The guy I used to carpool with back when we were young cost engineers, he’s now a manager and more power to him: he works hard, his people respect him, and his bosses trust him. This is less about him than it is about me, as usual: I like to tell myself that he’s made choices that I don’t think I would or could to get to where he is now but I know that’s just an excuse in my mind. That’s my ego telling me that I’m still better, or, bluntly, that I’m never wrong. How else could I explain it? Then I remember how hard he’s workked and the sacrifices he’s made and it’s not so easy to judge him. More successful? Undoubtedly. I remember how he used to fight tooth-and-nail for our raises, and I benefitted more from his tenacity than my passivity.
There’s a difference, I think, between pride and ego; if you assume pride to be constructive (take pride in your work) then I’ll call ego something more pejorative it’s that impulse that tells you hey, you did this so it’s more than good enough. It’s the overwhelming assumption that you’re right. It’s the part of you that refuses to back down from a losing argument, it’s the prickly beast inside that wounds easily and recovers slowly. I have a lot of pride but I also have a ton of ego which over the years I’ve confused with pride via the same definitions above.
There’s a board at work with all kinds of slogans that people have come up with over the past few months working on this project. One of my favorites so far is “If you’re in deep $h!+ it’s best to keep your mouth shut.” I want to add something along the lines of “Check your baggage at the door: we don’t have room for you and your ego here.” I’ve been proven time and time again that that’s true; this particular project is so much bigger than me or even my overinflated head that the benefit of working on it has been less in the skills and contacts I’ve made (though those have been valuable/invaluable, too) as it is the deflating sense of self I feel when walking in that door and understanding where I am.