Ego Is The Enemy by Ryan Holiday teaches you why ego is the worst enemy and why it’s detrimental to your success. It also shows how ego affects you when you aspire to achieve something, or become successful, or have a failure.
Ego Is The Enemy Summary
There is something within you that’s holding you from achieving more in your life.
Now you might wonder, “what the hell is it?”
Simply put, it is your ego that is holding you back from learning more and going beyond limits.
In this book, Ryan has cleared up the confusion regarding ego.
He has explained how ego affects you at any point in your life.
Today, in this Ego Is The Enemy summary, I’ll share the lessons or the insights I’ve learned from this book.
Without further ado, let’s dive right into this summary…
The toxic beast inside you
Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, your worst enemy already lives inside you; your ego.Ryan Holiday
We all have that little beast named as “ego” that we tame inside of us.
Sometimes it helps us in achieving extraordinary success while the other times it destroys our lives.
Ego gets inflated when we achieve something and get praise for it.
There is some kind of sweetness in enjoying fame and success without actually putting in the actual work.
It’s the ego that makes you feel entitled and paranoid towards everything in life.
When you’re puffed up with ego, you sort of become blind to reality and start living a fantasy life where you’re the only boss.
Sometimes people even try to become famous without getting successful first.
While other times, it’s definition often gets mixed up with self-confidence and a sense of achievement.
All thanks to the ego.
If left untamed, this beast eats you up from inside and, ironically, makes you feel complete (more than you are).
Where does this ego come from?
It often comes sandwiched between your ambitions, goals, talents, achievements, or drives to achieve extraordinary things in life.
It comes from our need to be better than everyone.
No matter who you are and what you do, ego is there within you.
It’s only a matter of whether your ego is in check or not.
Ryan has divided this book into three parts:
- Aspire. At this stage we set a goal, we plan everything out and have a vision for ourselves.
- Success. At this stage, we achieve what we desired. It is also the most vulnerable stage where ego hits us badly and makes us blind to reality.
- Failure. We reach here when our flight to achievements crashes to death.
These are the stages that everyone goes through in life.
- Either you aspire to achieve something great.
- Or you have already achieved what you desired.
- Or perhaps you have failed to achieve what you wanted.
And at each stage, our ego guides us.
If you start believing in your greatness, it is the death of your creativity.Marina Abramovic
Why it’s easy to become an egoist?
Ever wondered why it’s so damn easy to fall into the depths of ego.
The answer isn’t fancy.
It’s easy to become an egoist because we have a natural tendency to pursue things that bring us comfort.
We go to a great extent to achieve a level of comfort in our lives.
It’s easy to slouch in bed and watch a serial on Netflix.
But it’s hard to achieve mastery in your field. It requires consistent and deliberate effort.
Even thinking about it is overwhelming enough in itself.
And our ego soothes that fear of putting in that effort.
Ego v/s Ambition
Both ego and ambition make you feel good.
Most of the time, you’ll get recognition for any significant achievement.
No person can deny that.
But here is the thing to consider:
Ego makes you feel that you deserve what you’re getting because you are unique, and you are the only person who should get recognition.
Despite you not having any solid foundation or groundwork behind those achievements, you feel entitled to fame and success.
You feel that you were destined to reach the stage you are at.
On the other hand, ambition is a strong desire to achieve real results backed by actual work.
Ambitious people keep a strong will to excel in their field.
While the egoists hold a strong sense of entitlement and often chase popularity rather than genuine growth.
The Passion Paradox
What happens when you passionately chase a vague distant goal?
You go through an unusual dilemma called Passion Paradox.
It sure is a fancy term here.
In a sentence, it means:
Being busy and not accomplishing anything.
People often chase dreams and goals without being clear about them.
The truth is, it sometimes takes years to fulfill those big dreams.
Just by becoming passionate, one cannot guarantee a direct path to success.
Especially when one is engulfed by ego, it takes even more time to reach the destination.
Passion often hides the weakness.
When you watch the documentaries of passionate and successful people, it strikes motivation within you.
You start believing that you can do the same.
When you get into passion mindset you often ignore your weaknesses and often try to avoid the hardships believing that you will get there somehow.
Egoists often fail to see things clearly. They keep chasing a goal without having a good look at the reality first.
Be a student
This one is my favorite.
When you get full of ego, and the success gets to your head, you lose your ability to learn.
Egoists fall into the trap of believing that they already know everything.
It is a lie that they feed themselves when surrounded by the wall of ego.
When you think that you already have what there is to acquire, you stop exploring further.
Simply, you stop growing.
And the same happens with the egoists.
When “ego” takes control of the steering of your life, it drives you to a place often called “failure.”
What’s the solution to this?
Be a student all your life and never stop learning.
