We can often learn from unexpected places
If you want to dig deep into being more empathetic in business and everyday life then you could do a lot worse than read Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday. It is a book full of radical candour and brilliant insights from a whole host of pioneers, past and present (including Holiday himself). Holiday profiles both those who have been consumed by their ego, losing their businesses, families and friendships. As well as those who have held onto their ego in a way that sets an example to mankind, even in the most adverse of circumstances. One of the people he draws inspiration from earlier in the book is mixed martial arts all-star and coach, Frank Shamrock.
According to Wikipedia, Shamrock had a glittering career which included being the first fighter to hold the UFC Middleweight Championship (later renamed the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship) and retired as the four-time defending undefeated champion.
Find your Plus, Minus, Equals
An impressive resume (if you’re into martial arts). But the insight that stuck out in Holiday’s book was far more strategic and impressive. As a coach, when developing fighters Shamrock adopts an approach called ‘Plus, Minus, Equals’. His structure ensures that every fighter has regular time with other fighters who will stretch them in different ways.
‘Plus’ equates to a fighter who has better skills, to give the person a level to aim for.
‘Minus’ equates to another fighter who has less skill or who the person can mentor and teach. This pushes them to think in a different way, forcing them to work on explaining the theory behind each aspect of becoming a great fighter in a way that someone who is developing their skills can understand. Of course, they’re also giving something back.
Finally, ‘Equals’ equates to having someone at the same level as the fighter who they can compete with every step of the way.
Holiday defines the benefits of the system beautifully:
“The purpose of Shamrock’s formula is simple, to get real and continuous feedback about what they know and what they don’t know, from every angle. It purges out the ego that puffs us up, the fear that makes us doubt ourselves and any laziness that might make us want to coast.”
Shamrock himself observed:
“False ideas about yourself destroy you. For me, I always stay a student, that’s what marshall arts are about and you have to use the humility as a tool”.
It occurred to me that this is a fantastic structure to adopt in any aspect of your personal or professional life. Surely we’d all benefit by finding our Plus, Minus, and Equals?