When first confronted with the idea that, after all these years, we’re not who we think we are, that there is this well-hidden demarcation in us between our spiritual essence and our egos, we start to wonder, “Hmm. Who can I trust? The essence I’ve more recently discovered but isn’t always readily accessible? Or my faithful ego which has gotten me to where I am and is always just right there? And why would I want to subordinate something that has served me so well anyway? Look what I’ve accomplished in life.”
This comes up incessantly in golf because as we try to improve, we are often left with the dilemma of whether to trust our ego to power through the roadblocks we encounter with logic and knowledge, or do we trust our ingenious, instinctive essence to tiptoe through the kinesthetic roadblocks along the way?
Essence or ego? Ego or essence? I just came across an example that might shed more light on this for us.
If you haven’t seen it yet, Ice Road Truckers, is a reality series on the History Channel. It follows the daily lives of truckers who brave the fierce Alaskan winters to haul materials from Fairbanks over 400 miles up the Dalton Highway to the oil rigs at Prudhoe Bay. The drama is in the icy conditions on the hilly and mountainous road together with the odd loads they have to carry. It can literally become a life or death situation.
The season ending episode revolved around how things were going to wind down with the passing of winter, but most particularly, which driver was going to end up with the most trips and be crowned the King of the Haul Road. The winner gets bragging rights. The focus was on the driver with the lead, Ray, and the driver hopelessly in last place, Greg.
The two of them were about the same age and engaged in good-natured banter throughout the season. But on the last run back down to Fairbanks, with no hope of prevailing in the load count contest, Greg found a last-gasp goal that he felt would assuage his ego: dropping (passing) Ray. If he couldn’t win the competition, at least he could get the (ego) satisfaction of dropping the guy who would. And so, he began to lay the groundwork for his triumph.
They both ended up with similar loads to backhaul down to Fairbanks, two big, oversized tanks on a flatbed trailer, with Ray getting a head start. When Ray got to the beginning of the mountains, he stopped to put chains on so that his tires wouldn’t lose traction on the steep grades. Just as he was finishing, Greg began to roll up behind him in his slightly faster truck. “Ah, he stopped to ‘chain up.’ I knew I’d catch him.”
But instead of continuing on by, Greg stopped behind Ray. “I can’t pass him while he’s stopped. Where’s the satisfaction in that? I’ve got to drop him while he’s running.” Once back in the truck, Ray looked in his rearview mirrors, saw that Greg was just sitting there setting the stage for the pounce…and to ensure Ray wouldn’t get ahead of him again, gambling not to put his chains on.
So off they went. In short order, Greg began to radio Ray to move from the center of the road so that he could pass. But, in addition to not wanting to give Greg the satisfaction of passing him, Ray needed to stay in the middle of the narrow road so that his chains would keep traction on the fresh snow in the middle. To move over would risk the chains slipping on the icy tire tracks on the edges of the road.
So Greg began to cajole him in a sing-song voice. In so many words, “Come on, Ray, take your medicine and move over.” And then a little agitated, “Come on, Ray, my tires are going to lose traction at this slow speed and you’re going to spin me out!” Still Ray continued on, ignoring Greg’s childishness.
And then Greg became angry…and then furious…‘Come on, Ray! You’re going to spin me out!!” Which is what happened through a profanity laced diatribe. So as Ray continued to safely lumber up the road, Greg was forced to stop and chain up, which would lose so much time, he’d never be able to catch Ray, let alone drop him. The profanity never stopped.
By the time he was done with the chains, he was in a white rage over Ray putting his safety at risk. He vowed to get Ray fired for such an egregious act. Of course, it never occurred to him that this entire affair was due to his own childish domination game; he had the chance to pass Ray while he was chaining up. Something he omitted in his phone call reporting Ray to the boss from the halfway truck stop. “Hi, Boss. You want the bad news? Ray wouldn’t move over and spun me out.”
When everybody arrived back in Fairbanks, the boss refused to get into the middle of it. Had he had the benefit of seeing the same tape we did, Greg might have been the one losing his job.
And that’s the problem any manager has mediating situations like this. They don’t always know what kinds of ego issues are operating in the background. In Greg’s fury, he was totally oblivious to the fact that his own actions were the cause of his problems. It’s the lies our egos tell us.
It’s the same problem we golfers have in mediating between our egos’ need to dominate and control rather than stepping aside so the genius of our essence can find the way for us. Greg’s manager was operating in the blind without having seen the tape. In moving to a deeper understanding of our golf games, at least we know that it’s going on.