Not long ago I was browsing through the bookstore seeking inspiration. A book called The 33 Strategies of War got my attention.
War is a constant reality for my generation. I can not think of a time in my life where there was not some war somewhere that America was somehow involved with. At the same time I have the ability to go through my day to day life without thinking about war at all. Even when it was brought to our homeland on 9/11/01, it did not take long for many people to get back to their daily life.
My generation has grown up with war, but at the same time, with the ability to ignore the realities of war.
I am enjoying the book. It is a leadership book that points to strategic warfare of historic battlefront leaders.
What the book has done for me so far is to help me think about the life and death situation and what such a situation does to a person. I also have been considering what does defeat do to a person? I think about the American obsession with sports and wonder is that a way for us to express and live out our desire to be at war? Is war more natural than we would like to admit? We like to ignore the ugliness of war but many people will also admit it is the life or death struggle, the competitive death matches, that have brought out the best in people.
How much good does living the comfortable life do for us? There are stories in the book of people being stuck because of comfort and not pushing themselves to greatness – not being forced to think of creative solutions.
When I initially thought of writing Defeating the Ego, I was in the midst of a battle myself. A battle against my feelings toward people who I felt wronged me in some way, a battle against my own inhibitions, and a battle against feeling stagnant. However my initial theory was that if we could learn to defeat our egos and work together, to be less competitive and more cooperative, we could progress much faster. I thought that our own evolution would make us aware of our own unique strengths and that it is better to partner than to conquer.
I think this is true at times, but that we still need conflict and competition to focus our strengths and open our minds to creative problem solving. We need egos that want to win, that drive us to win and that make us reflect on our actions that keep us from winning.
But that is where we face our ego challenges. The times when we need to call on our great self confidence and perhaps our exaggerated sense of self worth, but we need to so without letting the ego take charge.
Perhaps that is more what Defeating the Ego is about. Times when egos grew too big and destroyed the very entity that needed a big ego to build. How to balance drive and determination with a clear head that knows when it is best to step back and listen, or to let go and trust the process, or to be a number in a game of collaboration. Perhaps my book is about war – a war we fight everyday with our ego – where we are defined by the outcome as either great leaders or great losers.