Ah, the ego. Gets a pretty bad rap, generally, doesn’t it?
But it’s not all bad. I mean, it does help us carve out a sense of self, and difference from others. Without it our little life-bearing celestial anomaly would be some sort of weird, boiler suit wearing, Coldplay worshiping, banal dystopia.
But on the other hand, most of humanity’s evil can be rooted back to an inflated ego and sense of entitlement. Like John Terry.
The ego becomes problematic when it makes you a precious little princess.
Getting wrapped up in your own self-confidence, convinced that you are smarter, more talented, more brilliant, and more deserving of recognition than those around you is an easy way to fuck up most things in your life. Relationships, for one. (Learned that the hard way.)
And it also does a pretty good job of hindering your ability to work effectively, too. Especially if your job is to be creative and pull ideas out of your arse. (Also learned that the hard way.)
I’ve struggled with keeping my ego in check for pretty much as long as I can remember. If you too are incredibly talented but inexplicably misunderstood, try and remember these three things, and you know — chill a little. Things will be alright.
You are not an artist.
This is commerce, not art. Remember that.
Ultimately, you are selling your talent, skill, and time in exchange for money. You are providing a service, and are answerable to a higher power. The givers of food, and payers of bills.
This is not an unrestrained display of artistic expression.
It’s about getting things sold, and persuading.
So it doesn’t matter how much you, your friends, peers, or parents like your ideas — the final word lies with your clients. If they say no, then sorry amigo, it’s a no.
Don’t take it personally; their opinion is just different to yours. And ultimately, their opinion is the one that really counts.
It’s not about you.
It’s about the work, obviously.
Producing the very best work you, and your team, possibly can. Criticism isn’t a personal attack, or an insult. It’s not a direct challenge to your creative integrity, or a questioning of your competence.
It’s the scrutiny of an idea. An abstract, removed, self-contained idea, that is its own entity and not an ineffable part of the fabric of your existence.
In short: you kind of need to get over yourself.
If you can’t distance yourself from your work and look at it objectively, it’s unlikely you’ll produce anything truly great. People will get bored of pandering to your prissy sensitivity, and you’ll ultimately self-impose a ceiling to your creativity through fear of negative evaluation.
Which quite nicely leads on to the next point…
Being wrong is fine.
Actually, scratch that. No ideas are ever wrong. They’re just not always right, either.
Producing brilliant creative work requires a willingness to take risks. To experiment, and explore the treacherous dark depths of uncharted territory in the pursuit of great ideas.
So, inevitably, some of the ideas you pitch just won’t land.
Which is fine, because they’ll point you to the ones that do.
Presenting ideas that don’t quite chime and getting those routes crossed off your list is an integral part of the creative process. I mean hell, when we’re floating around some initial thoughts when a brief comes in, some of the things I write are genuinely ludicrous. Like, complete nonsense.
But that’s fine. Because it’s part of the process that helps us produce our most considered, original work.
And remember: bar your colleagues, nobody will see the 99 pieces of crap you’ve produced to get to the one piece of gold. All the thinking and poorly constructed, half-baked-there-could-be-something-in-this ideas. The tweaking, iteration, and refinement. That all stays in the office.
But, they do act as the foundation for the great work that does make it above the line. That the rest of the world sees. The only work that will be ineffably linked with your name, and reputation.
So if you’re willing to allow your sense of self-perception and ego to control your mouth — get used to hovering around mediocre. And mediocre is a pretty crowded market.
Written by Tomas Coleman, founder of The 25 Mile Supper Club
DO Wales (7–10 July 2016) and DO USA (28–31 July 2016)
Register an interest for tickets here.
Photography: DO Wales by Jim Marsden