Ego Is The Enemy

by Ryan Holiday

Troy Shu
Troy Shu
Updated at: February 23, 2024
 6 min read
Ego Is The Enemy
Ego Is The Enemy

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What are the big ideas?

  1. Understanding and courage are key to growing as a person. Knowing things and being brave help you become better.
  2. Your ego, which is thinking too highly of yourself, often gets in the way of doing well in life. But you can control it and focus on what's really important.
  3. Real success comes from knowing yourself well, being humble, and working hard. It's better to be quiet and do small things well than to always seek attention.
  4. Learning all the time and listening to others, no matter if they know more or less than you, helps you get better and control your ego.
  5. To be truly successful and a good leader, you need to keep changing and growing, focus on what really matters, and not just do things for praise or attention.

Summary

Understand First, Courage Second

  • “The orator Demosthenes once said that virtue begins with understanding and is fulfilled by courage.”

The Impact of Ego on Personal Growth and Success

  • “Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, your worst enemy already lives inside you: your ego.”
  • “The ego we see most commonly goes by a more casual definition: an unhealthy belief in our own importance. Arrogance. Self-centered ambition.”
  • “With every ambition and goal we have—big or small—ego is there undermining us on the very journey we’ve put everything into pursuing.”
  • “Just one thing keeps ego around—comfort.”
  • “Ego is the enemy every step along this way.”
  • “Your ego is not some power you’re forced to satiate at every turn. It can be managed. It can be directed.”
  • “When we remove ego, we’re left with what is real.”

Cultivating Self-Awareness and Humility for True Achievement

  • “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.”
  • “For your work to have truth in it, it must come from truth.”
  • “We will learn that though we think big, we must act and live small in order to accomplish what we seek.”
  • “So what is scarce and rare? Silence. The ability to deliberately keep yourself out of the conversation and subsist without its validation.”

The Relationship Between Silence, Work, and Goal Achievement

  • “Talk depletes us. Talking and doing fight for the same resources.”
  • “The only relationship between work and chatter is that one kills the other.”

Defining Purpose and Realism in the Pursuit of Goals

  • “If your purpose is something larger than you—to accomplish something, to prove something to yourself—then suddenly everything becomes both easier and more difficult.”
  • “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?’”
  • “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.”

Embracing Continuous Learning and Feedback for Personal Mastery

  • “The purpose of Shamrock’s formula is simple: to get real and continuous feedback about what they know and what they don’t know from every angle.”
  • “This begins by accepting that others know more than you and that you can benefit from their knowledge.”
  • “A true student is like a sponge. Absorbing what goes on around him, filtering it, latching on to what he can hold.”

The Dangers of Unbridled Passion and the Importance of Discipline

  • “Your passion may be the very thing holding you back from power or influence or accomplishment.”
  • “It is that burning, unquenchable desire to start or to achieve some vague, ambitious, and distant goal.”
  • “Passion typically masks a weakness. Its breathlessness and impetuousness and franticness are poor substitutes for discipline, for mastery, for strength and purpose and perseverance.”

The Role of Purpose, Realism, and Detachment in Achieving Success

  • “What humans require in our ascent is purpose and realism. Purpose, you could say, is like passion with boundaries.”
  • “Passion is form over function. Purpose is function, function, function.”
  • “The critical work that you want to do will require your deliberation and consideration. Not passion. Not naïveté.”

Overcoming Pride and Embracing Humility for Effective Leadership

  • “Pride blunts the very instrument we need to own in order to succeed: our mind.”
  • “Make it so you don’t have to fake it—that’s they key.”
  • “Every time you sit down to work, remind yourself: I am delaying gratification by doing this.”
  • “It is not enough only to be a student at the beginning. It is a position that one has to assume for life.”

Utilizing Every Experience as a Learning Opportunity

  • “Learn from everyone and everything. From the people you beat, and the people who beat you, from the people you dislike, even from your supposed enemies.”
  • “Pick up a book on a topic you know next to nothing about. Put yourself in rooms where you’re the least knowledgeable person.”

Avoiding the Pitfalls of Narrative and Arrogance in Success Stories

  • “We want so desperately to believe that those who have great empires set out to build one.”
  • “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.”

Staying Grounded and Focused on Execution Rather Than Recognition

  • “Instead of pretending that we are living some great story, we must remain focused on the execution—and on executing with excellence.”
  • “It’s not about beating the other guy. It’s not about having more than the others. It’s about being what you are, and being as good as possible at it.”

Adapting to Changing Roles and Responsibilities in Leadership

  • “As you become successful in your own field, your responsibilities may begin to change.”
  • “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.”

Choosing Alive Time Over Dead Time for Personal and Professional Growth

  • “According to [Robert] Greene, 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.”
  • “The only real failure is abandoning your principles. Killing what you love because you can’t bear to part from it is selfish and stupid.”

Questions

  1. How can understanding and courage help you develop virtue in your personal life?
  2. In what ways has your ego hindered your growth, and how can you manage it better?
  3. Can you think of a time when practicing humility and self-awareness led to a true achievement in your life?
  4. How does staying silent and focused on work help you achieve your goals?
  5. What does it mean to you to have a purpose in life, and how does this differ from simply having passion?
  6. How can embracing continuous learning and seeking feedback help you master your personal and professional life?
  7. Why is it important to choose 'alive time' over 'dead time', and can you give an example from your own life?

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