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“The ego we see most commonly goes by a more casual definition: an unhealthy belief in our own importance. Arrogance. Self-centered ambition.”
💡At any given time in life, we’re aspiring to something, we have achieved success, or we have failed.
💡We must cultivate humility, diligence, and self-awareness if we are to remove ego.
💡Maintain your own scorecard.
💡Don’t fake it ’til you make it—make it.
💡Always stay a student.
The book is structured as short essays split into three parts: Aspire, Success, and Failure. These being three phases that one invariably finds themselves in at any given moment, often alternating between them over the course of a life. As the book says, “Aspiration leads to success (and adversity). Success creates its own adversity (and, hopefully, new ambitions). And adversity leads to aspiration and more success. It’s an endless loop.”
In addition to these three phases, there are a few major themes running through each part of the book, as well as how people can successfully conquer their ego in each phase.
Having purpose will help you accomplish life changing work. Holiday says the first thing you need to do is ask yourself, “why do I do what I do?” If you don’t have an answer to this question, you should take some time to figure it out.
On the other hand, many harmonious and effective people have found that answering the following questions helped them live with purpose: Why do I do what I do? Who am I? What purpose am I serving?
The Greeks used the word Euthymia for this which is a sense of our own path and how we can stay on it without getting distracted. Prioritize your goals with clarity and then follow through. True confidence comes from putting in the time; it comes from discipline and mastery. One important point to note is that critical work is not helped by passion. It requires deliberation, not blind emotion, otherwise it is subject to the delusions of ego.
People who are passionate will tell you all the things they are going to do, but they can never show you any progress, because there usually isn’t any. They talk a lot, but get little done. People who are driven by purpose don’t need to talk about their work because you will see the results.
It’s okay to be passionate, but be passionate with discipline. Execute with excellence. Remain humble; know that you always have more to learn:
“The critical work that you want to do will require your deliberation and consideration. Leave passion for the amateurs. Make it about what you feel you must do and say, not what you care about and wish to be.”
Get to know your ego, but once you make the choice to manage your ego and pursue your purpose, be prepared for when people try to sabotage you.
Our adversities likely pale but the only thing we can be sure of when we are embarking on an endeavor is that there will be adversity and we will very likely be treated poorly. In these situations, there are two things to remember:
1) It degrades others, not you, when they treat you poorly and unfairly
2) Choose alive time over dead time.
Alive time is time when you are actively using your time usefully and improving; dead time is time you spend passive. We may not always be able to choose our circumstances, but we can always choose whether we want to make our time alive time or dead time
The question the book leaves hanging:
“…this moment is not your life. But it is a moment in your life. How will you use it?”
The greatest leaders and wisest thinkers have all been students of life. They possessed a unique curiosity about life and had the discipline to constantly be learning. Many people get overly confident in one area and forget that they know so little about everything else. The ego tries to build an identification with success, withholding you from learning more
The book explains that when you are just starting out you need to remember: You aren’t as good as you think you are, you probably need your attitude readjusted, and the things you learned in books or school are out of date or wrong.
Many factors will determine the success you will reach as you’re starting out, one of them being your willingness to listen to feedback, especially critical feedback. The book discusses an amateur as being defensive to critical feedback, but a professional as delighted in being challenged to learn more.
To become the best you can be, and to maintain that greatness you need to have a student mindset. You need to always be learning.
Everything in life has something to teach you, but ego gets in the way of opportunities you have had or will have. The ego tells you that you shouldn’t do an internship because you are overqualified for it. The ego doesn’t want to do the grunt work because it thinks it’s too good for that. People living with purpose look past this, and they focus on what is important, believing in what they need to do. Appreciate the opportunity. Take the internship. Put in the time and effort, and learn.
“Humility is what keeps us there, concerned we don’t know enough and that we must continue to study. Ego rushes to the end, rationalizes that patience is for losers (wrongly seeing it as a weakness), and assumes we’re good enough to give our talents a go in the world.”
The stoics used the word sympatheia for this state of mind, which means “a connectedness with the cosmos.” This connection makes you ask yourself: Who am I? What am I doing and why? The book elaborates on how material success can take you away from this perspective.
