Ego is the enemy | Ryan Holiday


Published: 2016

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History books are filled with stories of visionary geniuses who re-created a world after their own worldview. In this book, Holiday wants to highlight the large number of people who have constantly avoided the spotlight and set their goals above the need for attention. The author’s definition of ego is what most of us intuitively associate with ego – “the need to be better than” and “more recognized for” – beyond all reasonable limits. The main lesson from the book is to keep a cool head and focus on your work.

STAY ON THE TOP. The ego must be kept under control. The author mentions a few persons who have lost their minds and lost everything as soon as they have achieved their goals. The ego is a weakness when it comes to dealing with criticism, dissent or superiors. It does not matter if others do not understand, or if you understand better. Feedback drives development. Therefore, we must be willing to listen to feedback.

LEARNING COMES FIRST. Being a good student is not just about receiving instructions. It is also about putting the ego in someone else’s hands. Many people avoid looking for mentors who can give harsh and critical feedback, precisely because it is exactly this type of feedback that we avoid at all costs. But there is no one to perform for. There is only work to be done and lessons to be learned.

HYBRIS IS NOT SELF-CONFIDENCE. The ego is a short-term fix with a long-term consequence. There is nothing wrong with having self-confidence as long as it is rooted in reality. But without a correct perception of our own abilities, we deviates from reality. Hybris mixed with self-confidence can lead to fatal consequences.

“If there is one touchstone of success, it is confidence. A people must have confidence in themselves. If they lack it, if they feel they are unequal to the challenge, then they will never make the grade.” – Lee Kuan Yew

THE SUCCESS ILLUSION. Studies have shown that goal visualization can be a successful method. The problem is that after a while, the brain mixes up the goal and the new self-image with actual success. You can lie to yourself, say you spend time, or pretend to work but finally someone will test you – then the truth will come out. There are those who have succeeded with “fake it til you make it” but that does not have to be the way to go.

“WALK THE TALK”. In the era of social media it has become easier to talk up yourself by announcing big news and letting your congratulations flow in. But it’s easier to talk about the big plans than to carry them out. Every day there is talk of thinking big, living big and becoming memorable. The danger is that we will be deprived of reality by that propaganda – with the result that nothing gets done.

THE PASSION PARADOX. Since we often hear that passion drives successful people, we forget all the failures that the quality brings. The difficult thing is not to set a big goal but to continue when things go wrong. It is better to be humble in the face of all the challenges that lie ahead.

”You can’t build reputation on what you’re going to do” – Henry Ford

THE INNER SCORE CARD. Socrates’ wisdom was based on the fact that he knew he barely knew anything. At the individual level, we have only limited control over the reward from our job and the validation, recognition and reward of others. The possibility that we will not be recognized is not a reason not to work hard.

LEARNING TAKES TIME. Benjamin Franklin wrote anonymous letters that were published in his brother’s newspaper. Franklin did not receive praise for the letters until much later in his life. Instead, it was his brother, the owner, who profited from its popularity. However, Franklin played “the long game” and was able to learn how public opinion worked.

THE CANVAS STRATEGY. By opening the path for people above us, we can create a way for ourselves. It is a valuable quality to be able to be on the rise without threatening or irritating anyone. There is a time to be number two. The Canvas Strategy is about helping oneself by helping others. The goal is to make things better rather than look better.

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