Featured Image above: Seneca with Emperor Nero
“It is not because things are difficult we do not dare; it is because we do not dare, things are difficult” – Seneca
Managing your own psychology is the hardest thing when it comes to Entrepreneurship and Startups. I have become a big fan of the stoic philosophy, thanks to Tim Ferriss and Ryan Holiday. Ryan Holiday has captured my imagination as a representation of the millennial generation, that being said I also think he is probably an exception given his level of productivity. Ryan has written a number of books and my 2 favourites are Ego is the Enemy and the Obstacle is the Way. I have written quite a bit about how the struggle is the passage to growth and the book Obstacle is the Way goes a lot deeper into that philosophy.
Ego is the Enemy is probably one of the best titles that describes yours truly. Every time I have a personal meltdown is due to my Ego. Ego craves to be right, to be in control, to seem bigger than it really is and to want accolades, recognition, money and pretty much anything that has fleeting value. I have struggled to keep my Ego in check, i.e become self aware to a point where I can notice if my Ego is flaring its nostrils and rearing to go. Meditation has helped me tame some of my monsters but I can say without any doubt in my mind that it gets harder and incredibly challenging when you make progress in understanding your psychology. As they say when you start getting comfortable at anything you realise that the next milestone or goal takes much more effort and work. Most of us do not take the time to self-reflect or understand our motivations, our desires and our mission. I am lucky to have gone through a phase in my life where I have more or less figured out what it is that I want to do with my life. If you have not given it much thought I highly encourage you to start, it is probably the best thing that you can do for yourself for self growth.
Stoic philosophy helps to tame the Ego. Don’t take yourself too seriously, we are but a speck of dust in the grand scheme of the Universe. The world revolves around the narratives that you make for yourself, whatever may that be. Narratives in our head define how we see the world and oh, you know what, that is not the truth. Truth requires far more insight and self inquiry. A number of my role models ventured in that path of truth to more or less discover themselves. I am on that journey, I stumble, I fall, I bleed but for some odd reason I am able to get myself up, dust off the dirt and continue… this is the path. I cannot give any more insights other than to encourage you to ask yourself, Why do you do the things you do? When you hear a narrative, ask yourself that question again and again and again, that is how you get to the root of your motives. Our brain is incredibly clever at masking the motives and creates stories to rationalise any decision you make. Dig deeper, you will discover a wealth of strength. I am not saying that I have reached that level of self-awareness but I am on the path.
Reading stories of people who have subordinated their Ego for a greater good inspires us, the book has some counterintuitive examples of people who you probably idolise but their destruction was caused by their Ego. The example comes to mind is Howard Hughes from the book. Howard Hughes is known as the Aviator, accolades and awards were given to him for his brilliance, no doubt he was brilliant but Ryan Holiday digs a little deeper to show how Howard Hughes destroyed everything that was good about his brilliance and the source of his destruction… you guessed it right, his Ego. The same is true for so many stars we see in the popular media. I cannot go further than the Presidential Election of the United States of America in 2016. President Elect Donald Trump epitomises the Ego problem. You do not think of the words Humility, self inquiry or inspiration when you think of Mr.Donald Trump. I guess history will tell us what his Presidency will mean to the US and to the rest of the world. I am not judging but observing. There are role models and there are Role Models. Donald Trump does not seem like a person that anyone wants to emulate. Maybe that is ok or maybe there are many who do want to emulate him, who am I to question?
I highly recommend both these books. I go back to them every time I sense my Ego getting the best of me. Do yourself a favour and read the book. You will thank me later.