Ego Is The Enemy

My own ego has been a focus of mine for some time now. Trying to work out why I take things so personally when my views and opinions are challenged; or at worst, not listened to. Why was/ is my desire for recognition so strong. Is it a lack of confidence; a chip on my shoulder?

Even though I feel that I have come a long way in keeping my ego in check and master my emotions, I do still find myself slipping back every now and then, especially dealing with certain individuals. It was with great excitement that I bought Ryan Holiday's, Ego Is the Enemy - in order to advance my understanding and the impact of my own ego. The book surely did not disappoint.

In this book, you’ll learn where ego comes from and how it can block your road to success. You’ll learn strategies for how to control your ego, regain humility and forgo seeking praise in favour of sharing it with others.

Author, Ryan Holiday states that a moderate, healthy ego is often crucial to success in life. It allows us to engage in competition, convince others of our strengths and surpass our previous achievements. All too often, when we experience success, our ego becomes inflated.

Our perceptions cloud as our self-image rises above our view of others. We can become so confident that we overextend ourselves and end up paying for it. So, taming our pride is a crucial step; but how do we do that?

The three most powerful points I took from the book were;

  1. Pride doesn’t just stop us from continuing to learn and achieve, it also makes us overly sensitive to criticism and deaf to warnings

  2. One way we can control our ego is by thinking of ourselves as students that never stop learning.

  3. Showing humility will always benefit your career, no matter what

Ego and your desire for recognition.

As the saying goes, actions speak louder than words. If that’s true, says Ryan, why do we love to feel popular or get praise from others, even for things we haven’t done? We’ve got our ego to thank for that. Ego is the desire to get fame and recognition without deserving it. While recognition may result from being successful, many people try to become famous before they achieve success.

The authors asks us to consider the story of former US president Ulysses S. Grant. After the American Civil War, he ran for president and won. But while Grant may have been popular in the army, he didn’t have much experience in the political sphere. His desire to win the highest political office despite his lack of experience makes Grant the perfect example of an egoist. The same can be said of current President Trump.

Unlike ego, ambition is based on a solid foundation of real achievements. William T. Sherman served alongside Grant and was successful in his post; making him ambitious, but not an egoist. As Abraham Lincolns 2nd term drew to a close, Grant pushed into politics to compete for the role of president. While egoists chase after fame, ambitious people are driven by the will to excel in their field, regardless of whether they are congratulated and celebrated for their successes.

Sherman simply wasn’t interested in becoming president. He preferred to keep working hard in his field of expertise: military leadership. He was determined to be successful without focusing on gaining recognition for it, and he also knew that success in one field didn’t necessarily mean it could be transferred over to others.

Rein in your ego by becoming a student for life.

One way we can control our ego is by thinking of ourselves as students that never stop learning. Even if you’re incredibly good at what you do, your ego can get the better of you all too easily. Remind yourself that there’s always someone who’s better than you.

Another example from the book is the story of Kirk Hammett. In 1980, Kirk Hammett was asked by Metallica to join their band, where his musical talent would be allowed to shine. However, Hammett knew that even though he’d just become a member of one of the most famous rock bands of all time, he wasn’t done learning. Hammett became a student of world-renowned guitar virtuoso Joe Satriani and, in doing so, was able to take his guitar skills to a whole new level.

Hammett was able to stay humble by working with an immensely talented peer, a great way to rein in your ego. If you want to remind yourself that you’ve always got more to learn, you can find yourself a highly-skilled mentor. Alternatively, you can become a teacher, a strategy applied by martial-arts expert Frank Shamrock; the author states. Frank believes that in order stay humble, fighters must not only learn from the very best and train with peers at their skill level but should also dedicate time to training beginners. Allowing fighters to see the full spectrum of skill levels in their sport.

Don’t be blinded by your pride.

Imagine what would happen if some of the world's greatest inventors let their early achievements deter them from further progress. Why is it that we tend to sit back and relax after achieving success; Ryan asks?

