Change The World – Ignore Your Ego

Zero Ego. Zero Limits.

This is me. Age 4, having a picnic in the Phoenix Park with my family.

It’s the perfect day. Life is simple, anything is possible and the world is my oyster.

At that moment, I have no responsibilities, no worries, no debt, no issues, no unpaid invoices, no deadlines and no baggage. All I have is hope, energy and a desire to enjoy every day of my life.

I have no inhibitions, confidence is sky high and I truly believe I can do anything.

Yes, I’m naive, but that’s empowering. I’m too young to let silly preconceptions about ‘how the world works’ get in the way of my hopes and dreams. My potential is truly infinite.

That was me aged 4. Now I’m 26 and asking myself do I still feel like that?

The truth is, that I don’t.

So what changed?

Fear of Failure. And the Growth of an Ego

How come I don’t feel like that now? What has changed in my life? The answer is of course that I grew an ego. I became aware of what people thought of me and feared rejection from every area of my life.

An ego is a truly terrible thing. It debilitates us from achieving our real goals. It puts up barriers to innovation and prevents us from standing out and being different. Someone without ego has the power to change the world. It’s a strange phenomenon really. The person most likely to make a change is the person least likely to desire fame. And inversely the person most likely to desire fame is least likely to change the world.

Maybe that’s why we see so many ‘fake celebrities’ these days, famous for nothing except being famous. What happened to the real heroes?

The desire for popularity is a very complex beast and your ego drives it. It’s like a thirst that can never be quenched, and once you start drinking it, it’s very hard to stop.

Learning to Change

So, what can we do to reverse this? Should we ignore what others think and drive forward with our plans of success? Should we ignore the status quo and be the one to be different? Should we lose our fear of making a fool of ourselves?

Easier said than done.

But ironically, those that succeed in taking their ego out of the equation and losing their fear of failure are actually far more likely to be successful than those that don’t.

The trick is to try to make meaning, not wealth. I believe that wealth is a bi-product of doing something you love that others also want.

My mum always says: “do what you love and the money will come”. That’s one of my favourite pieces of advice. Another favourite is “stop trying to impress people and start being impressive”.

Now take those two key pieces of advice and I think you’ve got a recipe for success, and a road map to fulfilling the dreams you had when you were a kid. When nothing was impossible.

Be Inspired

The only thing left, is to be inspired. And you only have to look around you to get that. The web is teeming with people willing to take a chance, leave their egos behind and attempting to change the world in their own way.

This is what matters to me now.

Here’s a great video made by GrassHopper on what it means to change the world. [thanks Fin].


12 Comments added. Add comment?

  1. Fergus O'Rourke says:

    Good post, Iarfhlaith.

    But … you’re only 26 ?

    I am 57; we can never be seen together ! 🙂

    May 13, 2009
  2. Iarfhlaith says:

    Thanks Fergus. But don’t worry, I promise not to judge you!

    May 13, 2009
  3. Fin Murphy says:

    Great post Iarfhlaith. I saw the video and thought of two things. Building a hotel out of cardboard with your brother (it was a model of the one we were going to own one day) and that picture of you.

    I believe that our ability to succeed is stopped only by limitation we place upon ourselve. If you truly want something enough, you will find a way to get it.

    All this reminds me of the poem If, By Rudyard Kipling. I always found it inspiring as a kid

    May 13, 2009
  4. Robin Blandford says:

    “The only true mistake is being afraid to make mistakes in the first place”

    May 14, 2009
  5. Iarfhlaith says:

    Thanks Fin, you’re absolutely right. I’ve always like that poem too. Full of great advice.

    Robin, you’ve always been able to get across the message in a shorter space. With that quote there, you’ve done it again. Sums up my whole post wonderfully in just one line.

    May 14, 2009
  6. Robin Blandford says:

    Egotastic – thanks 😉

    May 14, 2009
  7. Emma K says:

    Hey Iarfhlaith,
    Really enjoyed this post. I agree that while there are a lot of celebrities out there just famous for being famous, there are still a lot of real life heroes – they just don’t get the media attention because they’re quietly doing their own thing. And your Mum sounds like a very wise lady!
    Love the photo too.

    May 14, 2009
  8. Iarfhlaith says:

    Thanks Emma,

    A wise lady indeed!

    Glad you like the photo. I didn’t realise it at the time, but looking closer at the photo I’m starting to think it may have been the inspiration for the colours and design of my blog’s banner. Not sure if it’s a fluke or a sub-conscious decision I made. But they’re quite similar no matter what way you look at it.

    May 14, 2009
  9. Eoghan McCabe says:

    Some nice thoughts here, Iarfhlaith. Let me throw in a few of my own!

    I agree that naivete can be a beautiful and a liberating thing. In fact, I used to keep a blog called Naive by Design. I valued the idea of not knowing the “right” way to do design and business. I was making everything up as I went along and doing what felt good and made people happy. But of course, along the way, I made a tonne of mistakes, offending others, embarrassing myself, but always learning a lot. The result of those hard lessons learned is now what you’re referring to as ego. And here’s where I value that: without ego, you’re a madman, blind to the way of the world and pleasing only yourself. I think that my ego therefore makes me stronger and I see it as progress in my career. Because of my ego, I make less mistakes and do more things that are relevant and valuable to people.

    In other words: it’s your right to do whatever you want, to worry little about what others think; but true greatness doesn’t come from independence. Humans need humans. No man is an island, and all that! If you really want to “make meaning”, your efforts need to be in the context of what people need, what problems you will solve for them, and so on. You can’t make real meaning for just yourself.

    I know you know this, but what I’m trying to say here is that you shouldn’t de-value ego and fame straight-up. Fame for the sake of fame is as much bullshit as any hollow, quick-win pursuit. But fame that is recognition from your peers, is healthy. It’s a perfectly human thing to desire. And it’s a good incentive to do meaningful, valuable, wholesome, relevant work. The real trick here is to think beyond the quick hit of fame you can get from producing short-term value; stunts can get you fame but it won’t last because their relevance diminishes as quickly as it appears. I know this because I’ve pulled more than a couple stunts in my career!

    For what it’s worth, you don’t appear to be overly restricted by your ego. Unlike a lot of people I know, you’re actually doing something creative and constructive and clearly working hard at your business, as opposed to others that would rather talk about what they’re going to do (going for the hit of quick-win fame). Of course you could claim that if it wasn’t for your ego you would have done a tonne of other stuff. But who’s to say that pursuing all those crazy ideas would actually get you anywhere?

    Risk is a requirement in the process of innovation and success. But it doesn’t have to be stupid risk. Use your wisdom and fear of failure and ego to take risks with the things that are least likely to fail! Failure is a great way to learn, but if you fail at the exact same thing twice, you’re doing it wrong.

    If I was a good writer, I’d be able to say all that in one line. I’ll try now for the craic: Egos are bad when they’re bad egos, so build a good one and use it to your advantage!

    May 22, 2009
  10. Iarfhlaith says:

    Great comments Eoghan!

    You’re absolutely right, people can’t really lose their egos, they can only bring them under control, and then like you said, use them to their advantage.

    We could talk forever on the strengths and weaknesses of a person’s ego (and I’d probably enjoy that chat), but at the end of the day it comes down to guts and respect. Respect for yourself and respect for others, while also having the guts to shake things up.

    In my view, it’s a mixture of determination and humility that makes this possible. With either of these virtues on their own, you’ll get nowhere. But with the two combined, you’ve got everything you need to build that ‘good ego’ you’re talking about.

    May 22, 2009
  11. Fiona Cranwell says:

    Wow Iarfhlaith, I didn’t realise you were an inspirational guru. That’s what I wanted to be. God damn ego. I thought you were the computer geek. We should create a BNI Power team. 🙂 Fiona

    Jun 9, 2009
  12. Iarfhlaith says:

    Ha ha, maybe some day! Right now, I’m just happy to write about whatever motivates me.

    I’m definitely a computer geek, no doubt about that. But you’ve got to have balance as well. I share my time between writing code, marketing my business, helping others, and ranting on about whatever’s on my mind. This blog lets me do that. Can’t recommend it highly enough.

    Like I said before, if you need a hand getting started, give me a shout. I’d be more then happy to get you setup.

    Jun 9, 2009

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