Book Review – Ego is the Enemy

Book:  Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday

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. It’s a fear of taking responsibility, of admitting that we might have messed up. It’s the sunk cost fallacy. And so we throw good money and good life after bad and end up making everything so much worse.

Ryan Holiday, Ego is the Enemy, p.189

You can’t tell from this carefully staged photo, but if you turn this book to its side and look at the edges you’ll see a disaster—about half a cup of coffee is splashed along the outer pages and leaves some embarrassing evidence of my clumsiness one fine November morning. It also quite clearly illustrates that “stuff happens” and regardless of the outer mess that sometimes gets thrown at us, at our core we can remain unchanged like the words on these pages.

Sure, there’s some coffee spilt and some pages are stained, but the words—the message—is still there if you’re willing to open the mess up and look for it. We still control our stories even if we can’t control the scratches, torn pages, and other “stuff” life happens to throw at us.

Your potential, the absolute best you’re capable of—that’s the metric to measure yourself against. Your standards are. Winning is not enough. People can get lucky and win. People can be assholes and win. Anyone can win. But not everyone is the best version of themselves.

Ryan Holiday, Ego is the Enemy, p. 197

Here, we have a book about the phantom of success. Ryan Holiday gives us a guide for practicing mindfulness and humility during the good times as a caution against the downfall that can follow when our egos run amok. Too often, when things are going our way and we’re winning, we begin to lose the perspective that helped get us to the top. Once that frame of reference is lost, it’s just a matter of time before we experience our own fall from grace.

The danger lies when we come to expect greatness but forget about the sacrifices or lucky breaks that led to our success. That’s where Holiday excels in this book. He delivers us a variety of material to help us find our center in a world of uncertainty where success and failure are not a matter of fairness but often a measure of both luck and perseverance.

Ego is the Enemy is a fast, accessible read and an entertaining source of real world histories and anecdotes that illustrate the perils of allowing the ego free range in our lives. Some may argue that the Ego can be a source of motivation that drives one to achieve greatness, but Holiday counters that the Ego is more often a toxic mindset.

We love the big personalities of our celebrities, trailblazers and industry pioneers. However, we tend to confuse personality with Ego when we create fictitious narratives about the lives of our heroes.

  • Ego tells us we’re the best and we will always be the best.
  • Perseverance acknowledges that we may be the best today, but that it’s going to be a lot of hard work to stay the best.
  • Personality reflects how well we communicate and connect with others.

Clearly, personality has nothing to do with either. We can have a great personality and be a terrible decision-maker. That’s the message I enjoyed the most in this reading. Through the lives and experiences of notable men and women, we get an opportunity to learn from their experience and a chance to mitigate our own failures.

Fear is Self-imposed Torture

He who indulges in empty fears earns himself real fears.

Seneca

Our thoughts influence how we interpret the world. Napoleon Hill enthusiastically championed the belief that our thoughts were powerful embodiments of our conscious energy. That energy could propel us to new heights as a source of inspiration or it could just as easily hold us back under the weight of our unrestrained fears.

Thoughts mixed with a definiteness of purpose, persistence, and a burning desire are powerful things.

Napoleon Hill

We often trap ourselves in cycles of self-fulfilling prophecies of doom when we spend too much time in our own heads reflecting on everything that is beyond our limited circle of control. If we focus all of our attention on our difficulties, pain, and the obstacles in our way, it won’t be long before that’s all we’ll see in the world.

We end up conditioning ourselves to stop looking for opportunities and solutions to our problems because we erroneously believe that no matter what we do, we’re never going to succeed. We sabotage our chances of success before we even face the next problem. Opportunities soon pass us by unnoticed because we stopped looking for them.

We are more often frightened than hurt; and we suffer more from imagination than from reality.

Seneca

This is a “Do Nothing—Fail at Nothing” mind trap. We can’t let fear hold us back. When we find ourselves in these trying moments, we can reflect on the famed 1988 Nike slogan for some inspiration.

JUST DO IT.

Nike Slogan (1988-Present)

It’s a fitting motto for a company named after the the Greek Goddess of Victory (Nike). So, I like to play with those words and their relationship and think of the maxim as the formula for victory.

Success = Just do it.

Don’t give up. Struggle on. Do something. Keep moving, and eventually we’ll find another opportunity waiting for us.

A Morning Meditation

When you wake each morning, remind yourself that you are bound to meet people today who will troublesome, manipulative, ungrateful, deceitful, envious, and overall quite unpleasant. Why would expect anything different?

Try and remember that people behave this way because they were never taught how they could be different. You, however, can make the decision to be better than the sum of your experiences.

Don’t be angry with others. Don’t lose your temper. These things are in your control.

Accept that everyone else may not have had your education or the same experiences. Don’t fault them for a difference in their judgment, but accept them as a fellow adventurer in this life. Work with them and build a world you can all enjoy.

Don’t start a fight when a compromise is sufficient. Each battle builds a wall between you both. Be careful lest you build an unscalable barrier. What will you do when your opponents refuse to listen to Reason because you refused to acknowledge their concerns?

Don’t malign or bemoan your experiences. Let your actions show that you can live in accord with Reason and no longer be a slave to the whims of emotion.

When you must speak, don’t lecture. Let your lips be silent unless spoken to. Even so, be generous in spirit and kinder in your words. You cannot influence a mind that’s unwilling to hear your message.