Part 2 of The Laws and Secrets of Success
Success Area 3 – The Strength of Your Network Inbox
Inbox Not Outbox We often assume that the successful are great networkers because they go out and get the attention of all these great people who are they interested in networking with.
I’ve already discussed that can be a waste of time, seeking only to network with those many levels above you. Successful networking is about providing value, and you don’t have a keen enough understanding of what individuals many levels about you are all about in order to
provide enough value to them on a consistent, ongoing basis. Frankly, if you did understand them that well, and what they need and are looking for, you’d be close to or at their level already. The higher is always somewhat incomprehensible to the lower. A college
student can understand the mindset of a third grader (as long as the college student has some memory and empathy) but a third grader understanding in depth the mindset of a college student? Not so much.
So, you can spend your time sending hundreds of emails in your outbox to those much higher than you, and have little to show for it. Outreach is important, we all need to give before we receive, but who shows up in your inbox as being interested in networking with you is a more accurate reflection of your networking and overall success. Those who contact you and put in effort to you are
demonstrating real tangible benefits for you and your life. Do an assessment of who is in your inbox, both literally and figuratively, and how you can maximize those contacts.
In addition, become the type of person who radiates value and you will attract a crowd. Crowds go the supermarket and restaurants because they want to eat. Food and hunger is a powerful drive. Identify the drive(s) that you meet and satisfy in others, and then expand it and make it greater. As you do so, you’ll find that people seek you out proactively more and more. As you elevate your skills and what you have to offer at higher and higher levels, you’ll find your inbox getting fuller.
And containing contacts from those at higher levels as well.
Conclusion “Birds of a feather (do) flock together, but it is more important who seeks to include you than who you seek to include. The quality of your network is a reflection of the value that you are perceived to provide. More successful people have more influential networks because they offer more value.
To be effective in networking, plant seeds with those at a higher level than you but spend the majority of your time providing value to those closer to your level so as not to be ignored and thus wasting time.
You must provide internal value, internal marketing via quality and quality control, before you are ready to effectively provide outside marketing of your networking skills.
Know yourself and be authentic but also tune into the prospect you are networking with to meet their style and needs. Utilize the 80-20 rule to maximize results for yourself and others.
Recognize that you are successful already, and measure your success by who wishes to associate with you and finds you to provide value. The strength of your network is an extremely strong predictor of your future success.
Success Area 4 – The Move From Domination to Discovery
The Progression of a Life to Success When we’re young it is me, me, me. We think about events, and others, in terms of how they impact us. We think about how we feel, and what is important to us.
We think about making our mark, our imprint on the world.
And we think about dominating others.
Some of us are more passive, and some of us are more aggressive, but all of us, when we are less mature, want to (directly or indirectly) dominate others. That is, having them serve our needs primarily or exclusively. We think that this is intrinsic to our survival. Babies come into the world programmed how to cry to draw the attention of adults (especially Mom and Dad) to meet its needs. Two year olds have learned how to throw temper tantrums,something those a little older have sometimes not forgotten and can still use.
We call this egocentric. Is there a strong awareness on the part of the infant that his or her crying in the middle of the night is keeping up his parents and depriving them of sleep? Does the two year old causing a scene in a store suddenly spontaneously stop the behavior overcome with guilt that he or she is embarrassing one’s parent? Obviously,awareness and then concern for others is something that we grow into. You can label it part of socialization. Or identification, etc. Over time we come to learn, increasingly, if we are to have success in this world, that it is not all about us.
The successful have learned to move beyond their needs to meet the needs of others. This may be the critical factor in success because the more you can meet others needs the more they can reciprocate, and if you don’t do anything for anyone else then, surprise, surprise, there may be very few people that want to do anything for you (your Mom may still love and accept you unconditionally, but even that generally has its limits). If you’re just a selfish person and not doing anything for anybody else, than who wants to do anything for you?
Or have anything to do with you?
We can’t move beyond domination until we have something to replace it with. Over time we learn that a little less firm grip on the world can actually assist us. This may be considered the difference between feeling and being secure. We may feel more secure when we control or seek to dominate, but if this is pushing others away then we are actually less secure. So feeling secure is not the same, obviously, as being secure.
