Ego Is the Enemy – Ryan Holiday Book Summary

Ego Is the Enemy – Ryan Holiday | Free Book Summary

Ego Is the Enemy – Ryan Holiday

Ego can be defined as the sense of superiority and certainty that exceeds the bounds of confidence and talent. It’s when the notion of ourselves and the world grows so inflated that it begins to distort the reality that surrounds us.

Talk and Hype to Replace Action

Talk and Hype to Replace Action

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When we are striving for something it’s a temptation that exists for everyone – for talk and hype to replace action. At the beginning of any path, we are excited and nervous. So we seek to comfort ourselves externally instead of inwardly. This side we call “ego.”

We seem to think that silence is a sign of weakness. Being ignored is tantamount to death, and for ego, this is true. Research shows that while goal visualization is important, after a certain point, our mind begins to confuse it with actual progress.

Become a Student

We don’t like thinking that someone is better than us or that we have a lot left to learn. For this reason, updating your appraisal of your talents in a downward direction is one of the most difficult things to do in life – it is always a component of mastery.Free book, podcast summaries

The pretense of knowledge is our most dangerous vice, because it prevents us from getting any better. Studious self-assessment is the antidote.

Taste/Talent Gap

Ira Glass states that all of us who do creative work . . . we get into it because we have good taste. But it’s like there’s a gap—that for the first couple years that you are making stuff, what you are making isn’t so good. It’s really not that great. It’s trying to be good; it has ambitions to be good, but it’s not quite that good. But your taste—the thing that got you into the game—is still killer, and your taste is good enough that you can tell that what you are making is kind of a disappointment to you.

Ego in Taste/Talent Gap Situation

In this taste-talent gap situation, ego can seem comforting. Who wants to look at themselves and their work and find it does not measure up? And so, here, we might bluster our way through. Or, we can face our shortcomings honestly and put in the time. We can let this humble us, see clearly where we are talented and where we need to improve, and then put in the work to bridge that gap.

Ego in Success

Success is intoxicating, but to sustain it requires sobriety. We can’t keep learning if we think we already know everything. We can’t buy into the myths we make for ourselves or the noise and chatter of the outside world.

Too often convinced of own intelligence, we stay in a comfort zone where we never feel stupid and are never challenged to learn or reconsider what we know. It obscures various weaknesses in our understanding until eventually it’s too late to change course.

Ego Driven Distractions

We start out knowing what is important to us, but once we have achieved it, we lose sight of our priorities. All of us regularly say yes unthinkingly, or out of vague attraction, or out of greed or vanity. We think “yes” will let us accomplish more, when in reality it prevents exactly what we seek. Ego rejects trade-offs. Why? Ego wants it all.

Seneca’s Euthymia

According to Seneca, the Greek word euthymia meaning tranquility is one we should think of often: it is the sense of own path and how to stay on it without getting distracted by all the others that intersect it.


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

Maintain Sobriety

In most cases, we think that people become successful through sheer energy and enthusiasm. We almost excuse ego because we think it’s part and parcel of the personality required to “make it big.” Maybe a bit of overpoweringness is what got you where you are. But let’s ask: Is it really sustainable for the next several decades? Can you really outwork and outrun everyone forever?

Ego in Failure

No one is permanently successful, and not everyone finds success on the first attempt. We all deal with setbacks along the way. Ego not only leaves us unprepared for these circumstances, it often contributes to their occurring in the first place. If success is ego intoxication then failure can be a devastating blow.

Failure is Part of the Process

The way through, the way to rise again, requires a reorientation and increased self-awareness. We don’t need pity, our own or anyone else’s; we need purpose, poise, and patience. It’s far better when doing good work is sufficient. In other words, the less attached we are to the outcome, the better.

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