Humility > Ego

october 2016 email
What would you say to your 20-year old self?

Write everything down because it’s all very fleeting.

Do you know when you are sitting in meditation or savasana and you are in that characteristic state of flow? The ideas (your ideas) are simply flowing, effortlessly. You are semi-aware of their fleeting state yet surprisingly not worried about writing them down, as though you know the experience of flow is more beneficial than cutting it off to write down some thoughts? Well, I have been having this a lot lately. Of course, the moment you come out of your flow-like state to consciously take a moment to write down your genius thoughts, they are now gone. POOF. Such is how my week has been going.

Inspiration is flowing. Yoga is flowing. Reading is flowing. When I regularly practice yoga and read, I feel so much more inspired. Pepper that with getting outside in nature and it is simply my recipe for inspiration. Try it. Yesterday, I completed two books. I was definitely in the beloved flow state. I also, hiked and practiced yoga outside. Needless to say, I was feeling good. The day before yesterday, I finished another book. Granted, Derek is away, so I do have some extra time on my hands. On top of that, a few of my private students are away right now, which leaves me with bundles of time. You could say I am in the work of self-helperry (yes, that’s right, self-helperry). Add to that my studies and work experience in psychology, and it’s no wonder I am truly fascinated by the mind. I am fascinated by happiness, flow, and living the best life possible for you. My mission statement has evolved into something that truly gets me out of bed each day: To empower and inspire you to realize your potential to elevate the world.

“Your potential, the absolute best you’re capable of—that’s the metric to measure yourself against. Your standards are. Winning is not enough. People can get lucky and win. People can be assholes and win. Anyone can win. But not everyone is the best possible version of themselves.” -Ryan Holiday

As an athlete, I know our mind and bodies are inextricably linked. We need to equally focus our life practices on both. We can’t let the noise of the crowd get to us, be it positive or negative. As a college athlete, if you allow your attention to wander to “What are the spectators thinking? Is the coach going to leave me in? Man - I can’t believe I missed that shot!” your energy will flow there and you will be counterproductive to what you intended to achieve: playing time, a win, success, goals, whatever.

The amazing human and athlete, Simone Biles, comes to mind. Gymnastics is an extreme pressure sport. If she were to let the Olympic expectations get to her head, she would as they say in sports, choke. She has mastered and implemented transitions and tumbling series that no one else even attempts and she sticks them! Now, if she measured herself against others, rather than herself, she wouldn’t attempt those never before tried tumbling passes. You are both your biggest advocate and your worst enemy at times. We all live and deal with ego, but what our success and failures depend on is that we will practice control of the ego.

I wanted to write you all because I have read a book this week that I can say has changed my life. I’ve never before finished a book and immediately began reading it again, until today. True story. Add "Ego is the Enemy" by Ryan Holiday to your wish list!

“Don’t bow to gatekeeper, you are the gatekeeper” -Ego

Ego is...

...an unhealthy belief in our own importance.

...a magnet for enemies and errors.

...the root of every conceivable problem and obstacle.

...when we don’t seem to have what we want, or maybe we get what we want and always want more.

...the proverbial “sick man, ignorant of the cause of his malady.” -Lucretius (a few thousand years ago)

...always there, undermining us through everything.

...“inhibits true success by preventing a direct and honest connection to the world around us.” We can’t improve the world if we don’t understand it or us.

...“If you start believing in your own greatness it is the death of your creativity” -Marina Abramović (performance artist)

...“False ideas about yourself destroy you.” -Frank Shamrock (UFC champion)

I’ve heard someone describe their practice of reining in the ego by purposely putting themselves in the position, weekly, to be the worst in the room at something. I love this because never have I ever felt so silly as when I was learning to surf. Well, I am still learning. Meanwhile, Derek’s 8 year old niece is bravely conquering surfing after 30 minutes. Then there are the yoga postures that humble you. Some I refer to as “humble-asana”.

Life begins and ends at your comfort zone. We can see how the ego easily grows thorns if we are never failing. Conversely, if when we do fail (and we all have) and we plumet hard into a downward spiral of negativity, that too reveals the steady grip your ego has on you. Make a practice of steadily receiving praise with an even mind and noticing what went right and steadily receiving feedback while noticing what went wrong. As Holiday says, “you can win and be lucky or an asshole.” We aren’t here to be jerks, so let’s rock life and rein in the ego. Get outside of your comfort, fail with grace, and pick yourself up the better from having failed. There is a difference between confidence and ego.

Pursuing great work, is often terrifying. Our ego calms the fear...sometimes even paralyzing us with excuses so that we never even begin. We are afraid to bruise our precious egos, well I say shoot big, and when you fail, learn from it!

The problem today is largely due to the world of social media and, with that, self-promotion. On our Instagram accounts, as Holiday points out, “we can claim ourselves as CEO of our exists-only-on-paper company, we can publish articles about ourselves in sources that used to be reserved for objective journalism.” This is a slippery slope, because for many companies, and I could put myself in this group, we have to share and market ourselves. We can’t pursue our work, our purpose, if we keep it to ourselves. I think there is a difference between confidently putting you and your work out into the world because you believe it is powerful (confidence) and shouting from the rooftops your amazingness (ego).

Ego and macho-ness work for some, but actually it’s most successful with regards to its interference in our failures. Egomaniacs actually perform their best when they tame the ego. Only when we are free of ego and baggage can we actually perform our best. From an athlete’s perspective this couldn’t be more true. When you step into the state of flow that I referred to earlier, you block out the sound and signals from others. You are you and in this present flow state less interference or noise comes in from anything outside.

A year ago, a student gifted me George Mumford’s “The Mindful Athlete: Secrets to Pure Performance”. He knew I was a college athlete and now a mindful yogi and thought I would enjoy the read. He was right! I think college athletics would have been a completely different experience for me had I read this book. I was too much in my head, in dire need of mindfulness teachings. I put tremendous pressure on myself not just to get straight A’s but to perform well on the field.

Mumford is the mindfulness and meditation coach to many NBA greats, including Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal, and Kobe Bryant. “It’s more a monitoring aspect with more-- rather than ‘I got to make this shot’ -- no just shoot,” Mumford said. “You’ve trained your nervous system to do it, so now your conscious thinking needs to be quiet and let your body do what it does… Nothing exists but this moment and what you’re doing.” The flow state is a magical place to be. We should try to enter it on a daily basis. For these elite athletes, they could easily hinder their own performance by allowing ego to take a mental center stage. Mindfulness, flow and humility are their present moment practice. Hard work and discipline trained their bodies, now they need to let go of the mind wanderings in order to step into their strengths and perform unhindered by ego.

This week, join me in a practice of humility and discipline. If I fail (when I fail) I won’t be wrecked by it. I will be gracious in my success and resilient in my failures. You are unique. It’s not to say, don’t be inspired, but let’s keep our ego in check by remaining humble and knowing that we, just like our neighbor, are imperfect. Perfectly imperfect.

We all vacillate between humility and ego.

"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

“They that soar too high, often fall hard, making a low and level dwelling preferable. The tallest trees are most in the power of the winds, and ambitious men of the blasts of fortune. Buildings have need of a good foundation, that lie so much exposed to the weather.” -Dale Carnegie

Ego can be managed and directed. We can be both great yet humble.

With Love,

laura mary
Photograph by Derek Linsley at Haleakalā

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