Let’s repeat that again: So feeling secure is not the same, obviously, as being secure. This is because our feelings are in line with our maturity, so the less mature we are the more that our feelings may betray us in regard to our ultimate success and good. Hence, when we are less mature, we have feelings and justifications that we wish to be selfish, or angry or mean.
These ego justifications, feelings and rationalizations may give rise to certain mindsets. Such as:
“I can do whatever I want” (causing us problems, for example, in relationships) Personal note: I knew someone once who lived and preached this mantra. When acting selfishly the person would repeatedly say, “I can do whatever I want”. To which I finally came up with this refrain: “Yes, we have the freedom to bang our head against the wall, but if we do then we shouldn’t complain when we get a headache”.
“Nobody can tell me what to do” (causing us problems, for example, with bosses at work)
“I am entitled”. This is a big one that really causes problems for those so afflicted. Related mindsets may include: “the rules don’t apply to me” (and the accompanying, “I can get away with things that others can’t”) “I’m special” (and not only special, but better than) and narcissistic injuries such as “I can’t forgive you because you hurt me” to minor slights (and attempts to hurt back, etc.).
You can imagine how well these may go over with other people.
From Domination to Discovery Moving beyond the immediacy or exclusivity of our own needs involves a level of self-awareness in which we can differentiate between our own feelings and experiences and those of others. When we are immature we cannot significantly gain this distance and act, and act out, from this ego-based and ego-biased stance.
The transition from domination to discovery is a journey from obsession with self to awareness and concern for others. Domination involves seeking to exploit others as objects to further our own needs and goals. Discovery involves standing back and observing and interact with others not from the vantage of what we want from them but from the vantage of who they are apart from us. That is, we “discover” them as distinct from ourselves.
The world is a very different place when you are in discovery mode. When you approach the world through a mindset of discovery, it involves respect and even reverence for what you find. Like an explorer, you are looking at things new and fresh, without expectations. As we saw in the chapter on emotional intelligence, often we’re really not seeing others at all, but instead projecting onto them our own wishes, desires and needs. This is the famous one year of experience twenty times as opposed to the twenty years of experience.
Sadly, if you agree, when we are doing this, when we are locked into domination over discovery, than we are perhaps merely existing as opposed to living. We’re repeating the same history over and over again, our story, like a broken record. Have you ever known someone that almost no matter what the circumstance you just knew what the “story” was going to be?
As we go through life self-absorbed, our experiences are defined, and limited by, our own needs and conditionings. As has been famously said, “If all you have is a hammer, then everything looks like a nail”.
Learning And were it not for the results of our actions, we might never change!
Failure is a great teacher because it points out our limitations. Often these limitations result from responses from other people. We had an impulse to dominate, or we thought we could dominate – could impose ourselves in terms of our wants and desires, but other people had other ideas.
How dare they!
Life is a process of negotiation, and that is why other people are so valuable. It would be impossible to get everything we need in this world negotiating only with ourselves. But for negotiation to be most effective it must be honestly reciprocal. We must give in addition to receive. We saw in the previous chapter that “birds of a feather do flock together”. As a result, we are in significant measure negotiating with those at a similar level as ourselves. Similar mindsets toward the world, similar needs, limitations and strengths. No wonder we have so many conflicts in the world, the things that we find limiting in ourselves we are finding every day in our interactions with others as well!!
Isn’t that interesting?
When we negotiate with others at a similar level as ourselves, the issues that we each face come to the fore. Until we develop effective ways of coping with these issues, we may fail and fail and fail again. This contributes to the limiting patterns or problems that we find in our lives or with others.
As was discussed earlier, although we typically we may think of the successful as self-serving or even selfish, the thing is that if you go through life upsetting people then someone, or a series of people, is going to come back at you and block your rise. This doesn’t mean that people-pleasers rise over those who are more frank and honest, but it is does mean that those who do not genuinely care about others are held back.
In fact, in this world we serve as checks and balances for each other. When you feel slighted by a person and wish to have this made up for then you may be motivated to seek to put some limit on the other such that you receive “your due”. We each seem to have a scorecard in our mind – – and the crazy part is of course that our scorecards do not necessarily even come close to agreeing – in regard to who is up and who is down, in what way and in what amount.
How much of our life in terms of our relationships with others is based on exactly this!
Relationship Dues People are sophisticated enough to know if you really care about them versus it just being an act, especially over time, and you can’t just claw your way over all others to the top. As we have seen, our success is predicated upon the cooperation and goodwill of others towards us.
