The Entrepreneurial Ego Pitfalls
Ego is rampant in our everyday lives. It can be the invisible hand that pushes and pulls us into many life events- starting relationships, ending relationships, getting hired, getting fired, etc. - grabbing a hold of us and then letting us go. In episode 43 of MentorZ, Trey Cockrum talks about the pitfalls of ego, and in the next article, the freedom that comes with self-awareness.
"It was a huge thing I had to realize because I always thought to be successful in business you have to be pushy and you have to 'make your way' like the typical entrepreneur type... you gotta be a jerk to get what you want, you have to push it, and that's just not true... not true at all."
Sometimes you can create a business with you, the leader, at the center. Even though the idea of being a linchpin is a strong idea in the entrepreneurial community, creating a well-oiled machine that can work in your absence allows leaders to take a step back and focus on the things that really matter most.
Trey continues saying that, "... leaders create leaders and I'm really trying to create a business that doesn't require me but if I want it to grow I need to step in... and Jim Rohn says it really well, too - You want to build an organization where not all roads lead back to you. you want everything to connect to everything."
This also leaves time to focus on the backbone of your company, the backend work. While most other people in the SMMA (social media marketing agency) world spend their time attracting new prospects by using luxury items, Trey has found immense benefits in pushing everything back into his company so he can drive the results he wants. As he said: "You don't need eyes when you have a backend".
He continues to describe how this theory of thinking works for him by saying, "My company, we're super underground so I'm not trying to have a lot of eyes, just trying to have a good back end you know? I run a nearly 7-figure operation off of an Instagram following of 5.8 hundred [now 6 thousand] people and so my belief is that if you have a good offer and you got a good community and you got like a good process you don't need a lot of eyes to make a lot of money or to actually have a lot of impact. You just need something that really changes peoples lives and brings them a lot of value"
This brings up the question of content creation and a social media following. How can I find success if I don't have a following? We are most commonly introduced to the Gary Vee style of creation - as much value-packed and shipped out as possible. This for many people means attempting to churn out several posts every week so they don't fall away to the white noise of any social media platform.
Trey spoke on this method claiming "I could totally go like the Gary Vee route and just put out a butt-load of content, but honestly I'm doing really well with just a really small audience and a really really niche following and a niche offer... and there's nothing wrong about either/or, but I prefer to stay kinda underdog with just a really good backend because it gives me a lot more control over my business."
Ego also plays a huge part in how we would like to present ourselves. Most young entrepreneurs take to the 'fake it till you make it' approach, renting the ability to hold or stand beside luxury symbols for possibly 15 minutes in an attempt to show their soon-to-be prowess. Trey talks about how in one way or another, the internet will always catch up to you, and people will always attempt to dig deeper. And when they find nothing there, it becomes quite a hit to your reputation. So what’s the solution? Well, it’s quite simple: have results.
Trey commented "I have literal, numerical proof for what we are doing so then the sale just comes easy. When you are it and you're not just trying to paint a picture it's really freakin easy to succeed in this industry. I'm trying to mix the scalability of the information product industry with real integrity and actually do something that actually helps people because when you meet those two it's a beautiful thing."
Through hard work, he has been able to blend those two elements quite well! However, the ego doesn't stop there. Winning and attaining those prizes has the potential to really bring out the ego in some people. This can prevent you from furthering your growth.
Trey spoke on how he views this idea of wins egging on the ego saying that "Every win you're going to have comes with perks, and if you get obsessed with the perks then it keeps your ability to keep winning low - like every single top athlete that spends more time enjoying their Lamborghini then they do actually practicing shooting hoops - they're going to lose it. You know? It was Michael Jordan who bought a Ferrari, and was like ‘This is cool’. Then he sold it within a week because he was over it and he went right back to practicing. For me, the whole lifestyle thing is just branding. I could work out of a box of a room with one lightbulb and be totally fine, but I have a lot of eyes. I needed to have a brand, so for me it's a very tactical, very intentional decision".
Now Trey is by no means saying to not have nice things, but these strategic investments he's been able to make over time -his current apartment, car, watches- have allowed people to see him differently, and in turn, they’ve positively affected his business. They were good investments because they gave back to his brand and business.
It's a personal problem, not a business problem
He continued, "I used to think I deserved more than I had. It's all personal issues, there's no such thing as a personal issue or an organizational issue, it's always internal issues that are mirrored in your organization or your business".
In the past, Trey used to care about being patted on the back in order to drive his ego. That didn't get him very far in terms of personal fulfillment or financial success. Looking back his ego prevented him from moving forward in his business; however, after taking charge of his life through recognizing his responsibilities (see the article "Upholding Responsibility and Self-Worth") his new focus was geared towards the success of his clients and students instead of self-gain and ego inflation. By taking a look in the mirror and doing some self-reflection he was able to rid himself of the toxic part of his ego.
He then went on to speak about the application to his students saying " that's the cool thing about the education side, our students are on track to succeed beyond me. It's not like me at the head of this thing and you know I'm like this idol, it's just like, I'm trying to build this organization where people help each other”. His students have been leading one another without the need for him to be around. And he finds a lot of pride in the culture he's built for his students.
The Push and Pull of Ego
Trey explained his daily routine and it leaves time for relaxation and play. The limited amount of time Trey does have to work he is required to complete his most pressing tasks. Being a workaholic is nothing to sneeze at or glorify. When you constantly need to feel productive you essentially amass a debt you'll have to pay off later. In one way or another, this most commonly amounts to a lonely life.
Trey speaks on this balance claiming "You have to learn how to push and pull because otherwise, your push starts to lose its power. It's like reps in the gym, you can't just squeeze the weight for an hour and expect it to be a good workout. It's up and it's down, right? It's sleep, it's awake, it's light, it's dark. You have to push and pull. A lot of entrepreneurs are addicted to the push, so I really had to break that habit too because it's often a very ego-driven thing - to want to feel productive all the time."
Trey refers to a great book - Ego is the Enemy which has a good strategy on how you can dismantle your ego. Still, the question remains - what happens afterward?
How does freedom from the ego feel?
Trey spoke on the aftermath of releasing his ego stating, "Honestly once you let go you free yourself to make the decisions that you actually know you're supposed to make. It stops being 'what will they think, what will they think'. In order for me to make a decision I'm only looking at one variable - does this help me? And of course, there are a bunch of little things within that [but] once you understand what truly helps you, it's just easy to make decisions. When you have a large ego it's 'what do they think? What will my dad think? what will my friends think? what will blah blah blah' and if 'what will they think' is the first thing that comes to your brain, you probably have an issue. What's interesting is that people's opinions change. You just become this fluttering feather in the wind with no real foundation for how you're behaving. You are purely behaving in reactionary mode. There's no offensive game for you, it's purely defensive. So you can't really build anything off of that foundation. Defensive is no game to play permanently, [you have to play] a mix of both."
The freedom from prying eyes allowed Trey to take life into his own hands. Simply put, his life became his life. He built what he wanted to, spoke on what he wanted, and did not look for the opinions or praise of others.