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  • Writer's pictureBill Holmes

Some thoughts about Ego

project, program, portfolio, management
Don't we all think we are right?

"Not everything is about you," Clary said furiously. "Possibly," Jace said, "but you do have to admit that the majority of things are.” Cassandra Clare, City of Glass

“There are two circumstances that lead to arrogance: one is when you're wrong and you can't face it; the other is when you're right and nobody else can face it.” Criss Jami, Diotima, Battery, Electric Personality

The other morning I put on a nice suit and headed out the door. It was around 5:30 AM, and the early start was necessitated by my need to navigate through downtown Washington, DC for an engagement in Virginia. The total distance was around 56 miles. Even though I was leaving very early, I knew the thick traffic around DC would create a long commute.

I made great progress until I got to the DC line, and at that point traffic literally ground to a halt. I managed to go 50 miles in around 45 minutes, but the remaining 6 miles took me another hour! Since I was unfamiliar with the route, I cautiously moved into the off ramp lanes when they navigation app told me to. In doing so, I observed a constant stream of people racing to the exit and cutting in front of me in the line.

This happened at every exit!

Over time, I began to develop an intense dislike for the people cutting in front of me! I was following the rules and getting over when instructed. Why weren’t these people getting arrested for such obviously dysfunctional behavior? Surely these were they type of people who were responsible for all the ills of society!

I was the noble victim!

The next day I had to make the same commute, but this time I was armed with the knowledge of where the exits were and the traffic patterns. And you know what I did?

I waited until the last minute and cut into line. Of course, I differentiated myself from the scofflaws who had cut in front of me the day before by cheerily waving and thanking them as forcibly merged in front of them. I had places to be!

That was when I had an interesting insight.

I am always the hero in my own story!

Oh sure, I am occasionally introspective on those occasions when I realize that I did something I am not proud of. Only a sociopath isn't! But, as I go about my day to day activities I am fairly certain that I am almost always right and noble. Just like everyone else I interact with!

Which can be a real problem in the workplace.

The PMBOK® tells us that conflict in the workplace is a necessary byproduct of technical experts working through technical issues. It assumes an honorable approach to projects, and in fact describes where conflicts normally arise and provides a list of potential responses. It also describes the role of the Project Manager and the individual team members.

It is important to remember is that literally everyone sees themselves as the hero in their own personal story! They develop back stories and rationale for their behavior, but usually and very honestly think they are on the right side of an issue and view you as the uninformed party.

That is an important point to remember!

Don’t be sure you are right, rather focus on the facts and make sure everyone actually agrees to what the facts are! Often, they have a completely different view of reality, and until that is reconciled you can’t move forward. Once you agree to the facts, rationally and openly work through the issue until a solution is reached.

And if it doesn’t go your way? Get over it! That’s how life works!


I am increasingly fascinated with the current political coverage. I used to believe that there was objective reality, but now I’m not so sure. As cartoonist and political commentator Scott Adams likes to say, there are two movies showing on the same screen and both groups of people think they are seeing truth! Is there absolute truth? I’m not sure anymore.


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