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.

Comments (30)

  1. Wow, Otis. Your article really spoke to our condition. We think of that ego negotiation process as ‘getting real.’ And it does get your dream to (a kind of) reality. Much, much better than spending the rest of one’s life in coulda-shoulda musings!

  2. Yeah, thanks being willing to be vulnerable and share with the rest of us.  I’ve used other methods for working through challenges like asking tense parts of my body what they need to relax. I really like the ego negotiation process.  The negotiation seems key.  And I can’t wait to see how your juggling develops. 🙂

  3. You make my heart happy. I received this at the exact moment I needed it. Thank you for sharing your journey. I’m going to negotiate with myself right now. Sending you love.

  4. Nice to see you unfold the process of your art. Bit like is going on in Cardiff in a forthcoming performance arts conference there. As for the actual show for me it was technically good, but I found the popping and faces more interesting and would like to see more of those clowning elements brought in to make it interesting. At the moments its tools or aspects and not quite a performance. I think of billy connelley and how he started with the humblebums and then became a stand up only with no banjo playing. I think this act could do some of that. I think its hard to do on your own, and you really need feedback from other performers, street artists, clowns etc.

  5. Thanks Otis! ♥ Here is a poem for everybody: Mission is possible
    Everything seems at the end, but it is just a new beginning!
    Old rails are still trying to keep you on their path
    while new roads are spreading before you already.
    Trust your truth and don´t hold it back!
    Feel your mission and follow it boldly!
    Do not act against your Self and you will be happy.

  6. I love this! Beautiful and simple explanation of how to work with our real resistances to come out the other end where both sides are happy: ego and higher self. Just learning that both are equals has been a process for me in and of itself but now that I know that and respect that I can certainly use your process of ego negotiation…it makes those dreams not seem so impossible. Beautiful share! Happy travels…within and without!

  7. Amazing Dinkleberry - Reply

    Amazing Dinkleberry here aka Queen RA  I just love you sooooooooo much yes if we stay in are heads -wow- I am here in New York City- UNION SQUARE would love you!  come see us sometime and perform in the parks and streets here!  We love you!

  8.  Righto, so watching the video through and something jumps out at me, something which when I was told it made me go: “Oooooh, now I get it”.

    See you’re a dancer, no doubt at all about that but when you pick up the props you start thinking like a juggler and right now that’s causing the two disciplines to work against each other. What I mean is, a bit of dance detracts from the juggling then vice-versa.

    Thinking like a juggler: You’ve got some good technical moves and you’ve linked them together in a good logical way for a routine, but it’s trick then trick then trick. Think about when you started popping and it was trick then trick then trick, because you thought it was the tricks that people wanted to see.

    Start thinking dance with the props! Grab a contact stage ball and dance with it, all those days you’ve spent on isolation drills accidentally turned you into a bad-ass contact juggler without you realising it:

    http://youtu.be/5hdyoCjXRcI – About 3 minutes in, Ed gets a ball and does just that.

    So yeah isolation becomes a huge part of this, the ball is just another thing you isolate, a new point for you to play with, can this apply to 3b?

    http://juggling.tv/2978 – Komei Aoki, watch the whole damn thing. Ignore the fact that his skill level is through the roof and watch how he dances with the props. Komei gets it.

    So yeah, the technical aspect is super important but let yourself play more, explore the musicality with the props, and think “would this routine look good with out any props?”

    http://youtu.be/aKBKdKLGyPE Stefan is the boss

    Good luck, hope that came across as helpful


    •  In parenthesis I should add that the reason that I wanted to write a reply is because I got a hell of a lot from your tutorials and now you are moving into an area I’m super passionate about. If in the next month (before the 19th Sept.) you find yourself in Québec let me know and we can share some brain ideas.

    • Hey man! A few things! First off, I have all your contact videos downloaded onto my iPhone so it’s a real honor to have you replying and watching my progress!
      Second, thanks! Stefan is definitely (along with Kyle) my biggest inspiration so I really have that direction in mind. I really like your ideas of just thinking about how things would look w/ no props.
      And third, I hope I would be so honored to keep getting feedback from you as this whole journey evolves. I feel like a baby and that it’s a long exciting road ahead of me. It feels really great to have such a good teacher and director along the way!

  9. wow, such an incredible article. feels so synchronistic for me. i can really relate to you and i think so many other people can as well. keep doing what you are doing because i think it is pretty amazing and i can’t wait to see where you take your life. much love to you man.

  10. Hi Otis. Jackie here. What I love about your street performance is that you are doing it for your pleasure and feeling tickled yourself.  It’s saying, what do I have to offer and not what do you want from me. Now where I am in the process, feels more like learning not to hide. My dream has been shifting and is not completely clear at the moment. As I settle in to where I am, glimpses come of healing the compression and flowing into the joy that’s inside of me. Keep performing and writing. It helps us all.  I send Love.

