Exploring the origins, ethics and future of changemaking

Who put the Ego into Entrepreneurship?

In Uncategorized on May 15, 2012 at 6:09 pm

Who put the bomp in the bomp bah bomp bah bomp?
Who put the Ego into Entrepreneurship?

One of the most common misunderstandings and judgements that I come across regularly is this strange notion that all entrepreneurs are full of Ego. Well of course, but who isn’t. The thing that I find most puzzling, disturbing and untrue is how it is often said with heavy judgement and loathing.

Ego is simply the identification with or of the self. We all have Ego, how else would we identify with being part of the world.

There are many views on the nature of Ego and its role in our lives. One spiritual view sees that Ego is only an illusion; different and separate from our true or ‘higher self’. For the purpose of this article I will call this ‘higher self’: Soul. In this sense, I don’t have a soul but rather – I AM SOUL. As Soul I have a body that I use for the purpose of living, creating, learning and service in this world. I call this body and identity Benny Callaghan and while this may not always be that pleasant for others, it is useful for me to get around and be part of the world.

Various spiritual teachings, especially those of the East, teach that the goal of life is to transcend the Ego and enter the pure states of being. By doing this we can be active channels for Spirit in the world.

So what has all this got to do with entrepreneurship?

For some strange reason, entrepreneurship and Ego have become conflated. A common misunderstanding of Ego has come about where we think of it as some negative set of traits that an individual has. So when someone is seen to be acting in unseemly ways (or READ: ways different to our liking), that must be the work of Ego. I see and hear this all the time in the entrepreneurship space. When we launched the School for Social Entrepreneurs in Australia, I would hear comments from people scared that Ego, via entrepreneurship, had entered the non-profit world. This is as if it never had Ego in the first place, or that entrepreneurship was going to turn the field of ‘doing good’ into something evil. People were somehow under the illusion that entrepreneurs were driven only be Ego, in it for themselves, out to attract the limelight and not interested in others.

While it may well be true that there are some entrepreneurs in the world who have caused harm, my experience has been far more nuanced. Over the past number of years I have met many fine entrepreneurs who bring their creative abilities, passions and drives to have enormous impact and positive affect on the communities they serve. Their service is driven by Spirit and aided by Ego. In doing entrepreneurship, Ego can be useful. To have a strong sense of ‘self’, confidence and courage to back yourself is critical.

I have also met many entrepreneurs who balance their work and lives with spiritual practices which allow them to move beyond the ‘Ego self’ and have a higher perspective in their work. I have seen people operate with enormous wisdom, compassion and understanding. I know Buddhist and Muslim entrepreneurs, and others who have spiritual practices that allow them to tap into their higher selves and deeper drives for service in the world. ‘Ego’ in this sense is a useful tool for them, to help manifest or channel that inner or higher guidance.

So Ego is a deeply unifying human quality. It is not particular to entrepreneurs. In fact, Ego can be a tool or trap for all of us whether we are entrepreneurs, philanthropists, social workers, teachers, cleaners, academics or otherwise.

To label all entrepreneurs as being driven by Ego is untrue and unhelpful. It fails to capture the essence of what being an entrepreneur is. My sense is that we would be much wiser to focus our attention away from labels, judgements and categorisation. I would like to have conversations where we talk about the ways that entrepreneurs and others connect with their higher selves and use their creative gifts to be of service to the world; perhaps a kind of conscious entrepreneurship.

I’d like to take the bomp out of the bomp bah bomp bah bomp.

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  1. Benny – as always an insightful and thoughtful post.

    Ego shows up as any sort of identification, in my experience – wherever there is a sense of ‘I’ there shows up everything else associated with it. Ego is not only a unifying element of the human experience it is also an essential element of this experience. Without ego the body would not nurture and sustain itself.

    Like you I’m a little weary of the bad rap ego gets … saints and sages throughout time have made it quite clear that even after ‘awakening’ there is still some sense of personality that remains.

    When it comes to ‘doing good’ both healthy and unhealthy ego is rampant in the non-profit sector; on the unhealthy side (which rarely if ever gets spoken about) it shows up through replication of effort, wasted resources and organisational fiefdoms that hinder rather than help the achieving of mission.

    The presence of a healthy ego is essential if you’re going to challenge the status quo and create any sort of project toward the formation of more just, equitable and sustainable systems; maintaining an awareness of how it plays in your own actions is not only essential for any sort of social or environmental entrepreneur, it seems to be essential if we’re to find more loving ways to relate to ourselves, each other and the world at large.

    • Thank you Cameron, I love having you engage in these conversations and would love to unpack a bunch of these topics some more. I would especially love to explore the idea of conscious entrepreneurship and what that could mean. I wonder, do have any particular approaches or practices that you use in operating from that space?
      Or even perhaps books or resources that you could recommend?

  2. […] the link between Ego and Entrepreneurship. […]

  3. […] it started somewhere around the discovery of the principle of Soul. I discussed this in the post on Ego and Entrepreneurship, whereby I can identify myself not in the human consciousness, but in the spiritual consciousness. […]

  4. […] the focus. While entrepreneurship is often falsely equated with Ego, I dismiss this idea (click here to read more on my thoughts about Ego and entrepreneurship). I perceive that Ego can become a trap in almost any field, including potentially systems […]

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