How to Manage Your Ego So You Can Reach Your Full Potential


September 14, 2009   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

The ego is one of most self-destructive mechanisms of a person’s character and his or her abilities. In fact if you look at some people who’ve achieved massive success only to lose it all at the end of their lives, it’s almost always a function of the ego that results in this. As strange as the following examples might be, drug dealers, and gangsters in the movies are blatant examples of people whose egos have ruined their success. There are two characters that really exemplify this: George Jung (Johnny Depp in the movie Blow) and Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington in the movie American Gangster).

If you have seen the movie Blow, you know that the life of the main character is driven by the desire to never to be poor after growing up in financial dire straits. As a result he chooses a career as a drug dealer. Early in the movie, he becomes quite successful, ending up with a dream home, his dream girl, and almost everything you think would be enough in life. In fact every single time I watch this movie, I think “If he had just quit while he was ahead, then imagine how different his life would have turned out.” But, greed, and perhaps the desire to keep proving to himself that he was capable of more, ultimately his ego, led him to 60 years in prison.

The character of Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington in American Gangster) is another example of how ego got the best of somebody who could have quit while he was ahead. Although he was off to a bad start from the get go, even more so than George Jung, there comes a turning point in the movie when the ego of Frank Lucas takes over. In the desire to to keep expanding his operation Frank starts to partner with other people and eventually attracts the attention of the police. What’s interesting to note however is that there is a point in the movie where he acknowledges the destructive power of ego when he tells his younger brother “The loudest person in the room is the weakest.” Yet, he still falls victim to his own ego.

6 signs that you are ego driven

    1. Concern with Approval of others
      In his book Manifest Your Destiny, Wayne Dyer mentions that there are three tenets of self actualizing people according to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. One of those is that you should be independent of the good opinion of other people. It’ s easier said than done, but comes with a sense of freedom and liberation that allows you to truly shine. Who you are independent of the good opinion of other people is the most authentic person you will ever be. This is the most attractive quality in anybody, in a world where people are overly concerned with looking good in front of others. Ironically I learned this in a business school class and of all places, the corporate world may seem like a strange place to not concern yourself with the good opinion of others. But if you come from a place of authenticity and hard work, you will be much more well liked by your corporate peers. Self actualization is at the top of the Maslow hierarchy and most leaders are self actualized.


  • Fear of asking for help
    If you are afraid to ask for help, or you don’t want to ask for help because you want all the credit, then your ego is driving you. I made this mistake a few years back when I attempted to launch a job web site for MBA students. In my own bad judgment, I decided to take on the project alone after discussing it with some classmates. The desire to get ahead quickly and launch the site was the work of my ego. Ultimately, it ended up being a failure. If my ego hadn’t gotten in the way, and I had worked with the other students, I would have saved a few friendships and the site might have succeeded.



  • Comparing and Competing
    People who are driven by ego often fall victim to what I call the comparative and competitive disadvantage. Comparing yourself to others is the ego in one of its most vicious forms. It’s a perpetual losing battle because there will always be somebody better and always somebody worse than you are. Even if you are the best in the world at what you do somebody will always be right on your tail. If you keep seeing your life as a competition with those around you, then you will continually be dissatisfied and the ego will drive your life.



  • The constant need for more
    Greed is also a function of the ego. I think if there’s anything our movie characters could teach us, is that there comes a point where you do have everything you could possibly want, and getting more just for the sake of having it is an exercise in futility.



  • Lack of presence
    Ego driven people continually live in the past and always plan for the future. They never live in the moment. They are always thinking of the next great phase of their life, even when this one is perfect. By forgetting to enjoy the present, we set ourselves up to live in an ego-driven limbo.



  • The need to always be right
    This is another one of the ego’s most destructive functions. People who have a need to continually be right are headed for the ultimate downfall. These kinds of people will often get far in life because of their persistence and aggressiveness. But, these are also the people that will fail when they are on the brink of MASSIVE success. Their need to be right will be their downfall and years of hard work can be destroyed in minutes when this portion of the ego takes over. Leaders with this attitude ultimately alienate all those work for them, and eventually stop receiving the kind of input that can propel them forward because they are so adamant about being right.


When you can learn to let go of the ego, the level of success and fulfillment you will achieve will be dramatic.

Only with your ego in check will you have the ability to reach your full potential.

Written on 9/14/2009 by Srinivas Rao. Srinivas is a volunteer for the Quality of Life Project. The website shares best practices on getting the most out of life from well known types like Richard Branson and Tom Skerritt to lesser known but equally interesting individuals. The mission of the organization is to help people live more enjoyable, purposeful and contented lives. Srinivas also writes at Photo Credit: Julian Rod

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