Hence, it is not true that nice guys finish last,although weak ones generally do, and often the two are confused. Being nice, or concerned about other people, has the component of strength built inside it. I can care about you and your well-being because my sense of self and survival is not so fragile that I have to guard and protect it every second. I can put it aside for a little while to see who and what else is in the world.
Many of us have an intuitive understanding that things do happen for a reason. We may even say that regularly, “things happen for a reason”, even if we do not know what that reason is! A funny (actually an interesting) thing happens when you start valuing people for themselves as opposed to as a means or extension of yourself – it increases the value, appreciation, even the sanctity of your interactions and the beneficial responses that you may potentially receive.
As has been famously said, “If you love something let it go. If it comes back to you it is yours. If it doesn’t, it never was.”
Of course the ego-based domination craving mind perverts that sentiment into its own degraded terms, the also well known, “If you love something let it go. If it doesn’t come back hunt it down”. The entitlement mentality of this mindset even thinks that this is funny.
Personally, I believe that every interaction can be sacred. Einstein famously said, “God doesn’t play dice with the universe”. I believe that this is true for interactions as well as physical laws, that every interaction is special, and – when recognized as such – even sacred. Whether or not this is true, if you act as if it is true, watch the benefits of your interactions and relationships soar.
Sometimes we really need to slow down to get the most out of our interactions with others. That does not mean that there cannot be a time and place also for urgency. As they say, “there is a time to let things happen and a time to make things happen”. Without going to the opposite extreme of being overly passive, if you proactively eliminate a potential resistance by not coming on so strong, you may just find that you get to your interaction or relationship goal a little sooner.
Successful individuals utilize a bit of finesse, smarts and tact. They don’t approach relationships in bulldozer mode.
Energy Transfer and Beyond Energy follows attention. Whatever you are attentive to becomes energized.
Think about that.
When we seek to dominate others, arising out of feelings of inner deficiency and self-concern, it limits and locks our energy inside ourselves (which isn’t very healthy on a lot of levels). We’re focused on ourselves and our own needs, so that is where the energy stays even if we are seemingly active in the world. When we are in the realm of discovery, we are learning about the world and that is where our energy flows.
Energy follows attention.
When our energy flows out into the world it is dissipated and doesn’t become stagnant and stale. Energy trapped inside ourselves without the ability to dissipate becomes corrosive or destructive. Energy needs an outlet, and where there is none, when energy is blocked or partially blocked, it can do bad things.
Let’s look at energy transfer as it allows us to be successful in the world.
People who have moved beyond self-obsession and primary narcissism can direct their attention and energy into the world.
This is the foundation of productivity. Productivity is the ability to focus attention and energy on outside tasks, objects or people.
Let’s consider the case of a student. How are you going to succeed as a student if you can’t focus intensely on your studies?
Or work. How are you going to succeed in your career if you can’t focus in depth on your career activities. When we’re self-absorbed we don’t have the energy, interest or attention to concentrate significantly on other things, to learn new things. We’re self-contained.
If you look at someone very self-absorbed the energy is limited and backed-up. High degrees of narcissism, or its cousin entitlement, frustration or anger, or when blocked, depression.
Not a pretty picture.
By contrast, those who are in discovery mode have their energy available to be interested in and attentive to the world. Someone who has a strong set of interests that are not merely an extension of oneself is someone who has learned how to “lose oneself” in the discovery process and have the energy flow. This is life-affirming and joyful. You may have heard of the states of peak experience or ‘flow’. When we are so engaged in the activity and the love of it takes us over we become impervious or almost impervious to time or distraction and have the ability to perform at our peak level. You’ve heard when there have been superior performances the individual may say, “I just lost myself in the activity” or “it just flowed”, or “hours went by and I didn’t even realize it”, or, my favorite, “I wasn’t thinking about anything, I was just doing” (ironically, when we are not preoccupied with our own thoughts about an activity, we can be most aware of everything that is going on, and I believe that this is a fundamental factor in the enhanced performance).
Discovery, we can see, is a very powerful thing. It is fundamental to our sense of purpose and happiness, and also to our success.
