On Ego Negotiation
We begin with a quote. This quote greets me every morning as I unlock my phone as a reminder. The quote is from Elon Musk, founder of Paypal, Tesla, and SpaceX. It is in reference to the fact that the first 3 of SpaceX’s rocket launches exploded. Musk personally lost $200 million in those explosions. And it goes a little somethin’ like this, kick it:
“Optimism, Pessimism, fuck that; we’re going to make it happen. As God is my bloody witness, I’m hell-bent on making it work.”
That’s how I feel. I hope and pray that all goes well but I don’t really care, deep down. If everything goes to hell, I will continue. If I become bloody and battered, I will continue. If I lose limbs, I will continue.
When following one’s heart and dreams, it seems you often find yourself between a rock and a hard place. You are terrified of moving forward, yet unable to retreat. How best to proceed? That is the subject of our newsletter this month. Walking through the gates of hell (aka your hopes and dreams) while remaining calm, sanguine, or as Goenka would say, equanimous.
This is an incredibly valuable skill in a dreamer’s day-to-day life, as the path is often murky and self-made. How do you measure progress? How do you make sure that you are on the right path? What is the next step?
And so we come to the technique of ego negotiation. Ego negotiation is a visualization process where a literal negotiation is arranged between your ego, or personality, and your higher self, or soul.
As a dreamer, it is generally your higher self that is doing the dreaming and the ego that has to live out the dream in physical reality. The higher self isn’t really afraid of going out and street performing because you know, whatevs, while the ego for whatever reasons might find this a pretty scary thing to do.
Oftentimes, what will happen is that a dream will land in a dreamer’s consciousness and then the dreamer will find themselves unable to actually go for it–unable to live out the dream in reality. It remains a dream. Some dreamers turn to substances to suppress the fear and pain, some dreamers give up on their dream and become shells of themselves, while other dreamers come up with endless rationalizations about how other people have done them wrong or how now is not the time for the dream to be put into action.
For us dreamers intent on actually living the dream, we are vulnerable and naked, face to face with the monumental task of becoming what we dream of being. Lacking tools like ego negotiation, we often beat ourselves up, repeating an inner dialogue that consists of “you’re so stupid why can’t you do that you suck no wonder you have problems no wonder other people are better off than you you can’t even do this basic thing i wish i was dead” and endless variations of the above.
Meanwhile, this negative inner dialogue does nothing to actually move forward the process. Having someone yelling at us doesn’t make us actually do things most of the time. If it does, it is often short-lived. And for dreamers like us, we are going for big dreams–the kind of dreams we can imagine dreaming for many decades into the future. We need a sustainable way to keep moving forward, day after day, year after year.
And ego negotiation is it.
What we need is to get the ego on board in our dream-living. The ego is scared. We need to listen to it, treat it as an equal and valid member of our team. We need to cease belittling its fears and deal with it on its terms. When we don’t do this, it will sabotage our efforts. When we do do this, we can move forward smoothly, calmly, sustainably.
An example of ego negotiation
I will walk you through the ego negotiation that I did around street performing. It should be illustrative of how the process works.
When I began street performing, I came up with a show. It was very rough–as my shows generally have been throughout my life–and I just went out and did it. After going out one time and bombing, I really just couldn’t do it again. I was sick of sucking. I was overcome with feelings that I had to do something differently.
I began a process of ego negotiation. I sat there and closed my eyes. I pictured a board room with a large wooden table. On either side of the table sat one person: my ego and my higher self. My higher self has the feeling of a salesman. He is always excited and ready to go. He wanted to go out and street perform again. Just perform through the pain. On the other side sat the ego. The ego had a reticent look–wary of this whole thing and especially of the salesman sitting across from him.
The negotiation began. My ego said under no terms will I go out again while sucking. The higher self said, ok, I can deal with that. What do you want then? The ego thought for a while and then replied, I will go out and begin street performing again after I have completed the routine flawlessly 3 times in a row during practice. The higher self thought briefly and said, do we have a deal? Yes. Yes. They shook hands and the process was completed.
Getting Down to Business
I then eagerly began the process of perfecting the routine. This predictably took way longer than expected. There were times when the whole thing was incredibly frustrating. I felt like a joke. Still just talking about street performing after all these years. But I continued. I felt good, I practiced. I felt bad, I practiced. Everyday, I practiced. I mean, what the hell else do I have going on in my life anyway!??!
And then one day, weeks later, on a very uneventful Sunday night practice session, I did it. 3 times in a row. And the process finished.
And I began street performing.
Why This is Such a Big Deal For You and For Me
I have spent so many years agonizing over things. Pushing myself, prodding myself, trying to get over the hump. I have never let myself just take the time to do the ego negotiation process and actually just do what the ego asked. In retrospect, the request was incredibly reasonable. I mean, who wants to go out in public and suck. It’s a much much better feeling going out there knowing that what I have is good. Even if I mess up, I look at that as a temporary blip, rather than a monumental disgrace.
At the end of the day, the process worked. I am now street performing, by myself, doing my show. It has taken me somewhere between 4 and 6 years to get to this point and I can honestly say that ego negotiation was the key that unlocked the whole process.
The beauty, for you, is that you can use this process on any dream. The thing about dreams is that they usually feel overwhelming to the dreamer. They involve having a life that is outside of our current ideas about who we can be. Taking even a single step in the direction of the dream often brings up feelings like:
- Who am I kidding?
- I’m too old.
- This is stupid.
- I’ll never make it.
- I don’t know the right people.
- I don’t have enough money.
- I don’t have the required skills.
Ego negotiation is like a medicinal salve to heal these feelings. It is the ego that is bringing up these ideas. If, rather than just going for it, you take some time and consult it, ask what it needs, you can get it on your side. And really listen to it. It might ask for therapy, or lessons, or it might ask you to work for a while and save up X amount of money. It might ask for time. A lot of time! I promise, being someone who has been on the path of this particular dream and has failed over and over again for years, the amount of time it’s asking for is less time than it will take in any other way.
Surrender to the Process
The main reason we avoid a process like this is exactly the reasons written above. We may have to do a lot more than we thought to live our dream or spend a lot more time in the process than we really wanted.
But that’s because of the nature of dreams.
I mean, why do we have dreams anyway? Is it just so we can get rich and famous and explore the world? Is it really just to save the children? No, no no. The real reason we have dreams is that in the act of living our dreams, we become the person we are destined to become. In the act of perfecting my routine, I had to work with so many useful qualities: persistence, humility, patience, dedication, detachment. The dream was just a tool, a way to get me to go through these processes that I might have otherwise avoided for my entire life.
Enough of my Spiel, Here’s the Footage
So I am street performing. And that’s what’s important. I am living my dream. It’s every bit as good as I hoped. However, my excitement is slightly tempered, my enthusiasm slightly curbed. I see that this is a long road ahead of me toward mastery, toward greatness. There will likely be bumps in the road whose quantity and size I can hardly even imagine right now. What is important is not how great I am or even how fast I’m progressing, but rather that I’m putting one foot in front of the other each day, getting a little better, a little better, learning a little more, a little more, becoming who I am destined to be, destined to be.
I so very much love you. I so very much bless you that you live the dream, become the person that you are destined to become.