Tips for Thought

What To Learn From “Ego is the Enemy” by Ryan Holiday

Ryan Holiday is a modern stoic who has written multiple bestsellers. His 2016 book, “Ego is the Enemy,” talks about the destructive nature of the ego and how it can harm us while pursuing our goals. However, before we can discuss the book, we need to first look at some important concepts.

What is the Ego?

In this book, ego refers to a person’s unhealthy perception of themselves and their identity. It should not be confused with Freud’s psychoanalytic term ‘ego’, which is considered the “rational” part of our personality.

In Holiday’s book, the ego consists of traits such as the following: selfishness, delusions, greed, constant competitiveness, and arrogance. In short, all qualities describe a person with a “massive ego.”

Ego should be distinct from confidence, however. Unlike confidence, which doesn’t need constant validation, ego is this need for self-importance that exaggerates our actual worth and makes us arrogant.

Ego is the Enemy Summary:

The book consists of cautionary tales for those who risk letting their egos get the better of them. People who don’t keep their egos in check may face considerable damages that can affect one’s overall value.

While ego can drive us to success, it also leaves us feeling vulnerable, especially if we let our delusions and grandiose sense of self get the better of us.

Holiday emphasizes that we should not entirely suppress our ego but strive less. To do so, we must learn to manage it, which requires thinking less of ourselves and critically.

How to Manage the Ego? Lessons from the Book:

Managing our ego is the key to living an overall satisfying life. Here are some practical tips from the book which we can apply:

1. Learn to evaluate your ability honestly.

This step, called self-assessment, requires objectively looking at our strengths and weaknesses.

When we learn to be honest with ourselves, we become less susceptible to the flattery and insults of others. We also become more empowered because we have developed the knowledge necessary to improve ourselves in the future.

2. Avoid seeking validation and status.

We live in a society where social media is rampant in everyday life. The structure and algorithm of these apps make it so users can quantify and gain traction on what they put up online.

Every like, comment, and share from others boosts the ego, thus risking ourselves of delusion. Alternatively, every dislike, insult, and strike from online trolls and haters can be a massive hit to our self-esteem, making us think we are less important because we are not “algorithm-friendly.

Limiting or avoiding your need for validation and status is essential to counter these adverse effects. The need to be popular, well-liked, and wealthy by society’s standards does not always live to happiness. In fact, by living to your own standards, you become less worried about frivolous comments. You are also more likely to feel self-assured and confident.

3. Think big in the long term, but aim small in the near term.

This step means learning to adjust your dreams according to what amount of energy you can do.

For instance, say you want to lose a couple of pounds. While your ideal goal may be grand and dramatic, reaching your dream takes small and low-stakes actions. In short, if you want to lose fifty pounds in one year, learn to eat healthy tomorrow and start from there.

4. Focus on doing instead of saying.

The ego enables one to exaggerate or diminish their current work. Instead of focusing on reaching one’s goals, an egotistical person will talk or showcase their process, possibly making them lose sight of their overall goal in progress.

5. Don’t fall for the hype of what success looks like.

People tend to confuse social media with real life. When people post their success stories, they rarely showcase their struggles and failures before meeting their goals.

On Instagram alone, countless influencers and everyday people post about what “success” looks like expensive cars, frequent exotic vacations, and a picture-perfect relationship. Strangely enough, there are fake wealth industries where influences can photoshop certain cars, private jets, and spaces to make themselves look more affluent than they are.

Instead of focusing on the image of “success,” try to consider what success means to you. If you think that success means flexing on material goods online, then you should reconsider.

Of course, these are just some essential lessons Holiday tells us. 

To learn more about managing the ego, get a copy of the book on Amazon today.

Takeaway: We all have an ego. However, when we allow our egos to inflate and blur our rational side, we become unreasonable, destructive, and irrational. To avoid letting our egos get the better of us, we must constantly keep ourselves in check to prevent hindering our personal growth.