Managing Ego: How To Stay Creative and Humble

Step one: Talk to people who can’t do anything for you.

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As a creative director in the advertising business, I’ve seen and experienced the pros and cons of ego. The same self-assuredness that helped you sell an idea can later get in the way of the same idea reaching its full potential.

Ego is tricky. It can lift you up, get you in the door and position you for promotions. A strong sense of self gets you far in a business that rewards competition and boldness but the bad news is: ego has its limitations.

Maybe you’re feeling it now: self-esteem bordering on self-importance. You’ve hit that brick wall feeling after initial success, the lag of laziness that comes with self-satisfaction, that fear of not being able to top your last best thing.

It’s true that the energy you put out, you get back. When you actively lift others and honor stories beyond your own, you attract more opportunities and a continued flow of creativity. Empowering others can help you make connections and find inspiration that will last throughout your entire career.

What’s we sometimes overlook is that your success never started and ended with you. It was an absorption of everything around you and there were many players involved in the process. To stay relevant, creative and maintain career longevity, you might just have to learn how to put your ego aside.

So here are a few ways to give to yourself by getting over yourself:

Talk to “People Who Can’t Do Anything for You” To get more opportunities, we’re told to hobknob with people in positions of power. Oftentimes this feels inorganic and doesn’t lead to inspiration. There’s opportunity in shifting focus towards people who can’t do anything for you. Listen closely and give weight to their opinions. Their unique perspective will inevitably crack open new ways of thinking. After all, seeing a world created through someone else’s eyes is the most valuable form of networking.

Promote Ideas Besides Your Own When’s the last time you trumpeted a greatness that was not your own? A great way to expand your thinking (and in turn everyone else’s) is to promote ideas that are not yours. Get behind them 100 percent. It’s not only good for building trust within teams but it’s a strong way to put perspectives forward that are different from your own. Because good leaders support great ideas in addition to creating them.

Encourage Others to Tell Their Story The more stories we are exposed to, the more possibilities we have for ourselves. Whenever you can, give people the platform and opportunity to tell their own unique story. The world needs more examples of how to live happy lives that aren’t about perfect marriages, townhouses and six-figure careers. New people bring new ideas about success that we can all benefit from. When we expand our minds this way, we open doors to rooms where we can create from within.

Break Clichés Through Self-Awareness We are all storytellers. We tell stories about our lives and the lives of the people who surround us. Despite our best efforts, we fall victim to clichés and stereotypes. Pay attention to your internal language and the limitations you put on others. Are you expecting less from someone for no good reason? When you bring awareness to your thinking you can change your expectations of others and in turn tap into your own potential.

Forget about Levels. It’s also important to stay open to feedback from people from all levels. If you seem receptive, others will feel comfortable communicating with you. Be present when receiving uncomfortable feedback. You’ll also be pulled into more opportunities when you accept critique for the betterment of the project as a whole.

Actively Mentor It’s easy to be helpful when people ask you for guidance, but it’s important to extend yourself too. Many who need the most support won’t ask for it. Check in on others who are new to your industry, ask how they’re doing and what you can do to help. Share projects with them, speak highly of them to others and don’t expect anything from it. Sometimes the best way to stay ahead is to get behind someone else.

There’s no need to hate on your ego. It’s necessary to create boundaries, assert yourself and excel in certain situations. It just might be time to let go of it and connect with others. You’ll find that when you trust the process over reinforcing your identity or feeding your fear, great ideas come. Unforeseen opportunities arrive.

In lifting the people around you, you empower those who should be around you and you embolden yourself for more lasting success. And hey, you’re already great! But to stay on top, learn to be humble and support the greatness in others.

There’s unlimited potential on the other side of your ego. 

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