Yes, this applies to all.
Even if you have read every book out there, even if you have watched every course that has ever been made, no matter what position you hold in the world, and what your net worth is, there will always be something to learn.
Ryan talks about the guitarist Kirk Hammett in this book.
Hammett had both the skills and the opportunity to join Metallica and stand in the hall of fame.
Yet he refused to join the band and became a student of Joe Satriani, who was a world-famous guitar virtuoso.
It helped Hammett to take his guitar skills to a whole another level.
It’s okay to mess up
Let’s be honest here.
We all mess up sometimes. But this shouldn’t be a big deal.
Even highly trained professionals make mistakes.
We often think of building a seven-figure business with a grand vision but fail terribly.
And that is okay.
Sometimes, we attach our identity to our work.
It gets so mixed up that we relate the success or failure of our work with our character.
Let me explain this with the example Ryan has used:
Do you remember Steve was fired from his own company?
This was because his ego was unmanageable.
Even you would have fired that version of Steve.
But he struggled and improved himself with time and managed his ego.
Nobody is special
Ego and pride often lead to arrogance.
“I am special because I was chosen.”
“I should be successful because I am rich.”
“I deserve more respect than others.”
These are a few things that an egoist believes.
The person brimming with ego feels superior to others.
Ego convinces a person into believing that he is special.
And this blunts his mind.
The more ego you gather, the more delusional you get.
Ego prevents us from accepting failure and criticism
The world can show you the truth but no one can force you to accept it.Ryan Holiday
At some point in life, there comes a time when we ask ourselves:
“What the hell is wrong with my life?“
“Have I hit rock bottom?”
And in those shitty moments of failure, despair, and depression, we likely end up getting a different perspective.
Those depressing moments (Ryan calls them the “Fight Club” moments) rebuild or reinvent us.
We become stronger than before and get ready to face new challenges.
But those who bullshit their minds and hearts with ego often let go of this opportunity.
Such people fail to accept harsh criticism and deny their failures.
Accepting the truth is always hard.
It’s even harder for the egoists.
In the worst case, egoists tend to do terrible things to protect their self-esteem.
They forget that change brings us to the realization of truth, and acceptance of reality pushes us to improve ourselves in different ways.
The Disruptive Innovation Theory
Ryan discusses a little about Disruptive Innovation Theory in this book in relation to ego.
If you have read about it, then you know that sometimes smaller companies grow rapidly and challenge the big players in the market.
What if those big players stick to their egos?
What if these big players stop to improve their products thinking they are better than their competition?
Well, it’s a no brainer, they will die a natural death.
The competition would eat them alive.
When a person or a company nurtures the idea of being the best and stops safeguarding themselves from future threats, they suffer at some point.
Humility is the key
Do you know who the biggest enemy of ego is?
Humility helps to restrain ourselves and subdue ego.
The world is filled with distractions and nonsense.
“Our path is mostly defined by the amount of nonsense we can take,” Ryan says.
It’s hard to keep self-control.
It’s hard not to punch in the face when someone criticizes you and hurts your self-esteem.
Those who control themselves and remain humble, even in provoking situations, can get over their ego.
Humble people know that when someone poorly treats others, then it doesn’t degrade the person who is being treated poorly.
Instead, the person who is at fault degrades himself.
When there is humility, ego fails to get to our heads.
Actionable Tips to Keep the Ego in Check
- No matter what little success you achieve in life, remember that there is always something more to learn.
- Make sure you are taking practical steps.
- Respect the fact that there is always someone better than you.
- Check whether your actions are contributing to your growth or not.
- Be humble.
Ego Is The Enemy Review
This book focuses entirely on ego and does justice with this often confusing term.
It’s one of the best books written on the human ego.
This book was easy to grasp.
Even a guy who doesn’t read a lot would enjoy reading this.
Especially those three stages of life (aspire, success, and failure) help the reader to relate with ease.
Earlier I believed that ego is helpful and it helps to think better of ourselves.
But now I understand how too much ego can hurt us.
One thing still confuses me though:
Regardless of how much we hate ego, it helps us sometimes.
In fact, it has helped me many times in different ways.
It sometimes helps to have some ego and protect our self-esteem.
Ryan says that the ego is artificial and stolen.
But I am not so sure about it.
Shouldn’t we be neutral about our ego?
Who should read Ego Is The Enemy?
- Anyone who is arrogant.
- A manager who is facing issues in trusting his employees.
- A person whose growth has become stagnant.
Ego is the enemy that all need to keep in check.
Fail to tame it, and you are doomed.
Tame it with humility, and you will flourish.
Now you tell me
How are you going to fight the ego?
Have you had any experiences where your ego got you for good? What did you do in that situation?
Should we even see the ego as our enemy in the first place?
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