The Best Entrepreneurs Have “Less Ego”

via Mashable | The Best Entrepreneurs Are Older, Have Less Ego

A survey by the Founders Institute found that less ego and more experience correlate with success in entrepreneurship. Of course people will immediately assume that being older is a predictor of both of these qualities, but that incorrectly assumes causation (age ≠ experience). One can obtain an incredible amount of experience quickly by simply putting themselves out there, trying new things, and being open to experiences – learning from failures.

On another note, the term “less ego” oversimplifies the concept of ego. As Nietzsche and Heidegger first noted, what people meant by “ego” before the time of Nietzsche and Heidegger was actually “will.” (Ayn Rand still makes this mistake, in my opinion.) The ego is the self-identifying element of our consciousness, that through which we relate to the world. People with a “big ego” cannot think the existence of other egos (other people with thoughts and feelings) outside of their own. They can only see others as a reflection of their own ego. This essentially reduces the other to the same as or less than the self, which is ethically violent and, some philosophers would argue, the source of all hatred and war.

The will, on the other hand, drives people to assert themselves in the world. A strong will, I would say, correlates more with success than a big ego. True, a big ego and a strong will tend to go hand-in-hand, but they’re definitely not mutually dependent. Take Bill Campbell for example. Incredibly successful, yet you won’t find an ounce of pretension on him.

Conclusion: beware of the confusion between ego and will. Strive to have a strong will, while humbly manage your ego.

Update (12/02/2013)

via Wikipedia

Humility is considered an important virtue in taoism. The following quote describes how a wise person should see his accomplishments, according to the Tao Te Ching (77.4)

“[a wise person] acts without claiming the results as his; he achieves his merit and does not rest (arrogantly) in it: — he does not wish to display his superiority.”






5 responses to “The Best Entrepreneurs Have “Less Ego””

  1. Anthony Dream Johnson Avatar
    Anthony Dream Johnson

    Hey Ben

    When Ayn Rand used the word “ego”, she did not mean will. She meant soul. She meant the self. She meant you, the person, the individual.

    Will would be derived from the ego, from the soul. It would not be the equal.

    What you are otherwise referring to in this post is “petty ego”, or, being petty.

    When anyone uses “big ego” as an insult, it is ultimately a compliment. It’s tantamount to using “you are a successful human being”, as an insult.

    Much the same is true when people use the word arrogant. There is such a thing as real arrogance, but 99/100 times when the term is used, it is ultimately a compliment.

    Try calling Greg Swann an arrogant, big-ego jerk, and see what he says =)

    • Anthony
    1. Ben Sima Avatar

      Soul, self, and individual seem to me to be wholly different concepts. I’m not sure if it’s desirable to lump them all under the term “ego.”

      But, I see your point; if ego is the individual, then being a “big individual” is ultimately a compliment. An in order to be a “big individual” you have to have a strong will, thus will is derived from ego (according to the Randian definitions you describe).

      However, the definition of ego that I’m talking about (and I prefer) is discussed by the continental philosophers of the 20th century. For them, ego is related to being, our condition as beings, and our relation to Being. Currently I’m studying Levinas, searching this page for “ego” is a pretty good overview of what he’s saying:

      I’m writing my thesis on Levinas’ philosophy of love by the way; you might find that an interesting read when I’m finished.

      1. Anthony Dream Johnson Avatar

        Hey Ben

        I’m not sure all the terms are lumped under ego. What I was trying to communicate is that they are synonymous to one another, in the proper context.

        Ego, soul, consciousness, the self, the individual. Not the individual body, the individual person. I. You. Me. Him. Her. Ben Sima. Anthony Johnson.

        Not the name. The person in command of the name, and the body.

        To the contrary, I think attempting to wedge these terms a part is dangerous. Much the same as religion has pitted the mind against the body. (Don’t give in to your “temptations”).

        Re the definition I provided : that was off the cuff. Look further into Rand’s writings for an explicit definition.

        “However, the definition of ego that I’m talking about (and I prefer) ”

        Careful with this Ben. Words have exact meanings, exactly (not like) numbers. Preferring one definition of the number three, over another, is universally silly.

        Now words are more complex because they can depend on context and usage, but even so, the matter remains as black and white as everything else in existence.

      2. Ben Sima Avatar

        Words definitely don’t have rigid meanings. They can and do change over time. Evidence: the fact that multiple languages exist, and English itself is a hodgepodge of different languages, evolved over time.

        And your definition of ego/self/soul seems eerily similar to Plato’s, and we all know what kind of elitism such platonification and reification of these concepts leads to. I prefer to stay away from that and the black and white view of existence. This view (I believe Rand states this) is founded on the statement “everything either exists or doesn’t exist” which is the same as the Pythagorean concept of being vs non-being. Nietzsche pretty much outright destroyed that overbearing logocentrism in the 19th century. Becoming is a more accurate observation of existence than the pre-Modern being

        I don’t think the above makes too much sense without a discussion of the actual arguments made by Nietzsche et al, but that’s sufficient to clue you in on my stance if you’ve read a couple of those guys.

      3. Anthony Dream Johnson Avatar

        “Words definitely don’t have rigid meanings.”

        Ah ah ah. I didn’t say rigid. I said exact. Those 2 words are not synonymous in this instance. Rigid would be unchanging, or resistant to change. Exact means just that : exact, specific, “pin point”.

        So, I reject your position about what I said. It simply doesn’t apply. However I do agree independently that words change over time. In fact they evolve, and advance over time (well, ideally).

        Example to show how I understand it : “all men are created equal” didn’t actually mean, all human beings, when it was written. It was only later that “men” grew to encompass not just all males, but all human beings.

        This is a magnificent advancement towards truth and reality. The definition has fundamentally improved and become more accurate.

        Re Plato : I would be surprised if anything I said was similar to Plato’s ideas. I would be even more surprised to learn that Plato had a “black and white view of existence”. He would have the opposite as I understand it.

        Also, I hope you don’t think I mean a binary view of existence. That is not something I hold, nor did I intend to communicate it as such. I mean black and white in the sense that it is impossible to create a non-black and white statement.

        I wouldn’t know about the Rand statement you included, nor do I know much about Nietzsche, although I am under the impression that he was an altruist (who didn’t know he was an altruist).

        Going further Ben, I would challenge you to devise a non-black and white statement. Take note : when you say “reality is not black and white”, you are making a black and white statement.

        This is also true when one says “reality is gray”. (You are declaring existence to be gray, and not something else).

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