In life, your ego can either be your greatest ally or your biggest detriment depending on the circumstances. Like most things worthwhile, this inevitable yet manageable characteristic can be a goldmine if kept in check and applied in moderation. On the other hand, nobody is an island, and a self-centered and overly-egotistical approach to life will eventually prove toxic towards your ability to create something lasting, meaningful and far-reaching. Throughout my 10-year entrepreneurial journey, culminating in my current position as a Co-Founder and COO at MyQuest, it’s safe to say that I’ve learned this lesson about being overly-egotistical time and time again – and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
My path to MyQuest, a fast growing start-up based in both TLV/NYC, has been shaped by a myriad of factors, of which the most dominant has been my ego. Sure, it sounds self-centered – and it is – but ego is central to the self; in business, with partners and in life in general. I have been on my own since I graduated college, when I traveled to Vail, Colorado and started three small businesses in the hospitality and travel sectors. Each of these businesses revolved around ME; they were tailored around my needs, desires and lifestyle and served me well, but failed to produce anything more meaningful.
Still, I wouldn’t change a thing, as starting these businesses was a true exercise in building a sustainable business model and taught me invaluable lessons about keeping my ego in check in the process. Back then, I was most concerned with the appearance and impression of success than I was on actually attaining it. In other words, I wanted to be perceived as successful in the eyes of my friends and family back home first and foremost – and that was the mindset I brought to the table in the early going. While the business were successful, they weren’t scalable or sellable, and this crucial fault could be pinned squarely on my ego. Since I was so focused on myself, I failed to put in place the procedures and policies that would have taken these businesses to the next level. Ultimately, when I went to sell, there was nothing of value – so once I moved on, they were dissolved.
From then on, I vowed to make my businesses about more than just my ego and me. Shortly thereafter, I came up with Booze Carriage, an alcohol delivery company. At that time, there were three issues that concerned me about the legitimacy of the business: 1) I wasn’t positive if it was legal; 2) I had no idea if anyone would be interested in the service; 3) I needed a plan to scale this idea into a profitable business. Having (kind of) learned from the past, I took the time to build and scale the business, trying to solve the three issues that concerned me. I knew there was an incredible potential due to the market size, and I continued in building the company and making it strong. It was a slow process, but as the business grew, so did my ego. I didn’t want to share it with anyone.
I was suffering from Superhero Syndrome – I thought I could do it all by myself.
I didn’t think I needed a CTO, a marketing ninja, or anybody else. As the popular business saying goes, you can have a big piece of a little pie, or a small piece of a big pie — I wanted the whole pie to myself so badly that it was stunting my company’s growth tremendously.
Eventually, I reached a point where I couldn’t continue doing it all by myself. At that moment, I had a revelation: I could share my pie! My ego started to comprehend that I needed an amazing team to scale the business into a growing, thriving profitable business. Subsequently, I started building my team and bringing on people who were smarter than myself. People with more experience than myself. Needless to say, it was a scary point in time – especially for my ego. I had to entrust others with huge responsibilities, and my ego didn’t like the sound of that. Although my ego was bruised, it became clear that my team could help me attain my business goals and solve the many technical, operational and sales challenges I was facing.
Without my team, I would have never been able to sell the company. Without me letting go of my ego and my belief that Booze Carriage was all mine, the business would have never grown. That was the second key lesson I learned in the importance of harnessing my ego.
With time to reflect, I realized how much I wanted to make an impact on other people’s lives. I wanted to be a part of something bigger than me, and not let my ego govern my decision-making once again. This time, it was all about how I could serve others and have a positive impact on their lives. I knew that I wanted to do that through entrepreneurship.
That was when I found MyQuest.
When I met my three similarly-minded partners-to-be, they were already brainstorming how to positively impact people’s lives, and how to help people accomplish their goals and dreams, and succeed! We came up with a concept we call a “Quest”, an interactive journey through which people can achieve a variety of calculated goals. Using tools like gamification, reward systems, habit formation techniques and accountability mechanisms, we were able to create an interactive, step-by-step journey that people can take towards success.
But even though our focus at MyQuest has always been on helping others, we realized that our business model was, once again, focused on our personal success. Clearly, we wanted people to succeed, but it was also important that their success was achieved on our platform, and under our brand. The platform was developed with our brand on the top – which was awesome for our collective egos and announcing the celebrity partnerships – but at the end of the day, it was more than just challenging to keep our partners motivated to work for us! As soon as we recognized that, we decided to take a step back. Why is it that we were so fanatic about our brand and our name if we were ultimately striving to help people achieve goals and fulfill dreams?
That was the day everything changed.
We knew we had amazing online education technology, but it became clear that it could be even more powerful if we gave up our group ego and allowed world renowned experts to use it under their name. In this way, we could spread the word and touch the hearts of millions of people on a global scale. We did just that. Although the Quests are not under our name anymore, our focus is back on what’s truly important – people’s success.
Following that shift, we no longer had to fund all of the courses we produced. We no longer had to serve as a production company, marketing company, tech company, operations company and logistics company, all at once. This time, it was about being a SaaS and technology company. We went from funding the courses ourselves to having people pay us upfront on an annualized basis, and it has proven to be tremendously successful. All of a sudden, our key metric went from months to weeks to days feedback. In other words, once we harnessed our egos, it started to feel like we were finally running with the wind instead of against it.
Naturally, we still face problems typical of startups, but now that we’ve given up our ego, we know beyond a doubt that we’re on the right path. Some people may ask, “But hey, what about your brand? What about you? What about all these things that you need to build a great startup?” For those people, I offer this response: at the end of the day, what you need to be a great company is a great team, and a sense of purpose in knowing that what you’re doing is valuable for others.
So far, it has been a fascinating journey, or “Quest” rather, and although at times it has felt like an uphill climb, I will continue to use these lessons regarding my ego for the rest of my days – both in my professional and everyday life. Ego is the nature of the human condition, but it doesn’t mean we have to give into it; instead, we need to learn from it.
Looking back, there were many things that allowed me to distinguish ego along the way. I have taken countless hours of personal development courses, developed skills and tactics and techniques for finding and distinguishing ego. I have created social circles of friends around me to keep me honest and call me out when my ego shows up. I have a business coach that I work with on a weekly basis to keep me performing at my highest level.
Today, I realize that it really doesn’t matter whose idea it is, what brand it is, or whose company it is. Letting go of ego, performing at our highest level and focusing on making a positive impact on the world are what matter most to us and seem to drive our success. What a magnificent Quest this has been so far!
Latest posts by Rob Matzkin
- How to Harness Your Ego For Good - March 16, 2017