice, and the ability to accept constructive criticism. It can even stifle someone’s sense of self-preservation. Often, the most difficult ego to deal with is your own.” Ego brings in varying degrees of different emotions that keeps our focus from the mission, even when we do not realize it does. Ego can make you mad and angry because someone told you something you didn’t want to hear. Ego can make you embarrassed to ask a question because you are afraid to show you don’t know the answer. Ego can make you want to impress someone. Ego can also cause rampant issues in our self-image and cause insecurities or self-doubt.

Admittedly, I have ego problems and it has been the biggest hold back in my career. I used to think it was an anger issue or over-competitiveness and in a lot of ways I found myself being proud of it. It continues to take a lot of self-realization and honesty that much of it is the fear of being wrong, embarrassment of failing in front of others, and in many cases overconfidence that did not match my skill level. I have missed the opportunity to learn from a lot of smart people because I was not listening; either writing off what they were telling me or looking for ways to make them believe that I was right. Losing the inability to listen and learn is a common theme with those who recognize problems with ego.

John Rampton, VIP Contributor for Entrepreneur magazine tells of how ego “destroyed” his business and he owns it by admitting that it was 100% him. In his article “8 Ways My Ego Killed My Business,” he in-depth goes into the 8 way that he contributes to ego destroying his business. I find them to be very similar to the reasons that Willink and Babin give in Extreme Ownership.

Rampton lists them as… 

1-      “My ego wouldn’t recognize how much I needed to learn.”

2-      “Made me ignore opportunities.”

3-      “I over-estimated my abilities.”

4-      “I micromanaged.”

5-      “My ego wouldn’t let me ask for help.”

6-      “Every decision revolved around me.”

7-      “I couldn’t back down, I had to ‘win.”

8-      “I set impossible goals.”

I think it’s easy for us to discount our ego. It’s a good thing to set very lofty goals, right? If I own my own business, shouldn’t I micromanage if I want? It’s certainly possible for us to know even know its ego holding us back. Once we become better in recognizing ego and how it holds us back, it doesn’t mean that we must be perfect. Well…maybe in the Navy Seal world we should be but in business we are all just trying to become better and stronger each day. We should also recognize that ego is what gives us self-confidence and makes us take risks and venture into owning our own businesses anyway.

References:

Willink, J., & Babin, L. (2017). Extreme ownership: How US Navy SEALs lead and win: St. Martin’s Press.

Rampton, J. (2016, July 12th). 8 Ways My Ego Killed My Business. Retrieved from https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/278901 .

11 thoughts on “Ego in Extreme Ownership. Week 4 Reflection. WCU ENT601.

  1. Ego can give us strength or cripple us. I, too, struggle with ego. In certain aspects of leadership, I have made progress in learning to temper my ego, or at the very least be more self-aware when it is negatively impacting me or my team. When a leader embraces the toxic aspects of ego, it creates a culture of ego within the organization or department within the company. In essence, it becomes the identity of all individuals associated, because most company cultures, actions, processes, policies, and how they conduct themselves is driven from the top. Another point that you alluded to was how ego can cause us to lose focus, as was the case in your milk purchasing example. Ego can distract us from what is truly a priority and changes our focus to trivial matters that inflame our emotions. I hope that we both can continue to manage our ego more effectively as we grow both personally and professionally.

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  2. Jeramy, I am glad I read your post because it has made me think about my own ego and how it has held me back. I can think of a time recently when I got caught up in worrying what people thought about me. I was under stress of struggling to meet a goal as well as the end the fall term. It caused me to “lash out” when I should not have. Keeping focused on the mission with the knowledge that you are doing the right things to meet your goals is great advice. I will admit, it can be difficult to take emotion out of some situations.
    Best regards,
    Mike Weimar

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  3. Jeramy,

    I loved this post on ego, specifically ego in business. I feel that this is such a struggle for many leaders and I would hope that those reading your post, or this book, will stop to reflect on how their ego may get in the way of progress.
    I have certainly struggled with the fine line between having a healthy dose of confidence, and also not letting my ego hinder progress towards goals. I love the statement that “ego brings in varying degrees of different emotions that keeps our focus from the mission, even when we do not realize it does.” This was monumental in reading this and applying it back to my career. Occasionally I will get bogged down with “drama” or “politics” in the workplace and this was a nice reminder that the more that I engage in that, the longer it takes to get to my goals.

    Coming from the other perspective, reflecting on my own past leaders has been interesting when reading the 8 ways Rampton killed his business. A few things that jumped out was “I micromanaged” and “I couldn’t back down, I had to win”. A past leader that I had once respected, quickly turned the team against her when her ego continuously got in the way. The team felt very micromanaged and was increasingly frustrated, considering the level of high education each of us had. There were also several moments through projects that became very tense working with other groups because she was unable to back down in situations.

