When Sparks are Ignored: Egotism

One of the greatest pleasures for a Spark is to reside in the brain of a human who has what people like to call a “small ego” – someone who thinks of themselves more as a part of something larger than as an individual. When a person with a small ego has an idea they are likely to attribute it to something outside of themselves (something they plucked out of the air as it was floating past). People like that are usually very receptive to the ideas of Sparks, and they often go on to become very successful people.

The trouble is that the size of a person’s ego can change, and in most cases when a person is successful their ego grows and before they know it their ego has well and truly taken over. They no longer think of themselves as part of something bigger, but think only of themselves. An egotist thinks that any ideas they have had were entirely their own creation – they not only start ignoring their Spark, they start denying it even exists. So, you can see why they might find that their Spark decides to leave them.

This is a common story – lived out by artists, business people and revolutionary leaders-turned dictators. At the start they recognize their small part in the world and long to do their best or something “good”. A Spark tunes into their longing and joins them and the ideas and energy start flowing. Then the person starts doing something well. If this is recognized it leads to success and then praise, which are both good fertilizer for growing egos. Then, just when the person has grown an enormous ego and the world is watching and waiting for them to perform, they lose their Spark.

You can imagine the feelings of helplessness that develop in this situation. Rage often follows. Then comes the decline, which usually includes humiliating attempts to cling to fame and/or power. Lies and murder are possible. The egotist watches their friends and supporters fleeing. You can imagine the loneliness and feeling of betrayal. Finally they are alone, and not part of anything anymore. As a final blow to the ego, the person may find that history remembers them for their desperate acts in the dying days of their power rather than for their initial good deeds and intentions.

The pattern of success driven ego growth followed by decline can happen on other scales too. It is a common cause of project failure because when egos take over people place more importance on getting things done in “their” way than on the success of a project and spend time arguing over unimportant details instead of cooperating. A similar thing happens between people who are fighting for the same cause but all want the victory to be “theirs”.

Good ideas don’t have to lead to egotism though. There are some people who are able to keep their ego small even when they have great success.  When these people have good ideas they realise that their inspiration came from outside of themselves. They attribute their idea to things such as the colour of the sky that morning, the song they heard on the radio and a conversation they overheard on the bus. Small ego people know that they cannot exist alone. They remember that they wouldn’t have been able to even feed and clothe themselves without the things other people have done. Even a billionaire needs to realize that they could not have generated that money on their own. Not only do they rely on a workforce that could probably find something much better to do if they weren’t slaves to their mortgage or “lifestyle”, but that the workforce relies on the rest of society. And just as everyone relies on other people for their survival, our ideas are also products of the same system. Acknowledging this is a strategy that cannot lose. Not only are you more likely to keep your Spark, but if you remember that you aren’t doing everything on your own then when things go wrong you aren’t on your own either.

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