Do work that feeds your soul, not your ego.
Of all the bad traits that have the potential to damage your career or prevent you from earning respect from your peers, a giant ego could be the worst. Just to be clear, I'm not talking about confidence here, I'm talking about an exaggerated sense of self-importance. Confidence is healthy; an out of control ego is not.
Confidence says, "I'm valuable," while ego says, "I'm invaluable." Big difference. Doing creative work involves a certain amount of risk and having an inflated ego can be extremely limiting in that process. Why? Because you're always unwilling to be viewed as vulnerable - which can be an essential component if you hope to do serious, groundbreaking, and fulfilling work.
Dr. Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston who has spent the last thirteen years studying vulnerability said this, "Vulnerability is not weakness. That myth is profoundly dangerous. Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change."
Just as failure and success are linked, so is vulnerability and strength. People with amplified egos are not comfortable asking for help or admitting they don't possess skills. Their egos take over, and they tend to judge everyone and everything based on appearance, possessions and other superficial aspects.
There's an excellent scene in the movie ‘Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade' when Harrison Ford, playing Indiana Jones must choose the right Grail to save his dying father, played by Sean Connery. The villain picks first and chooses a cup adorned with rubies and emeralds, beautifully shaped and what he thought represented the cup of a King. He chose poorly, as the Knight standing guard remarks to Indy after he gets reduced to ash right in front of them. Harrison Ford then looks for the cup of a carpenter. He selects an old, misshapen, dirty cup and it turns out to be the one that saves his father's life. He chose correctly. I think people can be like those cups.
Don't be the one that represents ego, pride, greed, or narcissism. Be the one that represents humility, gratitude, and vulnerability. It makes a huge difference in how you approach your work.
My strategy has always been to work with those who are better than me. I'm at peace with the fact that I will never know everything, but I'm smart enough to know that strength comes from humility and gratitude towards my co-workers and the work we produce together. I've had the pleasure over the years of working with some of the most talented artists, designers, copywriters, editors, photographers, actors and directors the Lehigh Valley has ever produced and I learned something from every single one of them. In fact, I'm still learning and will do so until the day I die.
Here's how I work on keeping my ego in check. I have an attitude of gratitude, I don't feel like I always need to be right, I surrender my need for control, I work on being a better me and less on trying to better than everyone else around me, and I always try to be open to constructive criticism. These are simple things, but they can have an impact. Besides, the best type of work is the kind that feeds your soul, not your ego.