Updated: May 27
Success will emerge upon releasing the grip of the ego
When physicist and entrepreneur Lester Levenson suffered a second heart attack, his doctor sent him home to die. After railing against his misfortune initially, Levenson let go by diving deep into his emotions to find what constitutes happiness.
He uncovered a peaceful equilibrium beyond the toxic cocktail of ego control. He recovered fully, went on to business success and prominence in spiritual circles, and left behind a road map for a similar journey.
So, what does this have to do with business success?
Everything! The defensive tendencies of our ego come at a great cost. When it’s threatened, we react defensively or explain away discomforting realities. This is an established and recurring pandemic. We’re militant when we should be open, emotional when we should be rational and worn out rather than exhilarated by the exigencies of business interaction because of the energy outlaid in protecting our emotional battlements.
Founder of the world’s largest hedge fund Ray Dalio referred to the ‘ego barrier’ in his book titled ‘Principles: Life and Work.’ He defines it as a
“subliminal defense mechanism that makes it hard for you to accept your mistakes and weaknesses.”
Dalio credits transcendental meditation with its clear affinities to ‘releasing’ as his greatest asset in surmounting this problem.
Even Abraham Maslow in the last years of his life added a layer to the top of his famous pyramid. Beyond self-actualization but anchored to it, he located “transcendence.” The ‘transcending self’ teaches us that the so called ‘stable self’ that seems so separate and walled off from others is an illusion. We are inextricably part of a larger whole.
And as we genuinely sense and learn to experience these interconnections, we naturally build more powerful networks, enable effective teams and successfully enroll stakeholders of all types.
Moving To, Not Away
We tend to recoil from challenge and thereby give it greater power over us.
A global marketing director reported that when the company’s most profitable client expressed pointed criticism and complaints about his handling of its account, he panicked. The director was flooded by stress as he perceived failure as a threat.
Then learning to release and let go of such emotions, to let the fears flow through without suppressing them, welcoming them until they lost their charge and dissipated, he found himself growing more curious and concerned rather than defensive.
He discovered that the critique was really a series of suggestions for improving things including the relationship between the two companies. So, he moved to, not away from, those insights and became an internal champion for them. The client was thrilled; and a remarkably open, trusting and profitable relationship was reinforced.
Releasing lessened the grip of his ego and allowed him to receive the inputs as a series of things that needed to be done without his feeling threatened and thereby unable to act appropriately.
Releasing also connects us to each other. We realize that the separate ‘they’ is more our projection than reality. As we actively seek to understand what drives and animates people, we find so much of the same echoed in ourselves.
A senior VP at a global IT firm was in a contentious relationship with a rival department. Being a releaser, he was able to be less attached to his own position, and move on to empathizing and to decide to stop counter-attacking — and see how he could help these colleagues. As he began welcoming ideas and requests rather than being antagonized by them, projects that had been stuck moved forward, morale surged and results rallied. Almost inevitably, his once agitated colleagues, were now curious to understand his requests, as they were no longer threatened by them.
He became acknowledged as someone who could get things done, a natural collaborator and a problem solver. This became possible as he embraced the seeming friction, stopped fighting it and converted it into a shared imperative. “Unreleased” we tend to rage rather than engage.
A woman leader I once coached learned to release; and her feeling of being perpetually on guard started to fade as she relaxed into her own natural composure. When her gruff boss called her in for a review, she decided to love the opportunity and to voluntarily help it be a “double win.” As her former fearful self had been successively let go of, she found herself flowing with the dialogue and responding with constructive ideas of ways forward.
Her boss sensed no resentment or denial in her and was energized by the exchange as she hadn’t brought an egoistic self to defend. He was grateful and impressed. Without fear or attachment to a fixed position, she created an exciting and successful path forward.
Releasing, in all its depth, has to be learned experientially. We are delighted to have participated in the experience and to have helped to bring it to a number of countries.
To warm up your ability to Release, take the following steps. Welcome any turbulent emotion you’re experiencing. Let it intensify. Be curious and pay attention to what it unveils. And then watch yourself, experience yourself, holding on to it.
Would you let it go?
It’s a decision you can just take. Take deep cleansing breaths as you feel yourself opening rather than suppressing.
As some stress inducing or ego rattling thing emerges, don’t suppress it. Let it flow, come up again, welcome it and then let go of your emotional grip on it.
By releasing, we learn that the agitated ‘you’ is a chimera, doesn’t really exist — so why be enslaved by a delusion? It is a hologram of our prejudices and anxieties and hang-ups. Not identifying with it, we already loosen its grip. We become more the observer and experience more of ourselves, the love within. From that calmer naturally creative core, your capacity for business and life yields increasingly natural, bountiful results.
A business that fosters and taps this, enriches collaborative energy rather than building a shrine to the ego. As the culture radiates this, what is nurtured becomes both a beautiful and often profitable crucible for success.