Playing Your Cards Close to the Vest

Posted on July 3, 2014 by Robert Ringer


As I watch the daily news, I am constantly reminded that an oversized ego can be the biggest obstacle to long-term success. Of course, everyone has an ego, so it’s pointless to delude yourself into believing that you’re an exception. It’s far better to acknowledge the existence of your ego and work on trying to keep it under control.

A hungry ego is like a dinosaur lying on your front lawn. If you don’t continually feed it, it might just decide to get up and step on your house. At its extreme, a bloated ego can even result in Egoruptcy, a form of bankruptcy caused by the investment of too much time and capital in one’s ego.

It’s also wise to avoid becoming involved with others who appear to be afflicted with this life-threatening condition. Feeding the ego is habitforming and can lead the addict to commit dishonest acts in his desperation to feed his habit. That’s why you have to make sure that when he goes down for the count, he doesn’t take you with him.

Following are some telltale signs of an individual suffering from Egoruptcy.

  1. Trying to impress others with how well he’s doing. (The more someone volunteers to tell you about his accomplishments, the less likely it is that he’s accomplished much of anything.)
  2. Constantly mouthing off about the deals he’s working on.
  3. Lavishly refurbishing his offices.
  4. Talking incessantly about what he owns.
  5. Incessantly name dropping.

When most or all of the above signs are evident, Egoruptcy clearly is in its advanced stages and the patient’s condition has probably deteriorated beyond hope. Best you shield your face when passing him to avoid becoming infected.

How can you tell if you are developing Early Onset Egoruptcy? The most common symptom is perpetual movement of the mouth and tongue, especially when triggered by the desire to tell others about your plans.

Some years ago, I developed what I believe to be the perfect antidote to this neurosis. I refer to it as the Zip-the-Lip Theory, which simply states: If you’ve got something good going, shut up!

Put more gently: Learn to be both quiet and patient. The safest way to operate is behind the scenes with a low profile. There’s seldom anything to be gained by giving the world advance notice of your objectives. How many times have you jumped the gun and talked about your plans, only to be embarrassed when they fell through?

If you manage to achieve your desired end, people will know about it soon enough. You may even gain a reputation for being humble as a result of not shooting off your mouth about what you’re working on. Always remember Ringer Rule No. 384: People love humility and hate arrogance.

The next time you’re tempted to make a premature announcement to the world, remember that Old Man Murphy (of Murphy’s Law fame) is out there somewhere, lying in wait to trip you up. It’s simply not worth the risk of having a bunch of neurotics jealously gnashing their teeth and doing everything possible to see to it that you end up dining on your own words some fine evening.

The best way to let others know what you’re going to do is to actually do it. The more confident you are about what you intend to accomplish, the less reason you have to risk putting your foot in your mouth. Your ego will be more than sufficiently assuaged, massaged, and patted after you have succeeded.

And the more you succeed, the more reason you’ll have to feel secure, which should result in your having less of an urge to talk about your plans and more of a desire to produce results. Getting your ego out of the way clears your mind for focusing on the things that need to be done to actually succeed.

Granted, it can be difficult to suppress the instant-gratification urge to try to impress others. But there’s a big difference between difficult and impossible. No one can force you to do the wrong thing. Remember, the choice is always yours. A lot of things are difficult — but not impossible. You always have a choice.

As retired Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade (played by Al Pacino) put it in the film classic Scent of a Woman, “I always knew what the right path was. Without exception, I knew. But I never took it. You know why? It was too damn hard.” Translation: People always have a choice, but most of them choose to take the easy way out.

What is your choice when it comes to the temptation to mouth off prematurely versus being cool and playing your cards close to the vest?

Robert Ringer

Robert Ringer is an American icon whose unique insights into life have helped millions of readers worldwide. He is also the author of two New York Times #1 bestselling books, both of which have been listed by The New York Times among the 15 best-selling motivational books of all time.

23 responses to “Playing Your Cards Close to the Vest”

  1. Bill V says:

    I'm now a 77 year old salesman and I finally figured this same thing out about 5 years ago.

  2. RAM says:

    "Ego is the fountainhead of all creation." AYN RAND

    "Common man is the hero's backside." AYN RAND

    "If you want to succeed you'd better have ego. It's how you house it, feed it, dress it and care for it that counts." RAM

  3. Nancy says:

    So true, Robert.
    Ego issues nearly turned my life into a train wreck. Free information on

  4. Survivor says:

    Given that 4 to 5% of the general population are conscienceless backstabbing lying cheating amoral types generically termed psychopaths or sociopaths, and that one of their outstanding characteristics is the conviction they're entitled to everything no matter who owns it, particularly praise, it's brain dead to brag, because of all the personality types, these will lock their targeting laser on you for no greater a sin than simply doing well, let alone bragging about it. Survival. It's more than just a hobby.

    • Teri says:

      Only 4 to 5%? I have found that half the people I deal with are that way. They couldn't be good and honest if their life depended on it.
      I work in an office that is half liberal and half conservative. And you know what I see day in and day out? Neither group can do an honest days work. Always trying to get something for nothing.

      • John E. Gabor says:

        Same crap, different ideology.

      • Phil says:

        I see the same thing all of the time. Probably has always existed but I do think we have had a cultural revolution as well. And it is so hard for a business to hire and fire these days in a way that is profit motivated – employment laws from hell.

  5. John Quinn says:

    I believe braggarts are practicing "reaction formation". This is the psychological process where overt behavior is the exact opposite of the underlying condition. Thus, a braggart brags in order to neutralize his underlying feelings of insecurity.

