Everybody’s Got One (EGO)

Gambling can be a destructive habit and everybody knows it. But for one day of the year the council estates of the UK conveniently forget the truth as they all flock to the bookies to place a bet on the Grand National. I was in Newquay on holiday with my ex wife and son, we had placed our bets and the race was about to begin. My son was full of optimism, and so he should be, because the year prior he had turned a £10 stake into a £1,000 payday thanks to the 100:1 shot Mon Mome. There was a family sat next to us, and the children were asking their father how much money they would win if there horse romped home. My son’s ears pricked up and out of the blue, and very loudly, he spoke: –

“Dad, how much did we win last year…a thousand pound wasn’t it?”

At the age of 8 his ego was in full swing, an ego that had developed from the breath of his parents. My ex wife and I taught our son to speak. We taught him how to string words and sentences together to form conversation. What we didn’t realise was we were also helping to form his ego.

This year I have won three online poker tournaments. Each time I have won I post my results on Facebook and Twitter and look forward to the praise. When I am working at a poker tournament I will mention to the players that I won $10,000 in a tournament. In fact, just this evening I told a poker player that I had won $10,000 in a tournament. When I play live, and win, I tell my mum, my friends and my girlfriend. When I have written something that I think is good quality I will ask people to read it. When I had my Mohican I asked people what they thought and when I shaved it off I repeated the same question. I am sharing a room in Monte Carlo with my friend. I just got back to the room and took my top and jeans off to do my sit ups and crunches. My mate asked me why I had taken my clothes off to do my exercises and I told him that it was because I would get sweaty. I wonder if my ego told me to take my clothes off to show my friend that I had developed a little muscle tone?

In the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre somebody had to dig through all of the rubble and recover all of the bodies. As described in the excellent book EGO: The Fall of the Twin Towers and The Rise of an Enlightened Humanity Peter Baumann explains how this horrific job fell to officers of the Port Authority (PA). For eight months these people climbed into the “Pit,” to dig out bodies twelve hours a day, seven days a week. Here is an extract from that book by Officer Karl Olszewski.

“When you are in the hole and someone passes you the torso of what used to be your fellow officer, who you knew, and then they pass the skull of a woman he tried to save, that is when the gravity of the situation starts to hit you.”

The state of trauma that the PA’s were subjected too was unprecedented. But there were a second set of feelings as well. The Port Authority were almost unknown to the media,

“We felt ignored. It affected us department wide. We communicated with all the agencies; we were the first in and the last out. We were forgotten about,” said Officer Peter Hernandez.

It was not enough for the Port Authority people to do the right thing. There was also the natural inclination to be acknowledged for doing it. The NYPD and FDNY were getting all of the media attention and the PA was nowhere to be seen.

We all need to be acknowledged and accepted in our society – our ego demands it. This is why my son wanted people to hear his story about his winning bet, why I tell all and sundry about my poker winnings and why the Port Authority personnel felt like they were ignored in the wake of 9/11.

We love it when people think we look great. We think we are pretty special if people think we have money. In school we wanted the best grades and to be captain of the football team. These events make us feel valuable and fill us with pride. Pride is the fuel for the ego.

Over time you fuel your ego and it takes over your mind and body. You cannot keep pace with all of the expectations and fear starts to set in. You start to compare yourself with your friends and try keeping up with the Joneses. This constant struggle to compete – to satisfy your ego – is tiring and causes a great deal of distress. The very loved ones that you are trying to impress quickly become your enemies as arguments rise out of the ashes almost from the mouth of the Phoenix itself.

I now understand that the root of all of my misery grows from the foot of my ego. I have allowed it to grow – unchecked – throughout the years, and it is time that I gained control. I am not sure how exactly I am going to win this battle, but for now I am reading about it, learning, meditating and being a hell of a lot more mindful.

Are you aware that your ego rules your life and creates misery for you? Tell me a story where your ego got out of control.

Extracts taken from the excellent book EGO: The Fall of the Twin Towers and The Rise of an Enlightened Humanity by Peter Baumann and Michael W.Taft

Photos courtesy of rhonda_liberman (cc @ flickr.com)

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  1. Great post Lee,

    My own ego has got me into a few uncomfortable situations over the years, mainly when I was younger, however as I have grown older and hopefully wiser my ego seems to slowly but surely be evaporating and this seems to be happening naturally.
    Lee I think you will experience the same thing.

    The Ego, it’s such a powerful thing, where would the motor and fashion industry be without the ego? would Porsche and Ferrari exist? would Ray ban? how about Chanel? all these brands exist to feed the ego, these products are even counterfeited to feed the ego’s of the people who can’t even afford the real thing but would like to fool passers by into thinking they can. Shrewd businessmen can grow rich feeding the ego’s of millions.

    Huge empires have risen on the back of one mans ego, Ghengis Khan and Alexander the Great for example, also millions have died as a result of a single tyrants ego Like Ide Amin and Hitler.

    Some of the most horrible people I’ve ever had the misfortune to encounter have been people who have allowed their own ego’s to run wild and this always acts as a reminder to me to keep mine in check.

    Rudyard Kipling’s great Poem “If” seems to hold the key to dealing with the ego in that often quoted line…

    “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same”

    All the best

    • Lee Davy says:

      Hi Neil,

      An excellent comment and just what I was trying to poke at with my post. Understanding how damaging the ego can be, under certain circumstances, is a special moment when trying to continually improve yourself as a person.



  2. Great post Lee! I must admit I am only just starting to allow my ego to be more assertive. I was raised to be modest and could never accept compliments up until a few years ago. At that time I was working in a thankless office job, and my ego was crying out for some attention from the corporate executives. Well, they didn’t give me what I wanted so I left, and now I very proudly tell people I’m a published author and my ego basks in the warm glow of admiration… I think it is all very well in moderation, and we must support each other in the constant need for recognition and appreciation for what we do.

    • Lee Davy says:

      Hi Catherine,

      Thanks for your reply.

      When I worked on the railway one of the reasons I left was because I hated working for my Managing Director. I expect that mixed in somewhere with those feelings was my ego crying out for him to acknowledge that I was good at my job. So I quit and now I work for myself…but what has actually changed? These days instead of wanting my boss to stop chastising me and instead shower me with praise, I expect it from my readers.

      Similarly I work away from home for long periods of time. In some quarters I am told that I am a bad father for choosing to spend time away from my son. This hurts my ego because I don’t like to think that I am a bad father. I react my being defensive and that defence often results in an argument with those who criticise me.

      When you try to look at your ego from the outside in you realise that it is not the Managing Directors, readers or critical parental observers who hurt you…it is yourself. You need to give yourself recognition and appreciation and if you do that you will meet like minded people who do likewise. The search for recognition and and admiration is a fruitless one, but only in my opinion of course.


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