Books: Ego is the Enemy, by Ryan Holiday

This week I finished Ego is the Enemy, by Ryan Holiday. It was the final book on my journey through what some have referred to as the stoic trilogy.

“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.” – Ryan Holiday, Ego is the Enemy

When reading this book I found myself imagining ego as a super villain in literature or in some of our modern hero mythology. The villain is ever present, seeking strength and the opportunity to gain a foothold. The villain at times, may even make a strong case on its behalf, providing easy, short term results. But even when defeated, the super villain is never truly eliminated. It retreats, reshapes, and awaits its next opportunity.

“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.” – Ryan Holiday, Ego is the Enemy

Ego, when allowed to govern our day to day actions on a consistent basis rots the foundation of our work and lives. It means we ignore the important work of developing and maintaining relationships, it means we look past the fundamentals of work, we give in to the temptation of status and the luxury it affords.

The super villain, the ego, is an internal enemy with external impacts. It is a product of our thinking that drives external actions and results. Because of this, ego cannot be conquered or defeated by reading alone. It takes a strong level of self-awareness and deliberate, focused practice.

“You must practice seeing yourself with a little distance, cultivating the ability to get out of your own head. Detachment is a sort of natural ego antidote. It’s easy to be emotionally invested and infatuated with your own work. Any and every narcissist can do that. What is rare is not raw talent, skill, or even confidence, but humility, diligence, and self-awareness.” – Ryan Holiday, Ego is the Enemy

Giving in to the ego may bring a series of intoxicating and quick successes. Those successes will often only feed the ego, giving us vast incentive to keep repeating the behaviors and thinking that reward us.

But those quick successes do not equate to the long term.

In the long run, there is no quick road to the top. There is rarely, if ever, rapid success without sacrificing values or principles. Our choice then, is to decide who we want to be at every stage in our life and our career.

Who do we want to be at home and at work? What do we stand for now, and what do we want to stand for in the future? What are we unwilling to compromise, even when we experience success? What are we doing NOW that we must keep doing in the future?

Do the work. Answer these questions. And you’ll have a chance at keeping ego at bay.

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