Today is February 14 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you set aside your ego?” To navigate the chaos and practice the art of living well, it is important to consider the role of your ego. Ego is simply the Latin and ancient Greek word for “I.” Yes, of course, there are those who achieve success and have tremendous egos. They use “I” incessantly. In their writing, their speeches, and their interactions with others, it is always about them, and their ego. Today’s question and reflection though, challenges us to increase our self-awareness and ask: “do you want to be one of those people?” Have you encountered anyone like that in your life? What was your reaction? Has anyone ever told you that your ego was off-putting; that you were talking too much about yourself for an extended period of time?
On the role of ego author Eckhart Tolle wrote “I have met people who may be technically good at what they do but whose ego constantly sabotages their work. Only part of their attention is on the work they perform; the other part is on themselves. Their ego demands personal recognition and wastes energy in resentment if it doesn’t get enough — and it’s never enough. ‘Is someone else getting more recognition than me?’ Or their focus of attention is profit or power, and their work is no more than a means to that end. When work is no more than a means to an end, it cannot be of high quality.” One person who put his ego aside to conduct high quality work was Alex Trebek.
Trebek was a Canadian American game show host and television personality. He was the host of the syndicated game show Jeopardy! for 37 seasons from its revival in 1984 until his death in 2020. He would receive the Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Game Show Host seven times for his work on Jeopardy! He died on November 8, 2020 at age 80 after a nearly two-year battle with pancreatic cancer. Unlike many celebrities who conceal illness, Trebek was transparent about what he was going through. In a May 2019 interview on CBS’s Sunday Morning, he said “Sometimes the pain would shoot from a three to an 11. I taped the show, and then I made it to the dressing room on one occasion, just barely, before I writhed in pain and cried in pain.”
In March 2020, he gave a one-year video update on his status, noting that just 18 percent of people with pancreatic cancer live that long. “There were moments of great pain, days when certain bodily functions no longer functioned and sudden, massive attacks of great depression that made me wonder if it really was worth fighting on. But to give up would have been to betray loved ones who were helping me survive.”
Reflecting on his 37 seasons with Jeopardy! and his role as host, Trebek said “You have to set your ego aside. If you want to be a good host, you have to figure out a way to get the contestants to-as in the old television commercial about the military-‘be all you can be.’ Because if they do well, the show does well. And if the show does well, by association, I do well.”
To assess your sense of ego, choose between A and B. You can use the time-period of last week as a guide. For example, during the last week you thought “me” more than “we.”
How many B responses did you have? If you have more than 12 you actively cultivated your awakened self; if you had between 6 and 11 you occasionally cultivated an awakened self; and if you had less than 5 you can ask yourself the following question “do I want to set aside my ego and cultivate a more awakened self during the next _____ (pick your time frame)?”