The Nobel Prize For Anonymity
“Ego Is The Enemy”
Ryan Holiday found this idea so important that he tattooed it onto his body and made it the title of a great book.
Ego is not an enemy, it is the enemy. Not one of many enemies, but the one enemy behind every villainous mask. Any obstacle you are facing right now be it internally or out in the external world can be traced back to ego.
Are you afraid of something right now… well what are you afraid of?
Are you afraid of failing, being embarrassed, or letting others down? Ask then this; what do you stand to lose materially? What do you stand to lose apart from an idea of yourself you’ve placed stock in?
If you are actually afraid for your Life…
If you are afraid for your life it is because someone else is threatening you. This fear is valid and well-placed. But why is that other person threatening you? They can only be threatening you because your existence is an obstacle in the way of their own vain, egotistical pursuit; their need for power and control.
The things all Nobel Prize Winners have in Common
The things all Nobel Prize winners have in common? None of them is anonymous and most of them are individuals. Almost all winners of Academy Awards for brilliance in the film industry start out by acknowledging; they thank an exhaustive list of people who were involved, behind the scenes, to help them achieve. These acknowledgements stretch from colleagues to family members, providing us the very valuable lesson that there are few if any examples of ‘individual achievements’.
There is only one Person who can give you the Nobel Prize for Anonymity
It is you. If you can achieve publicly, how can you ensure that your primary motivation is service and art, rather than glitz, glamour and praise?
Is recognition something we are all owed, or is it just the deceiving veil of ego taking what indulgence it can? Time and time again I find myself facing the most difficult of questions:
Would I still be doing what I’m doing if no one knew it was me doing it?
Why do I write as Joe Wehbe, and not anonymously? Do I want people to see, weigh up and consider these ideas, or do I want to highlight the fact these ideas are mine? Is the attention and credit a harmless fruit I can enjoy for my labour, or is it a slippery slope?
The only problem is, these ideas are not mine. I do not own them. I have written before – we are the vessel ideas and works come through – they are not created by us. Each idea we form is the synthesis of conscious and unconscious learning and influence over time.
The Al Capone Dilemma
It has been written elsewhere that we can’t judge Al Capone or Hitler. It is easy to say that if we were Al Capone or Hitler, that we would have behaved differently. Except we wouldn’t have – because you cannot be Al Capone with Joe Wehbe’s consciousness – if you’re Al Capone, you are subjected to the upbringing and influences that Capone had, which led him to do what he did.
This is this paradox of our autonomy and helplessness in the world – these exist simultaneously. Yes, we have the power and consciousness to freely make our own decisions, but the width within which we can decide has been determined by factors outside our control. If this is true for the bad we do, it is true of the good we do as well.
So perhaps we deserve no praise, credit, or criticism. Perhaps this proves why we should not judge one another; rather we should try only to understand and seek clarity. Praise and credit are tools we use; to manipulate the actions of others (“more of this please”) or manipulate our idea of ourselves (“I am a good parent because I praised my son”).
But Praise is Enjoyable?
I made a strong case in Audience-of-None that praise is not a good primary incentive for doing anything. By primarily seeking praise, we will adapt our actions toward what gets the most praise from the crowd or a given individual – whoever’s approval we seek the most.
If we revel in praise, we expose ourselves to an extrinsic trap of wanting more and more of it, just like any other extrinsic trap. If you recall, I suggested we avoid addiction to extrinsic motivators by treating them like prescription drugs – by putting constraints on them that are tangible: no more than ‘two pills a day after breakfast’ for example.
The current thinking is that it would be best to avoid all necessary praise and self-aggrandisement. It would be healthier to drop the need and dissolve the ego, as a means to more objectively observe where we can have the best contribution.
We have to ask, each of us – would we be doing the honest work we’re doing now if we were anonymous for it? What does that say about us?