There are books that take time to warm up to and then there are those that grab hold of you from the first few lines. Ego Is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday falls into the latter category. Truth be told, it was the author’s narration of the prologue that got me hooked (view it here).
Ego is the Enemy was inspired by Holiday’s early career success and the subsequent deterioration of his world. As the title implies, the book is a warning about the dangers in allowing our ego to go unchecked. It’s about the lies our ego tells us, such as that we must work and achieve for ourselves, by ourselves, and the effects it has on our careers and our existence in general. There are three parts to the book—aspire, success, and failure—in which Holiday regularly uses well known figures as examples of our ego’s ability to hold us back or limit our success.
What stuck most with me about this book is how we’re all susceptible to being led astray by our ego. Clearly Holiday is an individual who’s experienced a lot of success, and that’s the type of person we generally associate with a big ego, but ego can present itself in many ways. I think back to the days when life was a daily struggle and I felt that the world was stacked against me. In hindsight, a big part of the problem was my views about the way things should be, rather than how they were. I was throwing myself against a world that wouldn’t budge, refusing to change my mindset or approach. It was ego that wouldn’t let me see the fault in my ways.
This book can be quite sobering at times, but it’s much needed in our me-first society. I highly recommend it, and if you choose to get it, please use my affiliate link below.
Get the book here: Ego Is the Enemy
Select highlights from Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday:
“If you start believing in your greatness, it is the death of your creativity.”
“It’s a temptation that exists for everyone—for talk and hype to replace action.”
“Almost universally, the kind of performance we give on social media is positive. It’s more “Let me tell you how well things are going. Look how great I am.” It’s rarely the truth: “I’m scared. I’m struggling. I don’t know.”
When we remove ego, we’re left with what is real. What replaces ego is humility, yes—but rock-hard humility and confidence. Whereas ego is artificial, this type of confidence can hold weight. Ego is stolen. Confidence is earned. Ego is self-anointed, its swagger is artifice. One is girding yourself, the other gaslighting. It’s the difference between potent and poisonous.
“Even as adults, we’re susceptible to this fantasy during a harmless walk down the street. We plug in some headphones and all of a sudden there’s a soundtrack. We flip up our jacket collar and consider briefly how cool we must look. We replay the successful meeting we’re heading toward in our head. The crowds part as we pass. We’re fearless warriors, on our way to the top. It’s the opening credits montage. It’s a scene in a novel. It feels good—so much better than those feelings of doubt and fear and normalness—and so we stay stuck inside our heads instead of participating in the world around us. That’s ego, baby.”
“Fac, si facis. (Do it if you’re going to do it.)”
“Think about this the next time you face that choice: Do I need this? Or is it really about ego? Are you ready to make the right decision? Or do the prizes still glitter off in the distance? To be or to do—life is a constant roll call.”
“Because no one ever said, reflecting on the whole of someone’s life, “Man, that monstrous ego sure was worth it.”
“With accomplishment comes a growing pressure to pretend that we know more than we do. To pretend we already know everything. Scientia infla (knowledge puffs up). That’s the worry and the risk—thinking that we’re set and secure, when in reality understanding and mastery is a fluid, continual process.”
“When we lack a connection to anything larger or bigger than us, it’s like a piece of our soul is gone. Like we’ve detached ourselves from the traditions we hail from, whatever that happens to be (a craft, a sport, a brotherhood or sisterhood, a family). Ego blocks us from the beauty and history in the world. It stands in the way.”
“As they say, this moment is not your life. But it is a moment in your life. How will you use it?”
“What is left? Your choices. What will you do with this information? Not just now, but going forward? Every day for the rest of your life you will find yourself at one of three phases: aspiration, success, failure. You will battle the ego in each of them. You will make mistakes in each of them. You must sweep the floor every minute of every day. And then sweep again.”
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