If you want to do big, important things in life (in marketing, business, or anywhere else) you MUST make it a point to cultivate a friggin’ BIG EGO!
For today’s Grab Bag Friday issue, I’m going to take a stand that at first may seem a little controversial, or even off-putting…
However, by the time you’re done reading, I think you’re going to agree with me.
If this is the way you already thought, it will merely underscore the importance of this lesson.
And if it’s a shift-change in your thinking (which I think it will be for most), this could be a monster breakthrough.
Let’s start with a famous quote from Marianne Williamson, from the book A Return To Love…
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’
Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
While it may not be clear at first, this quote is actually telling you to get a big, healthy ego…
This was out of Williamson’s personal journal, written while going through the spiritual book, A Course In Miracles.
In college, I studied transpersonal psychology. It’s an obscure corner of psychology where science is applied to spiritual practice, in an attempt to understand the spiritual experience and the higher reaches of human nature. Maslow and his Hierarchy of Needs just starts to scratch the surface.
I think it’s fascinating stuff.
Anyway, I picked up a ton of insights into human psychology — and what makes great people great — during the course of those studies. Insights that have made it so much easier to confront any situation as I built my career in marketing and direct response.
The one thing that really stuck with me is that nearly everybody is wrong about how they understand ego…
I was writing back and forth with copywriter Seth Czerepak recently when this came up. We were talking specifically about the use of copywriting formulas and outlines — but the lesson applies all over the place.
Here’s what I told Seth…
My take on ego is 100% opposite of what most people think.
It’s actually a weak or unhealthy ego that won’t use formulas — because they have to prove they’re good enough themselves. A strong and healthy ego is fine using formulas, because they’re not reliant on outside feedback — they can simply be happy in getting the result they wanted.
Most folks think a “big” ego is bad. I actually think it’s great.
A sniveling, shriveled-up, weak ego causes people to do what most folks think of as “big ego” things. Bullies, for example, have incredibly weak egos. Hot-shot sports stars often have horribly weak egos. Hollywood celebs often have the most fragile eggshell egos of all.
On the other hand, a strong ego can accomplish amazing things with poise and grace because their happiness is already baked in. They don’t rely on external feedback to be okay.
Great copywriters often have thriving egos. A strong enough ego that they can set their “self” aside and write to the audience, and focus on the audience. If that means using an outline or formula, fine.
I was actually just emailing with Gary Bencivenga on something similar — a test he got to see where two great copywriters put their copy first, and another put the audience first.
You can guess who won.
Think about ego as another word for “self” — or “self concept.”
If you have a strong, healthy self concept, you’re not easily moved by either criticism or praise. You’re a rock. You’re comfortable taking on the world, and trying to mold it into a better place.
You don’t have anything to prove — and because of that, nothing gets in your way.
With a healthy self concept, so many things become less about yourself. You can set your “self” aside — not worry about it — and focus on things that are outside selfish needs.
Yesterday I wrote about my needy cat. I told you that you don’t want to be the needy cat, when dealing with clients or in a sales situation (including copywriting). If you have a weak ego, you’re going to be the needy cat. You can’t stop your self-obsessed thoughts for long enough to stop being the needy cat.
On the other hand, a strong self — a big, healthy ego — finds it easy to not be the needy cat.
A strong ego does not rely on anything outside of itself for happiness — for calm contentment — and so a strong ego almost never acts from a place of need.
This gives a strong, big, healthy ego an extreme advantage in nearly all situations.
While most people are caught up in their little egos, jockeying for position, trying to fulfill their needs… The strong ego is able to watch from a slightly-distanced perspective, and make the appropriate moves at the appropriate time. Not just for personal gain, but for the betterment of all (because the strong ego knows that giving is something that also serves self interest).
If you want a big, healthy ego, here’s what you need to know…
I’m going to give you a quick, basic rundown of personality development.
This is some high-level stuff you’ll probably never read on most marketing sites.
But it’s been incredibly important to my thinking through the years, and so I think you should hear it, too.
