The Right Kind of Ego
When we direct our ego toward the good of the team and not self-glory, we become unstoppable and capable of the truly remarkable.
On a chilly November afternoon in 1986, the New Zealand “All Blacks” Rugby team arrived in Nantes, France, to take on the French national team at the Stade de la Beaujoire.
France was eager to avenge a previous loss, and beating the All Blacks at any cost was its sole objective. Buck Shelford, a 28-year-old unlikely star, was making his debut appearance for the “All Blacks” at the No. 8 position. A third-row forward, No. 8 controls and directs the forwards from behind. In a scrum, he may extract the ball from the back using his hands.
But in one of those piles, Shelford got kicked in the scrotum and was left with an open wound. He played on before noticing a puddle of blood, his thighs covered in red.
Worse, Shelford finally observed his one testicle was left hanging outside of its breach — causing the team doctor to remove him from the game and administer 16 stitches. Once everything was returned to its proper place, Shelford returned to the game.
Shelford’s mental and physical toughness that day became legendary. His willingness to do whatever was required for the good of the team made him a national hero, something he never sought or expected. His actions were purely for the love of the competition and his brothers, not for praise or glory.
We don’t have to mirror Shelford's somewhat reckless behavior from that day, but we can replicate his love of team and the right level of ego he displayed.
Ego is often the greatest obstacle to self-actualization. It can prevent us from seeing ourselves objectively, listening to feedback, and accepting responsibility for our mistakes. It frequently leads to the belief that we're always right, that we should not change, and that we are entitled to everything.
But when we direct our ego toward the good of the team and not self-glory, we can become unstoppable and capable of the truly remarkable, as Shelford was that day in France.
Ego is only a bad virtue when it stands alone in our minds — when our intentions are purely self-motivated. When we use it to fortify the team, it can become an integral part of success.
Next time someone accuses you of having too big of an ego, remind yourself to direct those powers toward the team's goals.
You might be surprised by the results.
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