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“Impressing people is utterly different from being truly impressive.” ― Ryan Holiday, Ego Is the Enemy

In a self-promoting culture it’s easy to chase after what makes us look impressive. But those who have succeeded are the ones that worked on being impressive. Ego tells us we deserve something we haven’t worked for. Humility is putting your head down and doing the work you know needs to be done even if you won’t get the credit. When we let ego drive our marketing efforts we end up coming across as self-promoting jerks. Want to turn heads and make a statement? Push back against the norm and use humility and vulnerability.

I want to make one thing clear. I believe in social media, content marketing, and promoting yourself. There is nothing wrong with these platforms and strategies. What I am going to do my best to make an argument against is ego-driven marketing. Ego-driven marketing is marketing with the sole purpose of promoting your brand or image, even at the expense of others. It’s about trying to impress rather than being impressive.

The Problem With Ego

We live in a very ego-centric culture. You can hear it in the music we listen to, the advertising that surrounds us and the leaders who represent us. The biggest issue I see in our culture is that it blocks vulnerability. If we are ever going to make true, human connections we have to be vulnerable. When we are all trying to keep up with the persona we’ve created, we smother any chance to be vulnerable. Here’s the kicker, we can do this even when being positive.

“Almost universally, the kind of performance we give on social media is positive. It’s more ‘Let me tell you how well things are going. Look how great I am.’ It’s rarely the truth: ‘I’m scared. I’m struggling. I don’t know.’” ― Ryan Holiday, Ego Is the Enemy

The problem with ego isn’t what we say, but the posture in which we say it. People know when we are “faking it” and when we are being honest. Trust is essential if you want to grow your brand. As the Millennial Generation continues to grow into their role as the dominant economic generation, trust will be even more important. The Millennial Generation is one of the least trusting groups in recent history.

  • 88 percent of millennials say they only “sometimes” or “never” trust the press
  • 86 percent of millennials expressed distrust in Wall Street
  • 74 percent sometimes or never trust the federal government to do the right thing
  • 63 percent feel the same way about the President

How To Fight Ego In Our Marketing

It’s easy to get caught up self-promotion. It’s never been easier to tell the world how awesome you and what you create are. So how can we fight ego, yet still market our brands and businesses effectively? Let’s look at 3 ways.

Cultivate Humility, Diligence, and Self-Awareness

Humility, diligence, and self-awareness aren’t gifts, they’re skills. Just like any skill, you won’t get better if you don’t work at it. I think the reason these are so hard to practice is that we have attached negative meanings to them. In order to work on these skills, we have to first understand what they are.

  • Humility isn’t about being a pushover. It’s an understanding that while I have my own ways to approach something, others have the right to their own opinion.
  • Diligence is about doing the work that is needed to get the results. It’s about getting back up when you fail and trying again. Many of us have never learned to fail so when something doesn’t work, we quit. Diligence is about failing gracefully and continuing to do the work.
  • Self-awareness is about acknowledging your own character, feelings, motives, and desires. It’s about realizing that we think more about ourselves than others do. It’s about knowing when we’ve overstepped and admitting it.

Maintain Your Own Scorecard

We often let other people give us a score. We long to have affirmation from a spouse, friend, parent, co-worker, boss, etc., so we give them all the power in our lives. For businesses, we let the competition or industry dictate our score. When we do this, we give all the power away. Don’t let others dictate your success. Set your own marks and then go after them.

Always Stay A Student

One of the best ways to push back against ego is maintaining the posture of a student. Ego-centric brands believe that they know it all. Being open to new ideas and constructive criticism will help you stay humble and always looking for opportunities to grow. Those who are willing to learn new ideas are the ones that will be able to take advantage of trends more quickly.

Quotes To Help You Fight Ego

“Ego is the enemy of what you want and of what you have: Of mastering a craft. Of real creative insight. Of working well with others. Of building loyalty and support. Of longevity. Of repeating and retaining your success. It repulses advantages and opportunities. It’s a magnet for enemies and errors. It is Scylla and Charybdis.” ― Ryan Holiday, Ego Is the Enemy

“Your ego can become an obstacle to your work. If you start believing in your greatness, it is the death of your creativity.” – Marina Abramovic

“When we remove ego, we’re left with what is real. What replaces ego is humility, yes—but rock-hard humility and confidence. Whereas ego is artificial, this type of confidence can hold weight. Ego is stolen. Confidence is earned. Ego is self-anointed, its swagger is artifice. One is girding yourself, the other gaslighting. It’s the difference between potent and poisonous.” – Ryan Holiday, Ego Is the Enemy

“Most misunderstandings in the world could be avoided if people would simply take the time to ask, “What else could this mean?” ― Shannon L. Alder

“There are two circumstances that lead to arrogance: one is when you’re wrong and you can’t face it; the other is when you’re right and nobody else can face it.” ― Criss Jami, Diotima, Battery, Electric Personality

“Attempting to destroy something out of hate or ego often ensures that it will be preserved and disseminated forever.” ― Ryan Holiday, Ego Is the Enemy

“If a man thinks he is not conceited, he is very conceited indeed.” ― C.S. Lewis

Fighting ego in your marketing is about creating a business or company that people want to interact and engage with. With one single post, you can either bring your company down or establish a powerful connection. Taking the time to think about your motives and then putting together ego-free messaging will help you establish your brand as trustworthy and real.

For more on fighting your ego personally or professionally check out “Ego is the Enemy” from Ryan Holiday. This book has been huge for me!