Ryan Holiday stays true to the style that made his previous book Obstacle is the Way so successful. Illustrating actionable philosophical concepts by using concrete examples from history, we arrive at a broad understanding of the deleterious effects of an unchecked ego.
The book was a great compliment to my own personal exploration of the subject, which tends to focus on the experiential and core philosophical issues surrounding the ego. The book is filled with unforgettable stories and moments in history that will serve as guide rails to help us when we invariably fall off course. Moments like when the great Persian king Xerxes ordered the water that demolished his bridges to be punished by lashings of the whip, or Hearst declined an invitation from Orson Welles to view Citizen Kane because he was obsessed with the idea that the story was about him.
This book would have saved me a lot of money and a lot of torture if I had read it earlier in my life, and I highly recommend you get a jumpstart, no matter what your profession or passion may be.
I sat down with Ryan to discuss this book on my podcast:
#76 EGO IS THE ENEMY WITH RYAN HOLIDAY
Plug that hole–that one, right in the middle of your face–that drains you of your vital life force. Watch what happens. Watch how much better you get.
(Genghis Khan) was the greatest conqueror the world ever knew because he was more open to learning than any other conqueror has been.
Creativity is a matter of receptiveness and recognition. This cannot happen if you’re convinced the world revolves around you.
Behind every goal is the drive to be happy and fulfilled–but when egotism takes hold, we lose track of our goal and end up somewhere we never intended.
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 and utilizing every second. Every moment of failure, every moment or situation that we did not deliberately choose or control, presents this choice:
Alive time. Dead time.
Ego, it seems, is a precursor not just to miserable failure, but to being miserable when we inevitably do fail.
Sometimes because we can’t face what’s been said or what’s been done, we do the unthinkable in response to the unbearable: we escalate. This is the ego in its purest and most toxic form.
“He who fears death will never do anything worthy of a living man,” Seneca once said. Alter that: He who will do anything not to fail will almost certainly do something worthy of a failure.
Your potential, the absolute best you’re capable of–that’s the metric to measure yourself against. Winning is not enough. People can get lucky and win. People can be assholes and win. Anyone can win. But not everyone can be the best they can be.
Thus the paradox of hate and bitterness. It accomplishes almost exactly the opposite of what we hope to do… Attempting to destroy something out of hate or ego often ensures that it will be preserved and disseminated forever.
Meanwhile, love is right there. Egoless, open, positive, vulnerable, peaceful and productive.