Discovery in our Lives We are meant, as we evolve, to see beauty in the world. This is what discovery is. Anything can be beautiful when you give your attention to it and truly discover it. Live things such as a tree or a flower, but also inanimate objects such as a glass or a chair. This is what Eckhart Tolle details in his famous book “The Power of Now”, and what I believe the famous poem talks about in finding eternity in a grain of sand. Every moment is alive if we enjoy it and live in it. Have there been times in your life where your senses were heightened because everything in the moment was so good. So much of our lives is in the past and future, but in fact, in reality, only the present exists. Hence the expression, “Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That’s why it is called the present”.
And another thing the successful realize – sometimes the greatest gifts are the ones that we give or allow to ourselves. The parts of life that we open up to which we had previously closed.
To go a bit further, it is my personal belief, not to push this on you if it isn’t your thing but just to put it out there, that every object can serve as a window to the Divine if we honor it.
Perhaps that is why love is experienced as so transcendent, as taking us out of ourselves to someplace else. A better place.
Love (it has been said) “covers”. It doesn’t see errors. That is why they say love is blind. Perhaps mature love does see errors but it doesn’t focus on them. It doesn’t highlight them and magnify them.
If it was so easy and great, wouldn’t we do that all the time? Love can warm but perhaps it can also burn. And love lost really hurts.
Discovery implies discovering things about ourselves, and that process, especially when we’re newer to it and have been avoiding the things inside ourselves that we do not like – that can be scary and uninviting indeed.
As they say, “don’t go there”.
Sometimes before we see the sun all we see is a little spark or a small ray, surrounded by clouds, perhaps ominous and dark clouds. The spark or the ray has to be alluring enough to us that it beckons us to wade through the dark clouds to find it and nourish it, and bring it home.
An increasing awareness of the clouds does not mean that they were not there previously unrecognized, impacting how we feel and what we do. We have to have, or learn to build, enough confidence that the sun that we find in our experience can break through – and break up – the clouds. The explorer in search of discovery needs to have some sense of courage, because it is not entirely clear what will be around the next bend, and what dangers may lurk there. And yet something can encourage us on. That “still small voice” that says it will be ok.
And one day, if we are lucky perhaps, that sun shines through. It is famously, said, after all, that “a moment of light erases 1,000 years of darkness”.
The Future is Now Successful people understand that “the only constant is change”. They embrace it. Remember, we mentioned that successful people do not identify failure with being a failure. This is critical. Our destinies are shaped by our decisions, or our actions over time (collectively, we call that character, hence we said “character is destiny”). Our actions are influenced, if not dictated, by our feelings. And our feelings are impacted by our thinking. So “stinkin thinkin”, when you follow the chain all the way through, can be the cause or effect, depending upon how you conceptualize the chain, of a pretty poor and limited life.
Are you with me so far?
Our future, to the extent that it exists, is the collection of the decisions, large and small, that we make in the present – just as what we experience today is a reflection of decisions made before.
It is easy, sometimes too easy, to live with regret, recrimination or bitterness. Towards yourself and/or others. But remember that everything that has happened to you was instrumental, perhaps even necessary, towards making you the person who you are today. When viewed from that perspective, we start to realize that life is indeed a journey. How could you be the person who you are, and are and were meant to be, if you didn’t go through certain experiences and learning.
From that perspective, we’re each on our own path and, by definition as extension, each of us is a success.
Charity Begins at Home Learning about other people, as we’ve seen (think about the chapter on emotional intelligence) starts with learning about ourselves. Thus, discovery of the world and discovery about ourselves are intertwined. As we increase our self-awareness and become
more open and accepting of various aspects of ourselves, so do our eyes open to the wonders of the world.
We seek to dominate others because we seek to dominate ourselves. We’re hard on ourselves, we’re controlling. We manage rather than love or accept ourselves.
Successful people realize that success is at the beginning, not at the end. This moment is a success, and the next, and the next, and all the way through. When we start to think of our lives as a series of “perfect moments” then we begin to move away from a sense of deficiency or lack to a sense of fullness, completion and success. We do not arrive at success. We do become successful. It is not something which happens to us someday.
It is there for the taking right here and now.
At any time.
It is famously said that power is not given, it is taken. It is the same with success. No one can make you successful. Only you can make
yourself successful. And you can do that in any moment that you choose. We put preconditions on what it means or feels like to be a success. I will be a success when this happens, or I will be a success when that happens, but those things may or may not ever happen, and even if they do, by that time we may have well moved the goalposts to somewhere else!
