The power of disagreement

Being in disagreement sucks. Not only is it a sure way of ensuring you defocus from what you should ideally be working on. It also can be completely draining of energy. And depending on how the disagreement plays out, it can be downright nasty and make you want to head for the exit.

But there is actually real power in disagreement. If you are able to unleash it.

When we violently disagree on something, it is an opportunity to broaden our own horizons and get creative about new ways of looking at the world and new solutions to existing problems.

Looked at it that way being in disagreement can be the biggest catalyst of positive change in your team and your business. It can provide that ‘Heu-re-ka’ moment you all need to move on in a better direction.

But it requires something. It requires removing your ego from the equation and not be tempted to view disagreement as a personal matter that has more to do with you as a person and your relationship(s) with the one(s) critiquing you. If you fall in that trap, you’re immediately on the slide towards the dark side.

Instead you should be asking yourself: “What can I learn from this?” and “Where’s the bigger and important point in what the other one is arguing?” and then work onwards from that.

Now, in fairness, it’s super hard to do. Especially if you have great pride and integrity, and you’re passionate about what you work with. That sets you up pretty well for taking a slap to the face very personal.

But try to steer clear of it and focus on the opportunity. It will most likely be way better for your business, your team, your relationships with team members. And yourself, of course.

(Photo by Afif Kusuma on Unsplash)

Your ego is (literally) killing you

Alex Danco wrote a stellar blog post a couple of weeks ago about the Freud moment of the Covid-19 pandemic seen from an American perspective.

In it he argues that the reason why the US is struggling so much with the pandemic is because doing all the right things to stem it has been positioned as helping other people, which goes against the very ego driven US culture.

I really think that is a profound insight. But it lacks a further perspective;

While the short term problem is that people won’t use masks to help others that very behaviour comes with two risks:

(1) By not using a mask, you risk becoming infected as well. Which may – worst case – be fatal to you and – by extension – your ego.

(2) By not helping others and playing your part in battling the pandemic, you’re making yourself substantially worse off longer term, as you’re effectively destroying your own future.

Why is that?

Because basically you’re assisting the crisis in becoming a lot worse before it gets better. Meaning that while it rages out (if it ever does), you’re losing business, opportunities, sales, partnerships – a livelihood.

You’re not necessarily killing yourself (and your ego). But you’re making both substantially worse off in the longer term by not taking a time out to help NOW.

Why is this important?

Because it shows the perils of (a) being controlled by your ego every second and (b) not thinking ahead a bit.

The last point is one of the great, great challenges, we have as a human species;

We’re so used to thinking and acting short term – from moment to moment – that in the pursuit of instant gratification and a win here-and-now, we’re sacrificing a better, more productive and more profitable outcome later on.

Without even thinking.

Should we really congratulate each other on having stepped back in evolution to the level of other self-absorbed non-reflecting mammals?

Or should we use our unique skills to show that we’re better than that?


Ego eats impact

You either love life or you are afraid to die.

That’s how a Danish politician tried to frame the peoples response to Covid-19 on Twitter yesterday.

Naturally, it is both a false, primitive and superficial way of putting it.

I could just as well say that there are those that are full of themselves and only care about what’s good for themselves – and then there are those who think about others and want to look after each other. And I would be equally right. Or not.

It got me thinking though. About what kind of personality it takes to build and grow something for the benefit of others; a startup that can truly get to a point where it delivers the maximum impact.

Can someone obsessed with ego do that? You could argue, yes. History is full of them: Steve Jobs of course comes to mind. Maybe our own Jesper Buch too. But are they the norm, or are they truly outliers?

I ask because I don’t know. But I am both fascinated and curious about it.

My logic would assume that in order to truly due something for others and have the opportunity to create real impact, you need to be able to put your own needs and wants to the back of the cue.

Exceed for the need to do something good for others, of course. Call it having a vision, if you will.

I see a lot of talented people in the startup community struggle and (sometimes) fail, because they are more obsessed with living the startup ‘dream’ than they are with putting the needs of others – their customers – first.

It remains a recurring theme and one of the primary reasons why so many startups end up failing.

And it is just a crying shame, if your ego and inability to serve others before yourself end up being the thing that kills you.