An inspiring and practical guide to overcoming your Ego and striving for continuous improvement. The following are my favorite passages from the book Ego Is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday.
The author divides the book into three main ideas. In each of these he describes how Ego gets in our way and what we can do to overcome it.
Humble in our aspirations. Gracious in our success. Resilient in our failures.
Prologue. Ego, The Enemy
“The ego we see most commonly goes by a more casual definition: an unhealthy belief in our own importance. Arrogance. Self-centered ambition.
You are working hard and focused, striving to achieve your goals; yet EGO is working to get in your way….
“Though we think big, we must act and live small in order to accomplish what we seek. Because we will be action and education focused, and forgo validation and status, our ambition will not be grandiose but iterative; one foot in front of the other, learning and growing and putting in the time.”
TALK, TALK, TALK
- “Talk depletes us. Talking and doing fight for the same resources. Research shows that while goal visualization is important, after a certain point our mind begins to confuse it with actual progress. The same goes for verbalization.”
TO BE OR TO DO?
- “In this course, it is not “Who do I want to be in life?” but “What is it that I want to accomplish in life?” Setting aside selfish interest, it asks: What calling does it serve? What principles govern my choices? Do I want to be like everyone else or do I want to do something different?”
BECOME A STUDENT
- “A true student is like a sponge. Absorbing what goes on around him, filtering it, latching on to what he can hold. A student is self-critical and self-motivated, always trying to improve his understanding so that he can move on to the next topic, the next challenge. A real student is also his own teacher and his own critic. There is no room for ego there.”
DON’T BE PASSIONATE
- “Purpose is about pursuing something outside yourself as opposed to pleasuring yourself. More than purpose, we also need realism. Where do we start? What do we do first? What do we do right now? How are we sure that what we’re doing is moving us forward? What are we benchmarking ourselves against?”
FOLLOW THE CANVAS STRATEGY
- “Find canvases for other people to paint on. Be an anteambulo. The person who clears the path ultimately controls its direction.”
- “Those who have subdued their ego understand that it doesn’t degrade you when others treat you poorly; it degrades them.”
GET OUT OF YOUR OWN HEAD
- “In a world that tells us to keep and promote a “personal brand.” We’re required to tell stories in order to sell our work and our talents, and after enough time, forget where the line is that separates our fictions from reality.”
THE DANGER OF EARLY PRIDE
- “Pride blunts the very instrument we need to own in order to succeed: our mind. Our ability to learn, to adapt, to be flexible, to build relationships, all of this is dulled by pride.”
WORK, WORK, WORK
- “Where we decide to put our energy decides what we’ll ultimately accomplish.”
Now you’ve made it to the top and EGO is working to bring you down….
“We know what decisions we must make to avoid that ignominious, even pathetic end: protecting our sobriety, eschewing greed and paranoia, staying humble, retaining our sense of purpose, connecting to the larger world around us.”
ALWAYS STAY A STUDENT
- “Pick up a book on a topic you know next to nothing about. Put yourself in rooms where you’re the least knowledgeable person. Change your mind. Change your surroundings.”
DON’T TELL YOURSELF A STORY
- “Writing our own narrative leads to arrogance. It turns our life into a story—and turns us into caricatures—while we still have to live it… Instead of pretending that we are living some great story, we must remain focused on the execution—and on executing with excellence. We must shun the false crown and continue working on what got us here. Because that’s the only thing that will keep us here.”
WHAT’S IMPORTANT TO YOU?
- “Find out why you’re after what you’re after. Ignore those who mess with your pace. Let them covet what you have, not the other way around. Because that’s independence.”
ENTITLEMENT, CONTROL, AND PARANOIA
- “Entitlement assumes: This is mine. I’ve earned it. Entitlement nickels and dimes other people because it can’t conceive of valuing another person’s time as highly as its own.”
- “Control says, It all must be done my way— even little things, even inconsequential things. It can become paralyzing perfectionism, or a million pointless battles fought merely for the sake of exerting its say.”
- “Paranoia thinks, I can’t trust anyone. I’m in this totally by myself and for myself. It says, I’m surrounded by fools. It says, focusing on my work, my obligations, myself is not enough.”
- “Responsibility requires a readjustment and then increased clarity and purpose. First, setting the top-level goals and priorities of the organization and your life. Then enforcing and observing them. To produce results and only results.”
BEWARE THE DISEASE OF ME
- “Ego needs honors in order to be validated. Confidence, on the other hand, is able to wait and focus on the task at hand regardless of external recognition… The credit? Who cares.”
MEDITATE ON THE IMMENSITY
- “A sense of belonging to something larger, of realizing that “human things are an infinitesimal point in the immensity.” It is in these moments that we’re not only free but drawn toward important questions: Who am I? What am I doing? What is my role in this world? Nothing draws us away from those questions like material success.”
MAINTAIN YOUR SOBRIETY
- “Fight to stay sober… No more obsessing about your image; treating people beneath you or above you with contempt; needing first-class trappings and the star treatment; raging, fighting, preening, performing, lording over, condescending, and marveling at your own awesomeness or self-anointed importance.”
Now it’s time to push through adversity with strength, not Ego…
Whether what you’re going through is your fault or your problem doesn’t matter, because it’s yours to deal with right now.
Alive Time or Dead Time?
- “There are two types of time in our lives: dead time, when people are passive and waiting, and alive time, when people are learning and acting and utilizing every second.”
THE EFFORT IS ENOUGH
- “It’s far better when doing good work is sufficient. In other words, the less attached we are to outcomes the better. When fulfilling our own standards is what fills us with pride and self-respect. When the effort—not the results, good or bad—is enough.”
FIGHT CLUB MOMENTS
“The world can show you the truth, but no one can force you to accept it.”
- “Change begins by hearing the criticism and the words of the people around you. Even if those words are mean spirited, angry, or hurtful. It means weighing them, discarding the ones that don’t matter, and reflecting on the ones you do.”
Draw The Line
- “We take risks. We mess up. The problem is that when we get our identity tied up in our work, we worry that any kind of failure will then say something bad about us as a person… The only real failure is abandoning your principles.“
MAINTAIN YOUR OWN INNER SCORECARD
“Your potential, the absolute best you’re capable of—that’s the metric to measure yourself against. Your standards are.”
- “This is characteristic of how great people think. It’s not that they find failure in every success. They just hold themselves to a standard that exceeds what society might consider to be objective success. Because of that, they don’t much care what other people think; they care whether they meet their own standards. And these standards are much, much higher than everyone else’s.”
ALWAYS LOVE > HATE
- “Hate at any point is a cancer that gnaws away at the very vital center of your life and your existence. It is like eroding acid that eats away the best and the objective center of your life… Hate defers blame. It makes someone else responsible.”
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.
I greatly enjoyed this read. The author challenges us to overcome our limiting beliefs (Ego, Pride, Entitlement, Control, Paranoia) and connect with the greatness and strength within each and every one of us.
All content credit goes to the author. I’ve simply shared the bits I’ve enjoyed the most and found most useful.
Cheers ’till next time!