Some say that happiness is available at any accepted moment and involves being satisfied with what you have. Your desire to be more before you can be happy tucks away your joy. It is the same with success. Successful individuals know that they are successful because they have accepted that they are successful. They have acknowledged it. They have owned it. Not in a “fake it till you make it kind of way”, although there can be an element of this, but in manner that the inner belief and feeling of success flows from the inside out.
It is famously said that “I’ll believe it when I see it”, but I would reorient you if you ascribe to that view that you’ll probably never see it until you believe it first. Belief, and its close friend vision, are what propel you to take action in the world, handle disappointments, and not let go of your dreams.
Although we can also surprise ourselves, it may be that everything that is accomplished, and even every feeling or experience which serves as a breakthrough, was seen and imagined first.
If you can believe it, you can do it.
Some have said that the desires of our hearts are not put there by mistake. If the passion is strong enough in terms of what we hold to be our purpose, that the means to accomplish it is also given.
But it is never promised that this will be easy.
Giving, Receiving and Success What you seek may be something that you already possess. Can you give away something that you do not already have? Can you give away love if you feel no love? Can you give respect if it is not something you already feel?
The world is a stimulus, or a mirror, or whatever metaphor you wish to use, to illustrate to us what we have inside and to use
our experiences in order to grow and develop further. The successful understand, in taking responsibility for their lives, that domination constricts our focus and awareness while discovery expands it.
It has been famously said that “when the student is ready, the teacher will arrive” and also, that “the one who learns the most in a classroom is the teacher”. Giving and receiving, teaching and learning, are not separate things, but intertwined. We give as we receive. And we receive as we give.
Mastery Versus Contribution We each have a contribution to make to the world. A function or role(s) with a set of skills and aptitudes. A sphere of influence if you will. As participants in the world we leave a footprint in all that we do. We do get to decide, however, whether we will tread lightly and with some nuance or grace, or instead stomp through life.
In the next chapter we will explore how the footprints that we leave in the world, in regard to our abilities, interests and skills, is matched by others. There is not another like us but in regard to our abilities and our skills we are not totally unique. In short, it is incredible the things that we can do as an individual but it is incredible the things that others can do as individuals as well. We have no corner on this market, and thus the idea of domination becomes practical and silly. Developing your muscles, physical or mental, in business or in love, will not diminish the capabilities of another to do the same as we are independent actors. We’re all in the process of getting both stronger (through experience) and weaker, as birth is a step towards death. It’s a relative matter overall.
Mastery implies an endpoint, which is subjective in nature. We can be proficient, which itself is subjective, and should feel a sense of pride regarding the development of our skills. However, as mentioned, the successful realize that we are simply becoming a better or more developed version of “me”. We are not becoming better as compared to others per se.
We’re each running our own separate race in life, even though we are certainly interacting, even if it seems as if we are competing with each other. Anyone who doubts this, just think about a lost love to realize that in the end each person (unless they become overly dependent) follows their own path. Or ask the parent whose child has broken away onto a path of their own.
Individual choices lead to individual destinies. Although we may be intertwined for a time, we are, as the saying states, born alone and die alone. If that is not a powerful statement of individual existence than I do not know what is. In that context, the idea of domination makes less sense. Influence yes. We allow ourselves to be influence. Dominated, for periods of time perhaps if that is what we allow.
But, whether we accept it or not, we are, most fundamentally, on our own.
It has been said that we come together in the broken places. We are alone but as we recognize our brokenness and aloneness perhaps for the first time we more fully recognize and appreciate these in others as part of the human condition.
The discovery of ourselves and the world has come full circle and is one and the same.
Conclusion We start off in life egocentric, focused on our own needs. Over time, we start to learn that if we want the cooperation of others, to survive, much less thrive, we’re going to have to give in order to get (perhaps our Moms will love us unconditionally, but most relationships have limits and reciprocity is key).
There are many ways that we can learn to get outside of ourselves to discover what other people and the world are all about. This is also
a process of self-discovery as we learn more about ourselves and our hopes, dreams and fears.
When we focus our energy and attention on other people and the world around us, we have the opportunity to build our success through increased productivity and enhanced relationships. Peak performance and loving experiences can supplant ego-based deficiency attempts at domination, mastery and control.
