How I let my ego get in the way of success

One of the many ‘jobs’ I’ve had is to run a live performance theatre. I put ‘job’ in quotes because I was in high school and this story comes from the drama club where I was the stage manager. I did also get paid to run the facility, but on one particular day I was in charge of everything. Due to the simple fact that I’d been around the longest I was nominated to be in charge of building everything, making sure actors and crew got to their places on time, fix anything that broke, and fill in for any person that didn’t make it.

It was clean-up time

I was full of myself. I was the youngest stage manager in the 40-year history of the theatre. This theatre has produced people that go to work for bands like Blue Rodeo and Trans-Siberian Orchestra. I was rightly excited and proud to be put in charge of 100 people at the ripe old age of 16. I didn’t feel much fear about the 1,000 people a night that would see our productions for weeks on end. I wasn’t concerned about the two matinees a day for two weeks that would be performed for the grade schools in the area.

See, I deserved it all. I put in so much work when I was 15 and this was my reward. I was in charge of everyone. Sure, in theory there were teachers that oversaw the club, but day to day, they were elsewhere in the school marking papers while I was — literally — running the show. They were rarely actually watching what I was doing. It was up to me and I was awesome.

The problem is that I only thought I was awesome. Sure I had some very small success already, and I had been picked to lead, but I wasn’t leading. I was doing a great job of ordering people around.

This was greatly evident when it came to clean-up time. I’d confidently walk around telling people near me to pick up anything I saw. Clearly I didn’t pick it up, I was in charge and it was my job to make sure someone else picked it up.

This came to a screaming head one day when my assistant…screamed at me about being lazy. Unfortunately it’s only two decades later that I can understand what his issues were. I wasn’t some clear sober leader who worked as hard as everyone else. I was some dictator who ordered people around and expected to be obeyed.

Most successful people are people you’ve never heard of. They want it that way.

It keeps them sober. It helps them do their jobs.

from: Ego is the Enemy

Ego and clients

Fast forward a little over 10 years and I’m running a business and getting to be well known in my field as someone who delivers good work at a reasonable price. I had finally started to increase my pricing and felt I was worth it. Life was good. Or was it?

After a year of almost no projects actually getting delivered because I was slow or in over my head, I started to wake up to the fact that I was full of myself. I figured that clients should be happy they were working with me and that they should just pay what I told them and get the work when they get it and be happy about it.

Few of them were, and my reputation and referrals started to suffer from it.

Don’t be me

Your ego and the entitlement that comes with it is one of the swiftest ways to sabotage your business. Yes, you should set out an ideal week and stick to it, but not because you’re so awesome and everyone needs to bow to your needs. You stick to it because that helps you to deliver the best work possible to your client on time.

I’ll leave you with one final quote which I hope you can take to heart:

You must learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t possibly live long enough to make them all yourself. – Sam Levenson

Learn from my mistakes and don’t let your ego get in the way of doing awesome work for your clients.

photo credit: pasukaru76 cc

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