    These reflections have enabled me to continue to monitor how my ego is coming into play, and what I can do to keep my ego in check.

    Thanks for this post!

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  4. Jeramy,
    What an excellent example you provided with being a leader. It is true, we must not ever loose focus of our goal regardless of what other people are doing. The best option in some situations is not to acknowledge bad behavior and continue on. Our ego can drastically affect our success if we let it alter the way in which we think. I believe we should be confident with our ego, but not to the point where it causes us to ignore the ideas of others. Having a great ego and being mindful of what others have to say seems to be a great combination for success. Great post!

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  5. Jeramy,
    I am glad I read your post as the book I’m reading and reviewing also revolves around Ego, mostly in a negative way. Thank you for providing the 8 reasons why; we should take note of them and make sure we don’t repeat them in the upcoming entrepreneurial careers. I like the example you give in the beginning as we can all relate to it, sometimes on a daily basis; many people, unfortunately, lack common sense and act like they own the road and make the rules. I think as Audrey mentioned in her comment when the ego is channeled properly and positively, it is helpful and can help us succeed. When we let ego be in charge we are highly likely to fail.

    Best regards,

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  6. Jeramy,
    This is a great post. I hope everyone reads this. The ego is so important. On a positive note, ego gives us a drive to always try to improve ourselves. But as you bring out, the ego can rob us from help or improvement. Getting constructive criticism and using it is one thing but getting it and being offended hinders you from learning from it. We live in a society that can not handle criticism. As a boss and a teacher, I am walking on eggshells around people in fear of offending them. If you think an employee is bad when they tear up upon advice or correction, you should see a parent when you correct their child. I love that you can admit that the ego is a problem for you. I am usually pretty modest and can take criticism but there are times that it is hard to hear what you are doing wrong when you have worked so hard at doing it wrong.
    Tina Jones

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Jeramy,
    I thought your post was well thought out and taking an outside article to compare it to your reading material was a great help in getting to your point. I also sometimes struggle with ego in my own personal life. Sometimes I make decisions thinking that they cannot be any better based on how proud I am of my own experience. As human being we have a hard time with self criticism and self examination. It is hard to tell ourselves that we could do better when we try so hard to get where we are! I enjoyed the read! Good post!
    -Jake Martin

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Great post! I appreciate your honesty, and it takes a lot of courage to state areas that may be weaknesses and hold us back in our careers!

    In my experience, oftentimes great success is followed by an over-inflated ego, unfortunately. As we become entrepreneurs, and grow our businesses, it is important to be self-aware and keep our egos in check. Having confidence is healthy, but being egotistical is not, in my opinion.

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  9. Jeramy, I’d like to commend you for putting so much honesty into this post. I think, if we are truly honest, most of us have at some point gotten caught up in our own hype. I certainly am not immune to this, as it is often a real struggle to see my own flaws and stop taking myself so seriously. I think the biggest threat to entrepreneurs is when their ego becomes hopelessly intertwined with the company itself, ballooning to the point where they discount all the contributions and personal sacrifices others have had to make to bring their vision into reality. At this point, constructive criticism from subordinates can be perceived as a personal attack, resulting in the company remaining stagnant and closed off to innovation.

    That said, nobody wants to be led by someone with poor self-esteem. There is a fine line between being cocky and having a healthy amount of confidence, but I’d rather have a leader with a little ego than someone overly timid.

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  10. Jeramy,
    This is another great post. We must remember what the mission is and how important it is to complete it. It is easy to get distracted when trying to accomplish a mission. I agree that ego can be a major hurdle to the success when it comes to completing a mission. Our ego can change our perspective and cloud our reasoning during decision making. I have found at time that I would not present an idea or suggestion because my ego would not let me. I had equated it to fear in the past but see it through another lens after reading this post. I look forward to reading more of your post.
    Best,
    Shannon

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  11. Jeramy,
    This post hits home in so many ways and I appreciated the read. Ego can be something that you let drive you for so long, until the day it drives you into a dead end. I, too, have let my ego prevent me from learning from so many people who could have taught me so much. The funny part was, I even took the time to always listen, but in the back of my head I was always telling myself “yeah this is nice, but my way is better.” This post made me realize how far I have come with understanding that it isn’t about boosting an ego, but instead about boosting your confidence. When we believe in ourselves, we can begin to make a difference. Finding that line was difficult for me, and I am sure it will continue to be as I progress forward in my career.

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