Ego. It seems to have more negative connotations than positive. Yet I believe ego, like many things, exists on a spectrum and there is a Goldilocks zone: not too little, not too much.

In Support of Reducing Ego

  • If you’ve had the good fortune to experience a moment of ego death - whether in deep meditation, a psychedelic journey or a spontaneous flow state - you would most likely describe the feeling as blissful, divine and overflowing with love. It’s almost always described as a “good thing”. It’s a state sought by all spiritual traditions. A moment of true “reality” as it exists undistorted by the machinations of our minds.
  • A world where everyone is completely de-identified with ego is a world of loving compassionate acceptance of all that is, as it is. No wars. No conflicts. No “I win, you lose.” Happiness. Peace.

In Support of Increasing Ego

  • And yet ego is required for an individual to cause change in the world, or indeed to do anything much at all beyond sitting in awakened realization. For an entrepreneur to maniacally pursue a startup, against unreasonable odds, to change the lives and beliefs of others, maybe even the entire world, requires a tremendous amount of ego. At minimum she must believe that she exists. But even more she must believe that this self that she identifies with has the ability to bend the world according to its will1.
  • A world were everyone is completely de-identified with the ego would probably not be a world where people build rockets, cars, smart phones, the internet, houses, roads, axes, spears, and the many technologies that have significantly increased our quality of life.

Balancing the Pendulum

  • Too much ego is detrimental. It leads to suffering both internally and inflicted on others. But this doesn’t mean we should optimize for the opposite end of the spectrum. The pendulum needs to come to rest somewhere in the middle. A judicious use of the appropriate amount of ego as demanded by the present moment.

A Thought on Legacy

  • An over-identification with ego leads successful people to obsess over creating something that outlives them, leaving a legacy. Legacy is a disease of the ego. Nothing we create will last forever. No one we love will live forever. At some point everything you’ve done and everyone you know will be forgotten. Use this as motivation to live, create and love fully in this moment now, as a goal in and of itself, and not as a means for your ego to survive beyond your inevitable death.
  1. A discussion of free will and the source of the impulse to take those actions is reserved for another time.