They called me into a small conference room and closed the door. There I sat with the agency founders and a senior team member. It was there I learned the destructive power of the ego.
For the next hour I was lectured on not being a team player. I failed them by not backing a strategy and concept I didn't believe best served the customer. Instead, the rest of the team had pursued an alternate strategy and platform we thought better served the customer and their values. But because the research we offered up didn't support their initial idea, we were "bullies" creating an us vs. them mentality.
I was caught off-guard by their egos. I explained that I didn't own the other idea and it wasn't us vs. them because it was all of us together serving the customer. I was told I was lying to myself because everyone owns their ideas. I sat there frustrated, confused and crying for another half hour while they kept talking.
Most people don't understand that ideas aren't owned. Once an idea leaves someone's head, it's the world's to take and shape and grow. Good ideas evolve because they add value to the world. Not all ideas do that, and that's okay. Ideas aren't meant to serve the originator. They are meant to serve the universe.
Many marketing firms and ad agencies fail their clients because of ego. Everyone thinks their ideas are best because they know best – they have the most experience or the best education or have won the most awards. The reality is that good ideas come from anywhere and being attached to your idea means you are serving yourself and your interests instead of the customers'. Understanding the value of new perspectives and ideas allows you to do better work. After all, marketing is about serving clients by serving their customers. It's not about who has the best idea or the best solution.
It was this uncomfortable moment in a tiny conference room with three very experienced, highly-qualified people where I learned that ego and happiness don't go together. When you are serving an ego, not only will you be unhappy but you are creating an unhappy environment for everyone around you.
Egos are self-serving and happiness is not. Happiness serves everyone in a way no ego ever could.
The world needs more ideas. Ideas that address global issues. Ideas that rebuild neighborhoods. Ideas that feed the hungry and shelter the homeless. Ideas that lift us all up and bring us together. The world need a million more ideas. But the world need doesn't need anymore egos.
***This uncomfortable moment happened awhile back in my career. But I know moments like this happen everyday in agencies across the nation. The point is that ego doesn’t belong in marketing or in any other industry because egos are self-serving. Happiness comes from serving others.