The most radical, pervasive, and earth-shaking transformation would occur simply if everybody truly evolved to a mature, rational, and responsible ego, capable of freely participating in the open exchange of mutual self-esteem. There is the ‘edge of history.’ There would be a real New Age. – Ken Wilber –
It’s a gorgeous Spring Saturday in 1997…
I’m out in Central Park as the mid-afternoon sun-beams down on me and my personal-training client, Sam. I’m dressed for action. Sneakers, black tights, a t-Shirt and a cap. I’ve just finished running 6-miles with Sam and now I’m busy guiding him through a fierce bout of core work on a corner patch of the Sheep’s Meadow. We’re both having the time our lives.
Well, actually, he’s hating my guts in a loving, slightly masochistic way.
And then, it happens.
Strolling slowly by, a woman glances over and then double-takes. It’s a former colleague. A seventh-year associate at the firm where, days ago, I was an attorney. Needing confirmation, she ambles over dressed to the casual-weekend nines. I imagine what’s going through her mind.
“What a shame.”
My spirit crashes. I’m mortified. Ego obliterated.
Only the judgment isn’t coming from her, but from me.
Fact is, even though I loved my new life after leaving the law, it look me years to fully morn the loss of power and prestige that accompanied my former life. In fact, well into owning my first fitness-center, I still introduced myself as a fitness-entrepreneur and former big-firm securities lawyer and often dreaded running into people from my past professional life.
Getting over this perceived hit to my societal status and ego, though, wasn’t so much about time as it was about attitude.
As I began to succeed in the lifestyle business, more and more of my former friends and colleagues took an interest in the path I was creating.
Rather than asking “why,” they began asking “how.”
And that made me feel great.
But, until I truly took a step back and began to reflect regularly on what mattered to me most in life, I couldn’t get completely comfortable with the path I had chosen.
There’s no doubt, even though I consider myself a very giving and compassionate person, I am still human and have a very real ego, so attaining some level of outward success and recognition helped. And receiving notes, e-mails and letters from people all over the world whose lives have, in some way, been touched by the actions I’ve taken, businesses I created or words I’ve shared makes me feel great.
Do these reminders help keep me doing what I’m doing? Sure.
But, they are the icing, not the cake.
Some 800 years ago, physician to the sultan of Egypt and rabbinical scholar Moses ben Maimonades or Rambam as he was known, laid out a description of the levels of giving and their relative merit. This came to be known as Rambam’s ladder and the top rung on that ladder was giving anonymously without desire for recognition or thanks.
I am a believer in Rambam’s Ladder and actually have felt the purest sense of fulfillment in giving, even the smallest things, without recognition. Because, in the end, adulation is nice, but it just doesn’t get you all the way there.
So, where does that resolve come from?
Where do we find the ability to weather the raised eyebrows and perceived loss of status? Three words.
Strength – In – Meaning.
The more strongly what I do resonates with who I am, the more able I am to look at and be in the world with a sense of purpose, self-assured radiance that somehow tells me and those around me I am doing what I am here to do and there’s no greater professional grace than that.
It buffers you from those would detract from that journey. It’s not a complete solution…but, man does it help!
So, I’m curious, ever experience anything similar?
How’d you handle it?
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