  6. John E. Gabor says:

    Unfortunately, our country is being run by out of control, arrogant people right now.

    • Murray Suid says:

      John, does "right now" mean since 2008? Or do you mean in recent history, perhaps since Nixon? My guess is that the quantity of arrogance among politicians is a relative constant. There are outliers, perhaps Eisenhower. But in general, all about the same. I really am curious when you think that–for example–President Obama is more arrogant than President Bush?

      • John E. Gabor says:

        Reagan and Clinton were the only presidents I liked and thought were good for the country. I had no use for either Bush. But, yes, I think Obama is more arrogant than Bush 43. Bush definitely set the table for Obama, though. The feast is our freedom.

  7. Richard Lee Van says:

    As of Nixon, I opted OUT of "The System" and did MUCH BETTER professionally after a hard period of transition which was an intense period of learning and re-learning. Fortunately I had special talents and potentials that enabled me to do that successfully. Not everyone can. When the Unequal Rights amendment prevented me, a white male, from getting my Dream Job, I said (fill in the blanks) and gave up 15 years of experience and tenure to live a good life on my terms. So I didn't get the cushy retirement pay but enjoy integrity and authenticity, and enough from SS and the VA to live well in the Philippines. In retrospect we/I can see patterns and how in fact things DO work out for the best if we follow our Inner Guidance.

    • John E. Gabor says:

      I'm glad things worked out well for you in the end, but you lost me on the ERA. It was never ratified by the states. We are supposed to have equal rights at the starting gate according to the Constitution. But, yes, somehow that got twisted into forcing equal rights at the finish line by other means.

  8. CARA says:


  9. Daniel says:

    I enjoy reading the comments on Unlike comments on most other sites' articles regarding political and/or cultural matters, which usually turn into supercilious rants, name-calling and childish blather, comments here are generally thoughtful and respectful. Perhaps that's a reflection of the author; I don't know. I, too, would like to know Mr. Ringer's thoughts on the Dow; however, only if he is inclined to proffer them. I don't trust anything from either Wall Street or Washington regarding the state of the economy. For example, research how unemployment numbers are determined. The data left out of that equation, as well as the real numbers, will astonish most. Other sources have news and information, but I come here for erudite insight on things that really matter.

    • Robert Ringer RJR says:

      I am not a stock market fan. I have always contended that it’s nothing more than a giant casino, and, as everyone knows, when it comes to casinos, the house always wins. In the case of the stock market, the house is comprised of the insiders who are able to manipulate things to their liking. They not only are able to trade on information not available to the general public (only the very naïve think otherwise), they make billions in fees and commissions by excessively churning client accounts.

      I have never believed that the stock market has much to do with the economy as a whole, and that’s more true now than ever before. Contrary to what the government and its surrogates (economists, the media, and other “experts”) tell us, we are in an invisible depression. The only question is when it will become visible — i.e., how much longer can those at the controls continue to prop things up with massive currency creation, massive debt, and massive redistribution-of-wealth policies.

      No one knows where the market will be in a year, two years, or five years from now, because no one knows whether the visible depression will be deflationary or inflationary. If the former, the Dow could drop to 2000. If the latter, it could go to 100,000.

      • DGH says:

        I don't think we will see deflation. I think we will see hyperinflation before the value of the U.S. dollars evaporates into nothing. The fate of fiat currency.

        When reading Charles Murray's Coming Apart you come to the realization– though Murray never mentions it– that funny money of the financialized economy is at the root of so much we see that is going wrong. The Fed electronically dumping $85 billion per quarter into Wall Street and big banks and the government dumping trillions into security and defense is the most massive form of redistribution of "wealth". The financial deregulation policies of the last thirty years has created a Ponzi economy. In my Boston suburb you will find large university campus-sized office parks that are made up of nothing but financial services firms.

        This isn't capitalism. In fact, it is the most effective means to completely wipe out the middle class and therefore the country. So, young guy, you say you'd like to get married, buy a house in the suburbs, and raise a few kids? Good luck with that. Houses in and around Boston are selling under 8 days and non-American buyers are paying cash. Maybe you can take a pay cut and your company will put you up with IT guys Sanjay, Vijay, and Liang at the Ramada, Good,news is they are gone a lot, from working 100-hour weeks to periodically flying to Canada and returning to the U.S. to comply with H1B visa requirements.

        I live in 2% household. All I worry about is whether will I, my wife, and family will be in safe place once the music stops– even for the 1%. We live in a time and place where police and fireman make as much as doctors and have taxpayer pensions (most on disability, I.e., no tax) which are double the salary of the average American. The center can not hold.

  10. Monty Campbell says:

    Hi Robert,

    I saw your reply to the question about the stock market: “I am not a stock market fan. I have always contended that it’s nothing more than a giant casino, and, as everyone knows, when it comes to casinos, the house always wins.”

    This is not true my friend. I’m living proof that its possible to do well in the market. I started with nothing (low income kid from Louisiana) and built considerable wealth investing in the stock market following the principles of Waren Buffett. I didn’t get rich quickly and it took a lot discipline, but I’ve been successful investing in stocks.

    I’m not the only one. Search for people like Seth Klarman, Alan Meacum, and Bruce Berkowitz and you will see.

    Always enjoy your articles. Just wanted to offer a different perspective on the stock market.

    Monty Campbell

  11. John E. Gabor says:

    I agree. We've been talking about the stock market being manipulated for the last four or five years. I don't remember the stock market ever running this counter to reality.

  12. Robert Ringer RJR says:

    Wait until you see what your cart full of groceries cost in a year or two. You'll look back at the current situation as the good old days. (See my comments on the Dow below.)