Ego is the Enemy: The Fight to Master Our Greatest Opponent by Ryan Holiday
In a world where our ego is so frequently stroked through the amount of likes, and reactions to our posts on Facebook and other social media this book is more relevant than ever. Take a step back and realise the fleeting nature of this recognition and praise is inconsequential.
Ego is something I have always struggled with, wanting to “make a name” for myself and be recognised for my achievements has defined me. This book changed all that.
My Highlights and Notes
Humble in our aspirations Gracious in our success Resilient in our failures
What is rare is not raw talent, skill, or even confidence, but humility, diligence, and self-awareness.
So what is scarce and rare? Silence. The ability to deliberately keep yourself out of the conversation and subsist without its validation. Silence is the respite of the confident and the strong.
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.
The only relationship between work and chatter is that one kills the other.
The mixed martial arts pioneer and multi-title champion Frank Shamrock has a system he trains fighters in that he calls plus, minus, and equal. Each fighter, to become great, he said, needs to have someone better that they can learn from, someone lesser who they can teach, and someone equal that they can challenge themselves against.
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.
Passion typically masks a weakness. Its breathlessness and impetuousness and franticness are poor substitutes for discipline, for mastery, for strength and purpose and perseverance. You need to be able to spot this in others and in yourself, because while the origins of passion may be earnest and good, its effects are comical and then monstrous.
What humans require in our ascent is purpose and realism. Purpose, you could say, is like passion with boundaries. Realism is detachment and perspective.
Passion is form over function. Purpose is function, function, function.
Find canvases for other people to paint on. Be an anteambulo. Clear the path for the people above you and you will eventually create a path for yourself.
Once we fight this emotional and egotistical impulse, the canvas strategy is easy. The iterations are endless. Maybe it’s coming up with ideas to hand over to your boss. Find people, thinkers, up-and-comers to introduce them to each other. Cross wires to create new sparks. Find what nobody else wants to do and do it. Find inefficiencies and waste and redundancies. Identify leaks and patches to free up resources for new areas. Produce more than everyone else and give your ideas away
the person who clears the path ultimately controls its direction, just as the canvas shapes the painting.
It doesn’t matter how talented you are, how great your connections are, how much money you have. When you want to do something—something big and important and meaningful—you will be subjected to treatment ranging from indifference to outright sabotage. Count on it.
Our imagination—in many senses an asset—is dangerous when it runs wild. We have to rein our perceptions in. Otherwise, lost in the excitement, how can we accurately predict the future or interpret events? How can we stay hungry and aware? How can we appreciate the present moment? How can we be creative within the realm of practicality?
We are still striving, and it is the strivers who should be our peers—not the proud and the accomplished. Without this understanding, pride takes our self-conception and puts it at odds with the reality of our station, which is that we still have so far to go, that there is still so much to be done.
Is it ten thousand hours or twenty thousand hours to mastery? The answer is that it doesn’t matter. There is no end zone. To think of a number is to live in a conditional future. We’re simply talking about a lot of hours—that to get where we want to go isn’t about brilliance, but continual effort.
No matter what you’ve done up to this point, you better still be a student. If you’re not still learning, you’re already dying.
The solution is as straightforward as it is initially uncomfortable: Pick up a book on a topic you know next to nothing about. Put yourself in rooms where you’re the least knowledgeable person. That uncomfortable feeling, that defensiveness that you feel when your most deeply held assumptions are challenged—what about subjecting yourself to it deliberately? Change your mind. Change your surroundings.
When we are aspiring we must resist the impulse to reverse engineer success from other people’s stories. When we achieve our own, we must resist the desire to pretend that everything unfolded exactly as we’d planned. There was no grand narrative. You should remember—you were there when it happened.
The farther you travel down that path of accomplishment, whatever it may be, the more often you meet other successful people who make you feel insignificant. It doesn’t matter how well you’re doing; your ego and their accomplishments make you feel like nothing— just as others make them feel the same way.
According to Seneca, the Greek word euthymia is one we should think of often: it is the sense of our own path and how to stay on it without getting distracted by all the others that intersect it.
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.
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.
Play for the name on the front of the jersey, he says, and they’ll remember the name on the back.
Feel unprotected against the elements or forces or surroundings. Remind yourself how pointless it is to rage and fight and try to one-up those around you. Go and put yourself in touch with the infinite, and end your conscious separation from the world. Reconcile yourself a bit better with the realities of life. Realize how much came before you, and how only wisps of it remain. Let the feeling carry you as long as you can. Then when you start to feel better or bigger than, go and do it again.
Most successful people are people you’ve never heard of. They want it that way. It keeps them sober. It helps them do their jobs.
What matters to an active man is to do the right thing; whether the right thing comes to pass should not bother him. — GOETHE
In life, there will be times when we do everything right, perhaps even perfectly. Yet the results will somehow be negative: failure, disrespect, jealousy, or even a resounding yawn from the world. Depending on what motivates us, this response can be crushing. If ego holds sway, we’ll accept nothing less than full appreciation.
“Ambition,” Marcus Aurelius reminded himself, “means tying your well-being to what other people say or do… Sanity means tying it to your own actions.”
Do your work. Do it well. Then “let go and let God.” That’s all there needs to be. Recognition and rewards—those are just extra. Rejection, that’s on them, not on us.
The world is, after all, indifferent to what we humans “want.” If we persist in wanting, in needing, we are simply setting ourselves up for resentment or worse. Doing the work is enough.
A person who judges himself based on his own standards doesn’t crave the spotlight the same way as someone who lets applause dictate success. A person who can think long term doesn’t pity herself during short-term setbacks. A person who values the team can share credit and subsume his own interests in a way that most others can’t.
This obsession with the past, with something that someone did or how things should have been, as much as it hurts, is ego embodied. Everyone else has moved on, but you can’t, because you can’t see anything but your own way. You can’t conceive of accepting that someone could hurt you, deliberately or otherwise. So you hate.
Not to aspire or seek out of ego. To have success without ego. To push through failure with strength, not ego.
My Rating: ★★★★☆
Date Finished: 2018-06-04