Don’t let your ego convince you the world revolves around you. Intentionally seek out the cosmos and your purpose will be revealed to you over time, which is also a part of the stoic view: “Purpose deemphasizes the I. Purpose is about pursuing something outside yourself as opposed to pleasuring yourself.”
Find and follow your purpose, and then do the work. The book explains that you should make it so you don’t have to fake it: “Can you imagine a doctor trying to get by with anything less? Or a quarterback? So why would you try otherwise?”
Be a lifelong student even after—especially after, your major accomplishments. Eliminate what isn’t necessary. Stay open-minded. Set goals and live on purpose.
When you begin to live with purpose instead of passion your ego will begin to lessen, and you will gain the quiet confidence the philosopher Seneca referred to as Euthymia: having a sense of your own path and not getting distracted by externals.
Talking is easy, everyone does it, but silence is rare in today’s world. Your ego tells you that you need recognition from others, but real confidence doesn’t need to talk, it produces work. Talking destroys action. Sit quietly and work. Let go of the distractions of social media and of the news, and focus on your work.
“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.”
Thinking too much can also lead you into living with a psychological term marked as “imaginary audience,” which is explained in the book. Many adolescents go through this and many adults hold on to it. It’s the idea that people are watching and thinking about you when they are not. It’s the teenager who misses a week of class because they are so embarrassed of spilling juice on their pants and think that everyone in the school is talking about it. They are not. This is the imaginary audience.
People don’t think about you as much as you think they do, which is a relief.
The ego loves the imaginary audience and thrives on it, so remember the bigger picture, let go of your wandering thoughts and bring yourself into the present moment:
“Living clearly and present takes courage. Don’t live in the haze of the abstract, live with the tangible and real, even if—especially if—it’s uncomfortable. Be part of what’s going on around you. Feast on it, adjust for it.”
In short, the book says we must manage our ego or see it get the best of us.Be an eternal student, absorbing everything around you like a sponge, knowing that there is always more to learn. As well as living with purpose and remaining a student, focus on doing the work instead of seeking recognition, letting your confidence show with results.
💡 Ego is an unhealthy belief in our own importance.
💡 Ego is there undermining us on the very journey we’ve put everything into pursuing.
💡 Ego can be managed and directed.
“Ego is the enemy of what you want and of what you have: Of mastering a craft. Of real creative insight. Of working well with others. Of building loyalty and support. Of longevity. Of repeating and retaining your success. It repulses advantages and opportunities. It’s a magnet for enemies and errors. It is Scylla and Charybdis.”
“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.”
“You must practice seeing yourself with a little distance, cultivating the ability to get out of your own head.”
“What is rare is not raw talent, skill, or even confidence, but humility, diligence, and self-awareness.”
“Your ego screams for people to acknowledge you. But you must do nothing. Take it. Eat it until you’re sick. Endure it. Quietly brush it off and work harder. Play the game. Ignore the noise; for the love of God, do not let it distract you.”
“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.”
“You can lie to yourself, saying that you put in the time, or pretend that you’re working, but eventually someone will show up. You’ll be tested. And quite possibly, found out.”
“Greatness comes from humble beginnings; it comes from grunt work. It means you’re the least important person in the room—until you change that with results.”
“This is what the ego does. It crosses out what matters and replaces it with what doesn’t.”
Ryan Holiday, Ego Is The Enemy, Pg. 33
“You can’t learn if you think you already know.”
Ryan Holiday, Ego Is The Enemy, Pg. 41
“Ego is the enemy- giving us wicked feedback, disconnected from reality. It’s defensive, precisely when we cannot afford to be defensive. It blocks us from improving by telling us that we don’t need to improve. Then we wonder why we don’t get the results we want, why others are better and why their success is more lasting.”
Ryan Holiday, Ego Is The Enemy, Pg. 42
“Just because you are quiet doesn’t mean that you are without pride. Privately thinking you’re better than others is still pride. It’s still dangerous.”
Ryan Holiday, Ego Is The Enemy, Pg. 78
“So: Do we sit down, alone, and struggle with our work? Work that may or may not go anywhere, that may be discouraging or painful? Do we love work, making a living to do work, not the other way around? Do we love practice, the way great athletes do? Or do we chase short-term attention and validation — whether that’s indulging in the endless search for ideas or simply the distraction of talk and chatter?”
Ryan Holiday, Ego Is The Enemy, Pg. 82
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