Ego is the Enemy

By: Ryan Holiday - Read: January 30, 2023 - Rating: 9/10

Excellent required reading for all ambitious young people that want to build successful careers.

Covers almost all of the classic pitfalls of ego that plight young people - especially those in Gen Z exposed to startups & Silicon Valley at a young age (a group that includes most of my friends and me).

Each chapter is a new powerful lesson on restraint, humility, attitude, and more. The chapter on "The Canvas Method" is especially valuable.

My Notes

  • “Virtue begins with understanding, and is fulfilled by courage” - Demosthenes
  • Be less invested in the story you tell about yourself, and more focused on achieving the world changing work you’ve set out to achieve.
  • Modern culture puffs up our egos and makes it easy to brag.
  • Aim to be humble in your aspirations, gracious in your successes, and resilient in your failures.
  • “Although we share with many others a vision for greatness, we understand that our path toward it is very different from theirs. Following Sherman and Isocrates, we understand that ego is our enemy on that journey, so that when we do achieve our success, it will not sink us but make us stronger.
  • “Talk depletes us. Talking and doing fight for the same resources.” Don’t talk about your goals. Just keep them in your had and work toward making them a reality. You get dopamine from talking about your goals, which makes you lose focus and drive to actualize them.
  • Always remain a student and always be learning. Remain humble enough to realize that you still have much more to learn, which is always true.
  • “But too often we proceed like this… A flash of inspiration: I want to do the best and biggest _ ever. Be the youngest _. The only one to _.”
  • “Because we always hear the passions of successful people, we forget that failures have the same trait.” This is a needed reminder that passion alone doesn’t get you anywhere. Reason is what it takes.
  • Be an anteambulo one who clears a path for others.
  • “It’s a common attitude that transcends generations and societies. The angry, unappreciated genius is forced to do stuff she doesn’t like, for people she doesn’t respect, as she makes her way in the world. How dare they force me to grovel like this! The injustice! The waste!
  • “Find canvases for other people to paint on […] Clear the path for people above you and you will eventually create a path for yourself.”
  • When you are just starting out, we can be sure of a few fundamental realities: 1) You’re not nearly as good or as important as you think you are; 2) You have an attitude that needs to be readjusted; 3) Most of what you think you know or most of what you learned in books or in school is out of date or wrong”
  • There’s one fabulous way to work all that out of your system: attach yourself to people and organizations who are already successful and subsume your identity into theirs and move both forward simultaneously”
  • Say little, do much. Be lesser, do more. “Imagine if for every person you met, you thought of some way to help them, something you could do for them? And you looked at it in a way that entirely benefitted the and not you.”
  • He thrived on what was considered grunt work, asked for it and strove to become the best at precisely what others thought they were too good for.”
  • 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.”
  • Where we decide to put our energy decides what we’ll ultimately accomplish.
  • “Every man I meet is my master in some point, and in that I learn of him.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • “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.”
  • “Find out why you’re after what you’re after”
  • Life is divided between alive time, when you are learning and acting, or dead time, when you are passive and waiting. Learn to turn your time to alive time.
  • Do your work. Do it well. Then “let go and let God.” Do your work well for the sake of itself, and don’t be attached to the outcomes.
  • “The only real failure is abandoning your principles.” When failure pushes you to this point, you spiral out of control.
  • Measure yourself by your internal scorecard, not the external scorecards of society. “You’re 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. Anyone can win. But not everyone is the best possible version of themselves.”
  • You know what is a better response to an attack or a slight or something you don’t like? Love. That’s right, love . For the neighbor who won’t turn down the music. For the parent that let you down. For the bureaucrat who lost your paperwork. For the group that rejects you. For the critic who attacks you. The former partner who stole your business idea. The bitch or the bastard who cheated on you. Love.”
  • Meanwhile, love is right there. Egoless, open, positive, vulnerable, peaceful, and productive.”