Embrace your ego

I got to know a young journalist yesterday and she was surprised when I gave her the advice that a big dose of ego is needed in her job.  

I told the young lady, “Isn’t it exciting to see your byline (printed name) when your story gets published?”

She nodded excitedly. 

I said, “Me too! I still feel the same excitement today as I did in 1998 as a journo intern. We like to see our name in print, we like to know that people read our work, and that’s ego at work.”

“Now, imagine you have an important message to send out to the public. Will the reader be more likely to believe the words of someone they know, or someone they have not heard of?”

“Obviously, the former, but how will you become a Somebody if you don’t act to make yourself known? And how will you act if you don’t have the desire? It is our ego that gives us the desire”

Now, I know the word “ego” brings negative connotations to mind:

“He is egoistic.” 

“Her ego can fill the room.” 

But hang on, the Cambridge Dictionary defines ego as:

1) Your idea or opinion of yourself, especially your feeling of your own importance and ability.

2) In psychoanalysis, the part of a person’s mind that tries to match the hidden desires (wishes) of the id (part of the unconscious mind) with the demands of the real world.

Both definitions sound pretty neutral, and we should recognise that ego is not necessarily a bad thing. 

A journalist needs to have the confidence to go out and talk to strangers. The journalist seeks to write, and in turn inform, educate or entertain the reader. All these stem from a desire to make a difference in the world.

Today, the idea of a journalist has broadened beyond those who work for traditional media. I listen to many podcasts where academics, businessmen, and young content creators extract insights from with thoughtful questions. Many people write newsletters today to share the latest news in their respective fields. Some podcasters and newsletter writers make lots of coin! 

Ego feeds our desire to achieve, and it must be balanced with humility: There are always people better and more knowledgeable than us, the world always changes, and that’s why there’s always new stuff to write about. 

What works for good journalists, also works for us who write on LinkedIn. 

We must reflect on why we post what we do, and why we continue doing so. Recognise that it is ego that drives us, but we must also ask if we are giving something valuable to others, or are we just being egoistic?