Last night I was coming home from “Date Night” with my wife and The Who’s Baba O’Riley came on the radio. Its hard not to love that song; from the keyboard intro to Pete Townshend’s repetition of the D, A, and G chords, it is a song that is the embodiment of a perfect rock song perhaps for the simple fact that it is not overly complicated or over thought – it is what it is. Kids just learning their instruments can jam this song in a garage (and I hope someone is doing that – or considering doing that – right now). It reminds me that there is power and beauty in simplicity.
Then after the dramatic intro, Daltry starts singing:
“Out here in the fields
I farm for my meals
I get my back into my living.
I don’t need to fight
To prove I’m right
I don’t need to be forgiven.”
In the immortal words of Inspector Gadget, “Yowser!” While driving home I reflected on those introductory lyrics and thought that I could relate to something in there somewhere. Then it hit me as I was falling asleep; as I am self-employed is it not true that I “farm for my meals” and “get my back into my living?” I am a company of one and unless I persistently farm for new business and continually nourish existing client relationships, my family will run the risk of not eating.
It’s the next line, though, that really got me thinking; “I don’t need to fight, to prove I’m right, I don’t need to be forgiven.” I am certainly guilty of letting my ego run the show from time to time. Sometimes I have the attitude that “this is my ship and I will steer it where I want it to go.” I am the guy at the top after all! I built this ship and I’ll steer this ship and if you challenge my path, my ego may just say something to you which might later require an act of forgiveness on my part but at the time I won’t see it that way because, “I don’t need to be forgiven.”
But this is not who I want to be as a business owner and leader. When I think about it with a clear head, it seems like a recipe for failure. I want to be collaborative. I want to surround myself with people who think differently than me and who can test my resolve on a challenging issue. Doing so will ultimately make me a better businessperson and consultant to my clients.
Yet ego rears its limelight addicted head from time to time. We see in the media how strong personalities get all the attention, the glory, the fame, the riches. But while I am tempted to bask in the limelight, the characteristics of a hard driving egomaniac entrepreneur are not ones that I want to be remembered for yet it is a struggle to tame “Kid Ego” and keep him in his place. Fortunately for me, fighting my ego is not a one person job; my wife keeps me humble. In fact, on the way home from date night she usually reminds me that I spilled something on my shirt. Recently she looked at the way I was dressed and made fun of me for buying a pair of pleated pants. “Pleats are out dear,” I am told.
Key lessons learned; surround yourself with two types of people, people you can collaborate with and people who keep you humble.