Resting on our laurels is a result of our pride. Pride and ego aren’t the same thing, but definitely go hand-in-hand. Pride justifies our ego, making us feel like a single success is a sign of how special we are. We’re too busy patting ourselves on the back to see that there’s room for improvement, or that we could achieve even greater things.

Pride doesn’t just stop us from continuing to learn and achieve, it also makes us overly sensitive to criticism and deaf to warnings. Proud people are very prone to becoming defensive or aggressive when their achievements are criticised.

Delegation is a way to keep your ego in check.

Ryan asks; do you have trouble trusting teammates or colleagues? Ever feel like you can’t give them tasks to do because they just wouldn’t do as good a job as you? These are some serious signs that your ego needs reining in. Try placing trust in other people’s work – you and your team will benefit from it.

As you move up your career ladder and take on more of a managerial role, conflicts with your ego may emerge. You might have been used to gaining recognition for your work, while your new role might be to oversee the work of others. Many of us tend to hoard tasks we should delegate. Why? Because our ego tells us that we’re the only person right for the job. By delegating, you’ll force yourself to trust and respect the work of others.

If that’s not enough to convince you, keep in mind that the costs of refusing to delegate can be pretty hefty. The author tells the story of car manufacturer John DeLorean. John left his job at General Motors to start his own company because he believed he had a better understanding of the car manufacturing business than his bosses at GM. The problem was, he had no substance or expertise to back up his assumption, and this soon became painfully clear.

In his new company, he did not implement responsibility structures that made GM thrive. Instead, DeLorean had to have a say in every single decision, a dictatorial style of management that was unsustainable, to say the least. DeLorean’s endeavour eventually failed, ending in bankruptcy.

No person is an Island.

If, no person is an island; why do we love to think of our victories as ours alone? Whether we achieve success after tackling adversity or just through hard work, it’s far too easy to let accomplishments go to our heads and let ourselves believe they were all our own doing.

The author tells the story of Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryan - both world-class players with the LA Lakers. They won three consecutive championships with the Lakers. They were a fantastic duo but, unfortunately, they both let their individual success get the better of them. O’Neal often complained about Bryant’s shortcomings to the media, and Bryant refused to sign with the Lakers again until they traded O’Neal to another team.

Ryan states, that instead of selfishly seeking out praise for yourself, share the accolades with others. Usually, they’ll do the same for you in return. Showing humility will always benefit your career, no matter what.

From the accountants who gave you the numbers for that winning presentation to the designer who made those striking info-graphics, thanking those who help you along the way will strengthen your own position. Your team will enjoy working with you and will perform better, and you’ll continue attracting new colleagues, too.

Don’t always expect success.

It’s natural to feel frustrated if one of your great ideas gets rejected or you don’t get the job you applied for. After all, our egos tell us that we’re entitled to receive rewards – but the world doesn’t always work in accordance with our plans.

Rather than feeling disappointed, we should acknowledge the work we’ve done and recognise that we can’t always control the outcome of that work, or people’s opinions of us. An unexpected result should be welcomed as an opportunity to honestly reflect on our performance.

And on the other side, we should remember that lucky breaks are not the same as success that comes from hard work. So, again, we have to be honest with ourselves about our performance. Another example mentioned that of the New England Patriots football team. They selected Tom Brady in the sixth round of an entry draft, and he turned out to be one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, leading the Patriots to four Super Bowl titles.

However, instead of congratulating themselves for having found such a great player in such unexpected circumstances, the Patriots were determined to improve their scouting program, so they would identify talent like Tom Brady again.

The next time something doesn’t go the way you expect it to, take the time to understand why. Improve your best efforts and you’ll give yourself a better chance in the future.


What I took from it.

An ego is not something a person develops on purpose; it is a part of everyone’s personality that develops naturally, especially in conjunction with success. An unchecked ego can end up being detrimental to your success, and you should take careful steps to ensure that it doesn’t get out of control.

My Rating

Excellent read for anyone seeking more insight into their personality and into the personalities of those around them