Success Area 5 -The Strength of the Ant
In the previous chapter we examined how the successful have traversed beyond domination to a discovery orientation. The Strength of the Ant builds upon that explanation and provides additional insight to it.
Ants are well known for being able to carry many times their body weight, by some estimates 10-50 times their body weight. This is amazing. You see an ant trekking along with a huge or heavy object compared to its body weight or size and you think to yourself, “Oh my gosh, how is this possible?”
And yet it’s not just a capability of one ant, as herculean a feat as this is. Apparently all ants can do it.
This is an interesting phenomenon when considered from a human perspective. Although we cannot lift weights of that extreme (one article I read compared the ant’s feat to a human lifting a VW beetle with 5 people inside over one’s head) we are pretty amazing creatures ourselves.
And we darn well know it.
Anyone who follows one’s own thinking, and my guess is that we all have a tendency to do so, realizes how complex it can be. Sure, some
of us are smarter and/or more analytical than others, but the complexity of the human brain and the thinking that it gives rise to it is phenomenal.
Even for an individual functioning at mere subsistence level, the degree of thinking that is going on is intricate and intense. Importantly, we’re aware of our own thinking but we can’t get inside the brains of others to read their thoughts. We can infer what others may or may not be thinking, but we are in fact confronted by our own thoughts on a continual basis.
There is a strong ego bias to overvalue what we think relative to others. I don’t know whether this is related to survival, identity or to something else, but we have a need to be right,a need to remain attentive to our own thoughts, our own feelings, behaviors, actions and lives. This ego bias is strongest when we are youngest, we’re living more unconsciously or by instinct. As we develop we go through the process of socialization in which we build the conscious mind and internalize the norms and expectations of society, including our parents and teachers but also peers, friends, and others to whom we are exposed. When we’re an infant we can just cry out to get our needs met, but as we become over time an adult we need to learn to plan and organize our responses and have them be sensitive to the needs of others and the world around us if we are to survive, and hopefully more than this, thrive and prosper.
So, the ant is herculean in its efforts. And we are herculean in ours. The intricacy and complexity of our thinking, the strength of our will. It is amazing. But due to this ego bias it is often difficult for us to realize that these herculean efforts can be matched by others. Just as the amazing things that the ant can do can be matched by other ants. It doesn’t make it less amazing. It just means that you’re not going to be able to dominate if everyone else can do the same sorts of things that you can do (we each of course, have our own relative strengths and weaknesses). We’re one human out of billions (and the one ant would be one out of I hate to even think of how many) so when we have this need for domination that we discussed in the last chapter – uh oh, we’re running up against the fact that we dealing with a pretty stacked deck.
Perhaps this is where existential anxiety comes in and why our fear about whether we will survive can be so strong.
Performance as a Matter of Small Degrees It’s amazing how a small percentage difference in performance can lead to drastically different results in terms of success. One example I’ve liked is college cross country runners because I used to be one. Yes, you’ll have some stragglers and the few most elite runners that may be significantly ahead of the pack, but what you tend to find is that you have each athlete struggling with their top effort for miles to outdo the competitors and that at the end they come in one after another, sometimes a field of hundreds maybe 80-90% all finishing within half a minute or a minute of each other in a multi-mile race.
In other words, in relative terms most everyone does fairly close to the same. But in perceived performance terms, although not much difference in absolute performance terms, one will be judged as 5th place out of 200, and another 171.
People who compete against each other in almost any endeavor are selected, including self-selected, to be at relatively similar performance levels. It’s like in professional baseball, you have the rookie leagues, A ball, AAA, and then the major leagues. And below professional baseball you have College, and a whole host of progressively easier leagues all the way down until T-ball for organized baseball.
You’re just not going to have high school teams and athletes competing against the major league squads.
In life, if you’re way better than your peers then you’ll tend to be promoted to a higher level, and if you’re not as good you’ll get demoted. So, in grade and high school, most will go one year at a time with their peers, some will get left behind a grade, some will wind up taking gifted or advanced classes, and then upon graduation students who decide to go on to college will wind up at varying tiered difficulty and reputation educational institutions.
