Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday

Ego is the enemy

What humans require in our ascent is purpose and realism. Purpose, you could say, is like passion with boundaries. Realism is detachment and perspective.

It’d be far better if you were intimidated by what lies ahead—humbled by its magnitude and determined to see it through regardless. 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.

Find out why you’re after what you’re after. Ignore those who mess with your pace. Let them covet what you have, not the other way around. Because that’s independence.

One of the symptoms of approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one’s work is terribly important.

Hopefully you won’t find yourself so crazed that you start anthropomorphizing, and inflicting retribution on inanimate objects. That’s pure, recognizable crazy, and thankfully rare. What’s more likely, and more common, is we begin to overestimate our own power. Then we lose perspective. Eventually, we can end like Xerxes, a monstrous joke.

Success casts a spell over us.

The problem lies in the path that got us to success in the first place. What we’ve accomplished often required feats of raw power and force of will. Both entrepreneurship and art required the creation of something where nothing existed before. Wealth means beating the market and the odds. Athletic champions have proved their physical superiority over opponents. Achieving success involved ignoring the doubts and reservations of the people around us. It meant rejecting rejection. It required taking certain risks. We could have given up at any time, but we’re here precisely because we didn’t.

“He who indulges empty fears earns himself real fears,”

The sad feedback loop is that the relentless “looking out for number one” can encourage other people to undermine and fight us. They see that behavior for what it really is: a mask for weakness, insecurity, and instability. In its frenzy to protect itself, paranoia creates the persecution it seeks to avoid, making the owner a prisoner of its own delusions and chaos.

not because he didn’t want to work himself, but because everyone had a job and he trusted and empowered them to do it.

Another executive described his management style as “chasing colored balloons”—he was constantly distracted and abandoning one project for another. He was a genius. Sadly, that’s rarely enough.

As you become successful in your own field, your responsibilities may begin to change. Days become less and less about doing and more and more about making decisions. Such is the nature of leadership. This transition requires reevaluating and updating your identity. It requires a certain humility to put aside some of the more enjoyable or satisfying parts of your previous job. It means accepting that others might be more qualified or specialized in areas in which you considered yourself competent—or at least their time is better spent on them than yours.

Yes, it would be more fun to be constantly involved in every tiny matter, and might make us feel important to be the person called to put out fires. The little things are endlessly engaging and often flattering, while the big picture can be hard to discern. It’s not always fun, but it is the job. If you don’t think big picture—because you’re too busy playing “boss man”—who will?

Responsibility requires a readjustment and then increased clarity and purpose. First, setting the top-level goals and priorities of the organization and your life. Then enforcing and observing them. To produce results and only results. A fish stinks from the head, is the saying. Well, you’re the head now.

“You’re becoming who you are going to be and so you might as well not be an asshole.”

Play for the name on the front of the jersey, he says, and they’ll remember the name on the back.

Creativity is a matter of receptiveness and recognition. This cannot happen if you’re convinced the world revolves around you.

“we are at a wonderful ball where the champagne sparkles in every glass and soft laughter falls upon the summer air. We know at some moment the black horsemen will come shattering through the terrace doors wreaking vengeance and scattering the survivors. Those who leave early are saved, but the ball is so splendid no one wants to leave while there is still time. So everybody keeps asking—what time is it? But none of the clocks have hands.”

“The future bears down upon each one of us with all the hazards of the unknown.” The only way out is through.

As they say, this moment is not your life. But it is a moment in your life. How will you use it?

This is why we can’t let externals determine whether something was worth it or not. It’s on us. The world is, after all, indifferent to what we humans “want.” If we persist in wanting, in needing, we are simply setting ourselves up for resentment or worse. Doing the work is enough.

Most trouble is temporary . . . unless you make that not so. Recovery is not grand, it’s one step in front of the other. Unless your cure is more of the disease.

You’re not as good as you think. You don’t have it all figured out. Stay focused. Do better.

This is characteristic of how great people think. It’s not that they find failure in every success. They just hold themselves to a standard that exceeds what society might consider to be objective success. Because of that, they don’t much care what other people think; they care whether they meet their own standards. And these standards are much, much higher than everyone else’s.

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