Ego is the Enemy Book Summary - Ego is the Enemy Book explained in key points
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Ego is the Enemy summary

Ryan Holiday

The Fight to Master Our Greatest Opponent

4.4 (852 ratings)
22 mins

Brief summary

Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday is a powerful examination of the destructive nature of the ego and how it impedes personal growth. The book provides practical strategies for overcoming the ego and achieving lasting success in all aspects of life.

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    Ego is the Enemy
    Summary of 6 key ideas

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    Key idea 1 of 6

    Aspire: Ego prevents you from improving.

    The first two chapters of this Blink will be about how ego derails you when you’re first starting out – when you’re aspiring. It doesn’t matter what you’re aspiring toward. It could be anything: learning a new skill, say, or setting out on a new career path. In this stage, your ego overestimates your abilities. It tells you that, because you’re talented, because you’re intelligent, you don’t need to put in the work. You don’t need to practice. You don’t need to put in the hours. You can get by on sheer brilliance.

    But let’s recall the words of the Stoic philosopher Epictetus: “It is impossible to learn that which one thinks one already knows.”

    Talent can certainly contribute to success – no doubt about it. But humility and diligence, that willingness to practice, to put in the time, are much more likely to lead you from aspiration to accomplishment.

    If you overestimate your talent, you’ll never improve. If you think you have all the answers, you’ll never learn. And so, at this stage, the most important skill you can possess might be this: the ability to accurately assess your own ability.

    To give you an idea of what this looks like in practice, let’s review the career of William Tecumseh Sherman, a general in the Union Army during the American Civil War. Sherman did achieve great fame. He was, and is, regarded as one of the greatest US generals, if not the greatest. But his rise was neither swift nor expected.

    As a young officer, he moved from post to post, riding across the US on horseback. At each new posting, he acquired new knowledge. When the Civil War began, he fought. Later, when the Union Army was suffering from a leadership shortage, Sherman met with President Lincoln, who offered him a promotion. And here’s where Sherman’s sharp self-assessment comes in: he said he’d accept the promotion but that he didn’t want superior command.

    Sherman had a clear-eyed understanding of his skills. Where most people would have snatched the opportunity for increased power, Sherman said no, aware that he’d be most effective where he already was.

    When Sherman eventually stepped up, spearheading a strategic plan of his own, it relied entirely on his expertise, on the work he’d put in, the lessons he’d learned – not on foolhardy self-assurance. And his plan went well. By the end of the war, he was one of the most celebrated men in America. 

    This is the difference between confidence and ego. Confidence is founded on hard work, on accurate self-assessment, on actual achievements. Ego is foundationless. In Holiday’s words: “Ego is stolen. Confidence is earned.” All his career, Sherman left his ego at the door, and this earned him not only confidence but success.

    In a bit, we’ll come back to Sherman and how he handled that success (spoiler alert: he handled it well) – but, for now, take a moment to assess yourself. Be unflinching. Be objective. Be unforgiving. This is tough. It might be a bit painful. But the point isn’t to hurt yourself; it’s to humble yourself. If you have an uninflated, unexaggerated understanding of your true abilities, you’ll be much more likely to succeed – because you’ll be prepared to put in the hard work.

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    What is Ego is the Enemy about?

    Ego is the Enemy (2016) outlines the dangers of egotism and the strategies we can use to rein in our pride, using historical and cultural examples. From finding a mentor to learning how to delegate tasks, these blinks show us why staying grounded can secure future success.

    Ego is the Enemy Review

    Ego is the Enemy (2016) by Ryan Holiday explores the destructive nature of ego and provides strategies for overcoming it. Here are three reasons why this book is worth reading:

    • Packed with insightful wisdom, it challenges readers to recognize the harmful effects of ego and offers practical advice for achieving humility and success.
    • Utilizing compelling anecdotes from history's great figures, the book emphasizes the importance of staying grounded and avoiding the pitfalls of ego-driven behavior.
    • Through its accessible storytelling and relatable examples, it manages to captivate readers and make self-improvement an engaging journey.

    Best quote from Ego is the Enemy

    Play for the name on the front of the jersey, and theyll remember the name on the back. – Tony Adams (former English football player)

    —Ryan Holiday
    example alt text

    Who should read Ego is the Enemy?

    • Anyone who has been told that they’re arrogant or proud
    • Successful business people feeling uneasy about their newfound fame
    • Managers interested in how the ego impacts our work lives

    About the Author

    Ryan Holiday is an American author, media strategist, and bookstore owner. He’s also the host of the Daily Stoic podcast. His other books include The Daily Stoic, Stillness is the Key, and Courage is Calling.

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    Ego is the Enemy FAQs 

    What is the main message of Ego is the Enemy?

    The main message of Ego is the Enemy is that ego can hinder our success and growth, and needs to be kept in check.

    How long does it take to read Ego is the Enemy?

    The reading time for Ego is the Enemy varies, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Ego is the Enemy a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Ego is the Enemy is a thought-provoking read that offers valuable insights on the dangers of ego. Worth your time.

    Who is the author of Ego is the Enemy?

    The author of Ego is the Enemy is Ryan Holiday.

    What to read after Ego is the Enemy?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Ego is the Enemy, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday
    • Courage is Calling by Ryan Holiday
    • The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday & Stephen Hanselman
    • Smarter Faster Better by Charles Duhigg
    • The Way of Integrity by Martha Beck
    • Discipline Is Destiny by Ryan Holiday
    • Discipline Equals Freedom by Jocko Willink
    • The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson
    • Stillness Is the Key by Ryan Holiday
    • Lives of the Stoics by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman