BREAKING THE EGO BARRIER
Omar Khan says that success will emerge upon releasing the grip of the ego
When physicist and entrepreneur Lester Levenson suffered a second heart attack, his doctor sent him home to die. After railing against his misfortune initially, Levenson let go by diving deep into his emotions to find what constitutes happiness.
He uncovered a peaceful equilibrium beyond the toxic cocktail of ego control. And he recovered fully, went on to business success and prominence in spiritual circles, and left behind a road map for a similar journey.
So what does this have to do with business success?
Everything! The defensive tendencies of our ego come at a great cost. When it’s threatened, we react defensively or explain away discomforting realities. We’re militant when we should be open, emotional when we should be rational and worn out rather than exhilarated by the exigencies of business interaction.
Founder of the world’s largest hedge fund Ray Dalio refers to the ‘ego barrier’ in his book titled ‘Principles: Life and Work.’ He defines it as a “subliminal defence mechanism that makes it hard for you to accept your mistakes and weaknesses.” Dalio credits meditation with its clear affinities to ‘releasing’ as his greatest asset in surmounting this problem.
Even Abraham Maslow in the last years of his life added a layer to the top of his famous pyramid. Beyond self-actualisation but anchored to it, he found transcendence. The ‘transcending self’ teaches us that the so called ‘stable self’ that’s separate from others is an illusion. We are inextricably part of a larger whole.
And as we genuinely sense these interconnections, we naturally build more powerful networks, effective teams and successfully enrol stakeholders of all types.
MOVING TO, NOT AWAY A global marketing director reported that when the company’s most profitable client expressed pointed criticism and complaints about his handling of its account, he panicked. The director was flooded by stress as he perceived failure as a threat.
Having learned to release and let go such emotions without suppressing them, welcoming them until they lost their charge and dissipated, he found himself growing more curious and concerned rather than defensive.
He discovered that the critique was really a series of suggestions for improving things including the relationship between the two companies. So he moved to, not away from, those insights and became an internal champion for them. The client was thrilled; and a remarkably open, trusting and profitable relationship was reinforced.
Releasing lessened the grip of his ego and allowed him to receive the inputs as a series of things that needed to be done without feeling threatened and thereby unable to act appropriately.
SEEING CONNECTION Releasing also connects us to each other. We realise there’s no separate ‘they.’ We seek to understand what drives and animates people, and find the same in ourselves.
A senior VP at a global IT firm was in a contentious relationship with a rival department. Being a releaser, he could more readily empathise and decided to stop attacking – and see how he could help them. As he began welcoming ideas and requests rather than being antagonised by them, projects that had been stuck moved forward, morale surged and results rallied.
He was acknowledged as someone who could get things done, a natural collaborator and a problem solver. This was because he embraced the seeming friction, stopped fighting it and converted it into a shared imperative.
LOVING INPUT A woman leader I once coached learned to release; and her feeling of being perpetually on guard started to fade as she relaxed into her own natural composure. When her gruff boss called her in for a review, she decided to love the opportunity. As her former fearful self had disappeared, she found herself flowing with the dialogue.
Her boss sensed no resentment or denial in her and was energised by the exchange as she hadn’t brought an egoistic self to defend. Without fear or attachment to a fixed position, she created an exciting and successful path forward.
SELF-TRANSCENDING Releasing, in all its depth, has to be learned experientially. We are delighted to have introduced it here in Sri Lanka too. Welcome any turbulent emotion you’re experiencing. Let it intensify. Be curious and pay attention to what it unveils. And then watch yourself holding on to it. Would you let it go? It’s a decision you must take. Take deep cleansing breaths.
As some stress inducing or ego rattling thing emerges, don’t suppress it. Let it flow, come up again, welcome it and then let go of your emotional grip on it. By releasing, we learn that the agitated ‘you’ doesn’t really exist – so why be enslaved by a delusion? From that calmer naturally creative core, your capacity for business and life will yield bountiful results.
A business that enriches collaborative energy rather than building a shrine to the ego naturally becomes a beautiful and often profitable crucible for success.