Always Off

I recently watched an amazing video on Wim Hof, courtesy of my friend JP Bourtin. In it I was amazed and entranced by Wim’s charisma and daring. His brash simplicity was almost as refreshing as the subzero temperatures in which he tested his methods. He was so clear about his goal! I started feeling self-conscious. And then I watched this video of him. He is way off his game in this setting. He stutters, lacks clarity, feels small and a bit awkward. He still does something impressive but his introduction wreaks of “Kooky”.

It reminded me of another one of these I have seen, Elon Musk presented his “Power wall” for the first time and I was floored. He did an amazing job making large ideas seem attainable, he brought a distant vision close and then just offered a beautifully designed product. Or was it the solution? Again, my pride shuttered in the face of this accomplished orator and leader. “He deserves his riches,” I thought. Then I watched his presentation of the model 3. Such a different story. His talk is stuttered, the idea remained somewhat clear, but his confidence fumbled over words and dropped lines.

Think about the millions of hours of FAIL videos, the little suggestions on the corner of your youtube profile that read, “News reporter messes up big on live television!”

People tank.

And, we love it.

I have been doing some cogitating on two main principles recently, one of them being Courage. The other is Pride and the Ego. I think that maturity in one of these begets its fruit in the other. Pride is this bloated part of our Self. It draws attention constantly in a ditch attempt to satisfy. But it craves infinity. It gets a dose, and then needs more. Notice that in the accounts above, I immediately began comparing myself to these “winners” and feeling deflated in my pride bubble. Then they flubbed up, and I felt better. My pride said, “Well, at least I know they are human too.”

That thought could accomplish 2 things. First, it could bring them down to my level. I could use this to deflate their ego in my own eyes and then we have an imaginary party together down in the mirky depths of self pity. Or, secondly, it could reveal a hidden truth. That people are just people, and that’s a great thing. I think the latter is where I want to live. Maybe in that moment my ego lacks some of its thump and I can just live outwardly, empathetic to the cause that each and every one of face. The cause of peopleness.

I genuinely think that we work very hard to see ourselves far outside the boundaries of the human existence. I love to visualize myself as some ideal super-human in a utopian future and then beat myself into an aggressive trot towards that goal. I want to be the best. I want people to praise me for being the best. Then I want to just say there, at the top, glowering over everyone else who is inferior. I think I felt how truly impossible and ugly that is when I read this article about Conor McGregor. The guy is so puffed up, aggressive, and yet so childish and immature. He has reached a pinnacle, but for all of his boisterous boasting, you can see straight through to the fear that, at any moment, it could end. He get’s knocked out and forgotten. Guess what, that will happen. The “Top” is an elusive and deceiving mistress who seduces us at every flicker of a pixel. She looks so warm and inviting, satisfying, naked, consumable. But the moment we lay our hands on her, she vanishes like a mist. Success is a spectre. A gorgeous Spectre. That is all.

So just give up?

No way. We are, by design, pursuers. We hunt, we gather, we grow. We need a goal to accomplish and we would founder without one. So what’s an alternative?



Breathe that in for a minute. Let those two words roll over you like a wave of the cleanest, freshest water you can imagine.

One of these is less attractive than the other, but they are so entwined that you can’t separate them. We long for relationship. That’s why we chase our egotistical imaginings. We just want to know that people care about us, that we are loved, that we have a place in this world. We derive a lot of meaning from how we are viewed. But we have a competitive approach to relationship, and the last time I looked, a client never called me to thank me for beating them. Or winning. Or using them. They thank me for serving them really well.

When we care for people, we plant a massive truckload of fertilizer in which to grow relationships. So often people feel “Competed over” in the marketplace and that is not a warm and fuzzy feeling. It’s like having parents get in a fist fight over who gets to take you to the park. Suddenly the park seems like a terrible idea and no fun at all. That’s traditional marketing for you. “Compete to win business”. And somehow it is so well-dressed and just out of reach that we cater to it. But a mind for service and relationships cuts through that stuff like a hot knife through butter. Even frail attempts give people a massive competitive advantage. Look at BMW’s warranty. That feels just service-minded enough that we flock to them. It has a taste of, “I just want to take care of you and make your car-life simpler.”

Imagine if someone baked an honest dish out of this. I mean a real chunky roast beef of, “I will do whatever it takes on this green earth to make sure you are served well, and I want to know you personally as an individual as a result.”

That would be a game-changer indeed.

But that takes courage. 
My first concept. 
I have defined it as:

The unhindered pursuit of something that absolutely terrifies you solely for the sake of someone other than yourself.

Yep. You can’t have too much concern for yourself in a service-driven business at this level. Not to say you can’t serve people well by not pandering to their whims. That’s not real service. But by being genuinely gracious toward the other human being in the room, you lose your sense of self aggrandizement and ego.

It’s an idealistic world. I don’t think it can really exist on this earth in the way I have portrayed it here. But what if we made it our goal? What if, instead of pursuing the ego with lusty vigor, we pursued relationship by serving well? What might be the result? Maybe you could actually enjoy success more fully? Maybe there would actually be some satisfaction in your work? Maybe the success metrics begin to change?

Get off your ego game, you can’t always be your “ideal self” as you see it. Our pride would picture us always as something perfect, super-human and spectacular, but that’s just not the case. We are human beings, perfected in our flaws and deeply inconsistent. Accept it. Enjoy it.

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