I’m not going to get into a commentary about the good, the bad or the ugly of Lance. I see all three in his story. Since I didn’t walk in his shoes, I can’t rally judge. I’d like to say I wouldn’t have done what he’s done (the bad things that is). That said, the power of instinct is so strong, I can’t say for sure what I would have done in the same position. I don’t think any of us can, even though we all want to believe we are above becoming like him.
The Instincts Behind that Ego
Lance isn’t the only big ego to stray. Aside from the obvious political egos we see skewered in the media – just look at every Wall Street CEO. They took down our economy thanks to greed. Yet not one of the power egos has been put in jail. Nor have they been forced to return their 8 figure plus bonuses. And Wall Stree has nothing on our Silicon Valley big egos.
We all know a bully who swaggers and acts above our rules for integrity and decency. So where do those big egos come from?
Well, guess what? Big Ego can happen to any one of us in the right circumstances. Over confidence and bravado is part of our human programming. Scary huh? Here’s how…
1.Our mind programs make us over confident.
Cavemen needed that confidence to battle their beastly foes. Today, over confidence can be a great thing for entrepreneurs. We need that confidence to start a business or face a monster competitor. That over confidence works against us when it comes to setting our strategy or estimating our forecast.
We tend to be over confident of our own abilities – personally and in business. We’ll believe that our value is beyond compare – even if it isn’t. We’ll believe we can cheat and not be caught. It’s part of our human wiring.
We’ll also be over optimistic when it comes to everything from forecasting business revenues to projecting the costs of a project or deal. That over optimism also plays into our beliefs that we are “above it all.” Sound familiar?
2. We’re programmed to follow the herd.
Our minds send a pleasure response when we go along with the herd. When we stray away or voice an opposite opinion – we get an error message that causes discomfort – to push us back to the herd.
Hence the cry, “But everybody was doing it.” They were – whether it was 1990’s sports figures or 2000’s Wall Street bankers. That doesn’t make it right. But at the time, those ego-driven folks were being told by their mind that it was okay simply because the herd was doing it. Certainly those herds were a tiny segment of the overall population, but when in Rome….
3.We’re programmed to believe in False Consensus
We believe that others agree with us – even when they don’t. Confirmation bias sends us out seeking opinions and facts that only support our own beliefs. Biased analysis has us accept and seek out only the evidence to prove ourselves right, even as we ignore evidence to the contrary. Then there’s selective recall, where we only remember the events and evidence that prove or validate or opinions.
False consensus becomes extremely powerful for groups or teams when the leader/role model is extremely strong and/or dominant. That explains a lot of the ego-driven perspectives we see around us today.
Our Programs in Charge
I am NOT saying that folks like Lance, Barry, Bill Clinton or any of our numerous and public egos-gone-astray are guiltless. So please don’t go there. They are and should be held accountable for their offenses – if only by themselves.
I am saying that the power of our programs can easily lead any of us astray. Bit by bit, slowly and surely. We gradually step farther and farther from our values and integrity. Our programs and instincts trigger oh-so-subtle shifts that fuel our steady but sure drift off center.
You can see these same instincts at play every day on social media, demonstrated by the self-proclaimed gurus, the unrelenting plagiarists and the angry self-righteous commenters standing up for their status quo. Whether we want to admit it or not – the tendency is embedded in all of us.
I’m yet again reminded to not cast stones…
Tuesday we’ll chat about how to head off these instincts and keep ourselves entrenched in reality.