Ego is the Enemy Book Summary - Ego is the Enemy Book explained in key points
Listen to the Intro

Ego is the Enemy summary

Ryan Holiday

The Fight to Master Our Greatest Opponent

4.4 (665 ratings)
22 mins
Table of Contents

    Ego is the Enemy
    Summary of 6 key ideas

    Audio & text in the Blinkist app
    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.

    Want more?
    Read or listen to the key ideas
    from 7,000+ titles

    Key ideas in Ego is the Enemy

    More knowledge in less time
    Read or listen
    Read or listen
    Get the key ideas from nonfiction bestsellers in minutes, not hours.
    Find your next read
    Find your next read
    Get book lists curated by experts and personalized recommendations.
    Shortcasts New
    We’ve teamed up with podcast creators to bring you key insights from podcasts.

    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.

    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.

    Categories with Ego is the Enemy

    Books like Ego is the Enemy

    People ❤️ Blinkist
    Sven O.

    It's highly addictive to get core insights on personally relevant topics without repetition or triviality. Added to that the apps ability to suggest kindred interests opens up a foundation of knowledge.

    Thi Viet Quynh N.

    Great app. Good selection of book summaries you can read or listen to while commuting. Instead of scrolling through your social media news feed, this is a much better way to spend your spare time in my opinion.

    Jonathan A.

    Life changing. The concept of being able to grasp a book's main point in such a short time truly opens multiple opportunities to grow every area of your life at a faster rate.

    Renee D.

    Great app. Addicting. Perfect for wait times, morning coffee, evening before bed. Extremely well written, thorough, easy to use.

    People also liked

    Start growing with Blinkist now
    27 Million
    Downloads on all platforms
    4.7 Stars
    Average ratings on iOS and Google Play
    Of Blinkist members create a better reading habit*
    *Based on survey data from Blinkist customers
    Powerful ideas from top nonfiction

    Try Blinkist to get the key ideas from 7,000+ bestselling nonfiction titles and podcasts. Listen or read in just 15 minutes.

    Start your free trial