Beats, Rhymes, and Life

by Matt Johnson

Ego is a mofo…

‘What Really Goes On’

One of my favorite Phife Dog rhymes is “Ego/I’m on my own jock skill/Cuz if I don’t say I’m the best/Tell me who the hell will”.

Founding teams are filled with egos. You probably already know that. Because you’re fucking awesome and know everything about everything. We all do. Ego is why an entrepreneur thinks their idea is a winner. Ego is why an entrepreneur runs through walls when others give up. Ego is why an entrepreneur risks it for the biscuit.

(You already know where I’m going with this)

Ego is also a huge source of conflict. Building anything requires communication and compromise. Ego prevents both.

If I’m right and you say the same thing as me, but you get the credit, what’s my reaction? Ego says “f- that guy!”. Ego strength, on the other hand, says “I’m happy someone I respect agrees. I must be on the right path.”

If I have an idea of how to reach a goal, and you have a different idea of how to reach a goal, what’s my reaction? Ego says “f- that guy!”. Ego strength says “I respect your process, and since you’re leading the effort, I trust you.”

‘Keep It Movin’

Our product leads are hyper talented. They know the subject matter, they know the technology, and they have a clear vision of where we need to be. I trust them explicitly to get us where we need to be. That’s why they own product.

Last week, ego and ego strength collided. During a discussion about our product with the product team, I wasn’t happy with the speed with which we were progressing. As a CSPO and terrible amateur product manager, I had envisioned a very specific process. This was not the process the product team was using in this specific conversation, and I didn’t think that was right.

Ego reared its infinitely ugly head, and I lashed out. I wanted them to follow my process, the scrum product owner process, moving forward. “We will not build our product on a shitty foundation. How the hell are we going to attract the engineering talent we need without properly written epics? It’s critical that we use my process, the approved process, the common process, the correct process from the beginning.”

Instead of reacting to my idiocy, one of our product leads stopped my rant and explained what he was actually doing. He walked me through his approach, and assured me that the deliverables would be what I expected. By simply acknowledging my concerns and explaining his approach, he mitigated my anxiety and reinforced his competency.

Ego strength won.



  1. I swear no more Tribe references (for now).
  2. Company and product will be revealed soon. Patience is a virtue.
  1. 1. by Matt Johnson
  • ‘What Really Goes On’
  • ‘Keep It Movin’