  11. Yes Man! Big up Otis! Sorry I missed ya in the Bay. You are inspiring and encouraging. Making some big career changes and love to keep hearing about your journey. Much love.

  12. Well that was cool … Thanks for sharing…. I am also experiencing such parallel experiences…. Hurrrah, artlovelight ALL

  13. I really like the new found confidence in the approach you take on your journey. is both childish and wise.

    “Childish” as in old paradigm speak, “get real! a guy your age shouldn’t be asking for basic food and shelter and thinks its heroic. You should be asking for bigger things.”

    “Wise” as in NEW REALITY terms, what I say is real is real. I create my reality totally. I don’t want those “bigger things” others thinks is right. I want whatever I want and that’s the real get real!”

  14. There lies the difference between following your heart and following your brain. Confidence is a very good sign that you’re following your heart.

    Bravo! Galactic Activator! God be with you as you lila in all of creation!

  15. Otis, loved the latest newsletter that popped into my in-box today. I was laughing and nodding so much during that first part where you talk about the ego getting beaten out of you through repetition, smiles. Sooo recognizable. I’ve had to learn how to ‘plan’ literally minute by minute and oh la la, that journey threw me for a loop! Having no control, no place to call ‘home’ etc. etc. yes, it’s been quite a journey. Such miracles along the way, such Grace actually and so many moments when i fought it tooth and nail, judging myself a complete ‘loser’ lol when i simultaneously have a knowing that only a cosmic rock star could possibly experience or undertake such a journey, smiles. And onwards we go! Thanks again! x

  16. Wow, what a great and inspiring email from you Otie! Thanks so much! It was just what I needed exactly at the moment I needed it! Your words and experience totally resonates with me. I lost my house two years ago where I hosted your lovely wife a few years back in Ojai. Since then,  I have been traveling and living on faith and though I know I am doing just that, I still find myself every day saying “I can’t believe it!”. I do feel I understand the
    experience you’ve had and it’s so good to have my own very similar experiences and feelings affirmed. My biggest difficulty has been in my expectations and desire for people to understand how and why it is I am living my life the way I am. I am an Energy Medicine Therapist working with people’s intentions where and as I find them, using color, light, sound and breath. I am choosing to evolve by choice and not by chance and so I am always looking for ways to co-create with others where all involved are simultaneously both giving and receiving. I have bumped up against so many peoples fears (false evidence appearing real) and have learned first hand that there is more love and light in this world then I ever imagined possible!  I want to send those people your message today and tell them this is what I too want to say! I’m am going to commit to write now as I continue on this path. Hearing from you today has really helped me see how good it will be to share my journey, not only for myself but for others like me. I have learned that basically people are good and can be trusted and more importantly that I can trust myself! I am so committed to the infinite power of the light and to living it, knowing that it
    is who and what we all are!  So Much Love!

  17. Commander Funkmeyer - Reply

    Great post, very inspiring 
    I resonate with it on so many levels. As a person of a similar Karmic path I can say it has been a very matching journey for me lately. I find myself living in a foreign country, teaching adults and children my own language while trying to learn thiers to a functioning level of proficiency. I am living with my lover for the first time and we are finding our balance as a household. I have had to let go of most of my functioning relationships (social capitol), nearly all of my possesions (artistic capitol), the ways I am used to making money (monetta) and my mental picture of who and what I am.
    The biggest thing I am realizing is that like you said when I am following my ideas and mental guesses as to where to go and what to do I am a lost puppy. But when I let go and respond to the things life is offering to me I am being given the keys to my success at every moment. In fact amazing things I could have barely imagined possible are a commonplace experience.
    I have also noticed lately  that it is sometimes very difficult for me to express my desires to the people closest to me while I often have no problem telling perfect strangers all of my thoughts and feelings. I notice my fear of hurting the feelings of those I care about is at an all-time high (a sharp contrast to my former self who was much more concerned about being authentic at all moments). But then realizing this is also bringing about a radical kind of need for honesty which has never really been present for me.Not having enough money is a core fear, even though I have lots of it compared to normally, it is still a driving force in my behavior. yet as I say that I have more jobs being offered to me than I have ever, and most of them pay better than what I am used to making for the same ammount of effort (and much more mental effort than physical effort).Who am I? I really don’t know. That’s empowerment for me. I am so many things I did not realize I could be. I have been hacking using linux (something like riding a bike that’s been in my backyard my whole life), I have been cooking so many good things I’ve never even thought of before, I have a fully mobile recording studio I have literally owned for years and never bothered to use/ discover was present. I am parenting for other peoples children. I am also discovering how much I like to be alone, which was once an unbearble bain.Still my core of personal interests remains fixed in creating music and writing poetry, but it’s position has shifted into being something I am doing for others, perhaps a high mode of service, which must contend with many others….You are inspiring! thanks for sharing your trip, and for asking us to share ours.Namaste

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