Ego, as Ryan Holiday illustrates in his book Ego Is the Enemy, is an opponent to every great individual and organization that’s ever existed. Where there’s ego, there’s no selflessness; where there’s no selflessness, there’s no innovation or progress; where there’s no innovation or progress, there’s stagnation and decay. It’s such a simple concept—but the battle against ego rages on in nearly every industry and social sphere of our modern world.
Chapter One: The Seduction of Power
The Dangers of Ego. Ego is a weird thing to study, because people don’t like talking about it and that means there aren’t a lot of experts who can be considered authorities on ego. But there are some, and author/consultant Ryan Holiday is one of them. In his book Ego Is The Enemy , he gives us many interesting stories about how famous historical figures fought their egos and won (or lost). We learn what makes great leaders great—and what makes them fail. From Seneca to Ulysses S. Grant, Hitler to Jim Morrison, we get lessons in leadership, humility, writing strategies and more.
Chapter Two: How Big Do You Want To Go?
The problem with ego—more specifically, big ego—is that it doesn’t just make your life harder and more complex, it makes it shorter. People who think they deserve success more than others, or who believe they’re special in some way and therefore entitled to special treatment (or even to be above certain rules), are far more likely to get into accidents or even to end up dead. Ego also blinds you. It keeps you from listening to advice that might help you but also hurts people close to you because of all the attention focused on yourself. Don’t let your ego push away those who love and care about you most.
Chapter Three: The Curse of Knowledge
While it’s natural to take things for granted after you learn them, some knowledge is toxic. In fact, as you master something, you can often forget how much work goes into achieving a seemingly simple feat—and therefore grow complacent or lose interest. If a former elementary school teacher used to swimming lessons at age 4 suddenly had to teach water safety for kids and adults, she wouldn’t have much fun doing it or try hard enough to do it well. The same happens in any industry: once we’ve mastered something, our confidence makes us lazy and we might stop improving. To avoid becoming overly confident or losing your passion and excitement for what you do best, remind yourself of how little you knew when starting out.
Chapter Four: Change Yourself First
Don’t wait for others to change. Start by changing yourself. Remember that you are a product of your environment, so it is more important to be aware of your own habits than blame others for not changing theirs. Every time you adopt a new behavior, you’re sending an unconscious message to everyone around you: This is okay to do!
Chapter Five: What’s In It For Me?
Ego, in business and elsewhere, is that which divides us. We want our own success and security, for sure; but more than that, we want those things at others’ expense. In order to succeed and do good work, we must overcome ourselves. Whether it’s a thought pattern or an instinctual craving, ego separates us from what really matters: Doing great work in service of a greater cause.
Chapter Six: Turning Weakness Into Strength
I Am Not Special, and Neither Are You . In fact, you’re less special than almost everyone. This might sound like a weakness on its face. But for an ambitious person trying to achieve things in life that are not easy—for anyone looking to win—it’s actually very liberating news. The moment we decide we have what it takes is often our greatest mistake. It might feel good in the moment to get caught up in ourselves, but it’s a short trip from confidence to arrogance. Ego can blind us to our own weaknesses and make us take on too much risk or just fall flat when we try something new because we’ve lost perspective on how difficult it is compared with other stuff we’ve done easily.summary of Ego-Killing Lessons from Ryan Holiday