As babies, we start not knowing the difference between ourselves and the world. I’ve noticed this with my daughter. Sometimes, when her older brothers cry, she starts crying, too. When the world is sad, she’s sad. Also, when she’s sad, she thinks the world is sad.
From here, we start to understand that there’s a world apart from ourselves. The baby associates closely with family, parents, and especially the mother. This is the basis of “stranger danger.” When mama’s away, the baby feels not quite like herself.
From here, there’s further differentiation of the baby as part of the family unit. All the previous identities are still there, but the baby has realized she’s no longer actually the same as the world, or the same as the mom. (I use “she” because our youngest is a girl — this is universal experience and not gender-specific.)
The mechanism of personality development is the same between each level, and it keeps going.
Once the baby has been at a certain level of self-identification (self-as-world, self-as-part-of-family, etc.), she starts to differentiate. Her self is still somewhat tied to what was before, but she realizes there’s a bigger world out there. She transcends the previous identification of self.
But in transcending and moving beyond the previous identification, she also recognizes that it’s still a part of her.
The baby heads off to daycare, and realizes her world is no longer just her and the family. And yet, the previous identification is still part of her. So she integrates it into her new worldview.
Differentiate — transcend — integrate. It’s a nonstop process of self-development.
(By the way, I owe a huge debt of gratitude to author Ken Wilber for much of this understanding — his book Integral Psychology is the best place to start if you want to go deep.)
And so the baby goes and grows.
From identification of self with family, to identification of self with peer group. That’s a good shorthand for the people she interacts with every day — kids and teacher at daycare, maybe.
Then, self becomes associated with community. And we’re not just talking cities and towns here — this is the source of school pride. In older times, this was a deep association with one’s tribe.
From here, the child begins to associate with bigger social groups. Next comes certain allegiances to state and country.
If your self concept continues to expand, you grow to feel your connection is actually with the entire human race — or the world itself.
From here, you get into the realm of mystics — and start to feel at one with the entire universe — with creation itself.
This is the realm of saints — where “I AM” literally means you identify your “self” with the spiritual fabric of the universe — God or any other name.
And don’t think I’m a heretic here. This is the experience of saints and teachers of nearly every world religion — not just me.
And in fact, great scientists have shared their own observation of this exact same experience — the most famous “mystical” scientist being Albert Einstein.
Though at this point I’ve veered off course.
The point is, the more insular your self concept — your ego — the harder it will be for you to do great things in the world.
The more open and inclusive your self concept, the easier and more automatic doing great things becomes.
There is one proven way to grow a healthy ego…
Far too little research has been done on this topic. But the little bit that has suggests a very important conclusion.
There is a reason all the great religions and wisdom traditions of the world recommend a regular practice of meditation or contemplative prayer.
It’s the one thing that — after the age of 18 or so — consistently helps you expand your sense of self.
It can be as simple as setting a timer, sitting quietly, and paying attention to your breath. Inevitably, your mind will wander. Don’t worry. It does that. Watch the thoughts come. And watch them go. Bring your attention back to your breath.
There are a million different approaches to meditation. They may all work. (Doing anything usually works better than doing nothing.) And some may work better than this simple focus on the breath.
But focusing quietly on your breath — and refocusing on your breath when your mind wanders — is something anybody can do.
And it doesn’t matter what your religious or spiritual persuasion (or lack thereof) may be. You can still do it!
It may seem like such a simple thing. But it WILL help you build a stronger, healthier sense of self. It will help you — through time — go through that process of differentiation, transcendence, and integration into bigger and bolder and healthier and happier self concepts.
And along the way, it has all sorts of other benefits not touched on here.
What do you think of this lesson?
Did it resonate with you?
Do you think I’ve lost it?
Let me know either way. I really do want to know. Shoot me an email at [email protected].
And because this is so fundamental to the thinking that’s made me a better copywriter, I’m going to be sharing some more thoughts along these lines (and more personal stories) at my copywriting workshop next month. If this really resonated with you and you want more, you should register before Monday’s final deadline. Click here for three days that will turn you into a consistently better copywriter.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
Editor, Breakthrough Marketing Secrets