The problem is that our ego bias forces us to elevate our own station in life to a higher status so that we feel more secure in regard to our ability to survive. If we thrive in an educational setting, this may lead us to believe that we’re on the path to great success in life and have an advantage over others. If we don’t like school or do poorly in it, guess what, while we may criticize ourselves we also are prone to minimize the value of the activity. For example, we may well tell ourselves, those who do well in school have “book smarts” but that this has nothing or little to do with success in the world and that we have “street smarts”. We know what is going on the world much better than those eggheads and are much more equipped to deal with it and be successful.
In that situation we talk about all the Ph.D.’s (standing for “Piled higher and deeper”) living in a dream world (or an “ivory tower if they stay in academia, “those who can’t do, teach”) and driving cabs, and how wimpy the highly educated are because they’re not doing “real work”, getting dirt underneath their nails, etc.
Who is right?
Ego Bias and Security Feeling good about ourselves and our prospects helps us to feel secure. The weaker is our confidence in regard to our own survival the more we may well feel the need to compensate by disparaging, belittling or verbally attacking others.
We explored previously how the highly successful have learned to develop an equanimity of spirit that allows them to ignore
the power-based intrusions of others in this competitive world. Although there are certainly some bad actors, part of the reasons why the
rich and successful are so often disparaged in popular culture is, I think, for the rest of the population who is less successful to feel better about themselves.
Wow, that is an interesting thought right there.
I know that that is a really hard message for many to hear perhaps, but remember what we discussed before. The successful do not make excuses or look to blame others. They take responsibility for their lives and the actions with which they are comprised. This takes a
great deal of maturity and inner strength and is, by no means, an easy thing to do. Of course we all have better and worse sides, and better and worse moments, but you get the main point that I am getting at, which is that there a fundamental difference between how the highly successful and others view themselves and their conditions in life, and the resulting way in which they conceptualize and act towards others.
Sometimes life squeezes us and puts us in a box. We have free will, but sometimes it simply becomes too painful to keep doing the things
that we are doing, because the results are not what we want. This is the path of growth, and the successful individual recognizes it and
embraces it. Fighting against the ways of the world are not going to change them. Wailing because we are not getting our way and
because successful individuals do not want anything to do with us because we are not mature enough to invite us to play in their playground will not move us ahead. Sometimes in life we have to give up the lower things in order to gain the higher. What feels like loss, or
a narrowing, is sometimes a strengthening on our growth path to increase the benefits that we can ultimately receive in our lives.
The Strength of the Ant The real strength of the ant is not in its individual feats of strength, as impressive and herculean as those may be. For an ant is puny, and the world is big. The real strength is in the collaborative and cooperation functioning of
ants (ants can also be competitive), which has contributed to ants thriving throughout the
globe (it has been estimated that up to a quarter of the entire biomass of the planets may be ants, an almost unthinkable figure when you consider how small they are compared to most species). Ants also are flexible and impressive problem-solvers, a key factor in their thriving throughout the world.
Similarly, with humans, teams win. We live in an interdependent planet and the ability to get along, influence and find favor with others is critical. Competition is also important at times,although as we have seen domination as a primary strategy is ineffective and the most successful have the maturity to move from domination to discovery – to learning and being interested in others and providing value to them which can then be reciprocated.
Ego Bias in Life The ego bias is very strong as we grow up. When we’re young we have, relatively speaking, fewer abilities, and perhaps if we faced that head on the anxiety in regard to our survival would overwhelm us.
As they say, denial is not only a river in Egypt.
We can identify with others, such as parents, to help guide and support us, but parents are not perfect people either, and the shortcomings which they have may become internalized in our own lives in regard to the insecurities that we hold. If we look to our parents for survival, and they can only accept us in certain ways, then it can become easy to reject the parts of ourselves that they (or others in society) do not accept.
As our personalities develop – even infants have miniature personalities or behavioral tendencies – and provide a structure to our experience, this is comforting in its consistency but can also reinforce our ego biases in terms of the ways that we view the world.
The need to be right is a reflection of our insecurity and attempt to compensate through control. When we feel threatened by the views
or differences of others then our “fight or flight” response kicks in and we may become argumentative, hostile, controlling etc., or alternatively we may avoid others or only engage with them superficially.
As with the ant we can do herculean things. Human beings are amazing creatures. When we become overly enamored with our own capabilities in an unbalanced way we can easily become too independent or standoffish to be optimally successful. Successful people can be introverts or extroverts, but generally successful people become somewhat more extroverted over time, because it is more difficult to show a sincere interest in other people if you are not in communication with them!