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The Book in One Paragraph
We are always in one of three stages in life: aspiring, succeeding, or failing. Conquering our ego (the unhealthy belief in our own importance) helps us be humble in our aspirations, gracious in our success, and resilient in our failures.
Ego is the Enemy Summary
This is my book summary of Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday . My notes include quotes, big ideas, and important lessons from the book.
- Ego is the unhealthy belief in our own importance.
- Ego causes our attention to drift towards impressing others and garnering attention instead of doing the necessary work.
- “Impressing people is utterly different from being truly impressive.”
- “Your ego is the enemy—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.”
- The only relationship between work and talk is that one kills the other.
- “And that’s what is so insidious about talk. Anyone can talk about himself or herself. Even a child knows how to gossip and chatter. Most people are decent at hype and sales. 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.”
- Talk less about the work you’re doing on social media and just focus on doing the work itself.
- Almost universally, the kind of performance we give on social media is positive. It’s more “Let me tell you how well things are going. Look how great I am.” It’s rarely the truth: “I’m scared. I’m struggling. I don’t know.
- Measure your progress against yourself alone.
- “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 possible version of themselves.”
- Focus on purpose, not passion. Purpose is similar to passion, except with realistic expectations.
- “The critical work that you want to do will require your deliberation and consideration. Not passion.”
- One of the best ways to move up professionally when you’re young is to set aside your ego and put others first.
- “Find canvases for other people to paint on. Clear the path for the people above you and you will eventually create a path for yourself.”
- Ignore anyone who attempts to tear you down when you pursue a goal.
- “Who can afford to be jerked around by impulses, or believe that you’re god’s gift to humanity, or too important to put up with anything you don’t like? Those who have subdued their ego understand that it doesn’t degrade you when others treat you poorly; it degrades them.”
- “Work is finding yourself alone at the track when the weather kept everyone else indoors. Work is pushing through the pain and crappy first drafts and prototypes. Because there is work to be done. Work doesn’t want to be good. It is made so, despite the headwind.”
- Embrace success with humility.
- “Sobriety, open-mindedness, organization, and purpose—these are the great stabilizers. They balance out the ego and pride that comes with achievement and recognition.”
- “Sobriety is the counterweight that must balance out success. Especially if things keep getting better and better.”
- There is always more to learn. Become a lifelong student.
- “An amateur is defensive. The professional finds learning to be enjoyable; they like being challenged and humbled, and engage in education as an ongoing and endless process.”
- “When success begins to slip from your fingers—for whatever reason—the response isn’t to grip and claw so hard that you shatter it to pieces. It’s to understand that you must work yourself back to the aspirational phase. You must get back to first principles and best practices.”
- 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.
- Be able to identify “enough” and don’t fall into the trap of constantly needing more success to feel validated.
- “This is especially true with money. If you don’t know how much you need, the default easily becomes: more.”
- Embracing reality is the antidote to excessive ego.
- “When we remove ego, we’re left with what is real. What replaces ego is humility, yes—but rock-hard humility and confidence. Whereas ego is artificial, this type of confidence can hold weight. Ego is stolen. Confidence is earned. Ego is self-anointed, its swagger is artifice. One is girding yourself, the other gaslighting. It’s the difference between potent and poisonous.”
- The true path to progress lies in practicing the small, simple, mundane positive habits day in and day out.
- “We will learn that though we think big, we must act and live small in order to accomplish what we seek. Because we will be action and education focused, and forgo validation and status, our ambition will not be grandiose but iterative—one foot in front of the other, learning and growing and putting in the time.”
- “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.”
- “Whatever is next for us, we can be sure of one thing we’ll want to avoid. Ego. It makes all the steps hard, but failure is the one it will make permanent. Unless we learn, right here and right now, from our mistakes. Unless we use this moment as an opportunity to understand ourselves and our own mind better, ego will seek out failure like true north.”