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Ego is enemy  Book Summary

Ego is the Enemy. Ego is the Enemy is organized into three parts: Aspire, Success, and Failure. The aim is to help us suppress ego early before bad habits take hold, to replace the temptations of ego with humility and discipline and fortitude so that when fate turns against us, we're not wrecked by failure. 

While the history books are filled with tales of obsessive, visionary geniuses who remade the world in their image with sheer, almost irrational force, I’ve found that history is also made by individuals who fought their egos at every turn, who eschewed the spotlight, and who put their higher goals above their desire for recognition.” – from the Prologue

In a nutshell 

Ego Is the Enemy is a potent reflection on how ego dismantles us in all phases of accomplishment—aspiration, success, and failure—and provides strategies to help you avoid falling into the trap.

NOTES

This book is a series of moral stories to encourage our better impulses. By practicing it, you’ll think less of yourself and be more liberated to accomplish the world changing work that you set out to achieve.

What is ego, and why is it such a bad thing?

Ego comes with the territory for people with drive and ambition. A casual definition of ego is an unhealthy belief in our own importance. Ego is the enemy because it inhibits us from real creative insight, gets in the way of what we have and what we want, destroys relationships, and repels opportunities and advantages.

Ego is the enemy of success because it puts self-awareness aside in favor of over-inflated confidence. It has propelled many people to success, but far more to rapid failure. Ego is the enemy of building, maintaining, and recovering—the three parts of this book.

Despite popular belief, no one becomes successful by being delusional or self-absorbed. Ego is stolen confidence, not the mark of a visionary or a real leader.

Talent is only a starting point. What really matters is what you make of it. So many opportunities just fall into our laps, or were given to us. It’s important not to let these go to our head. The ability to evaluate one’s own ability is incredibly underrated. Improvement is impossible without it, and ego makes it even more difficult. Detach from your own work to help you evaluate it.

Humility, diligence, and self-awareness are rare. Confidence and hubris are not. Although we think big, we must act and live small to get what we want. Focus on action and education instead of chasing status.

DON’T BE PASSIONATE

Passion—it’s all about passion. Find your passion. Live passionately. Inspiret the world with your passion.

People go to Burning Man to find passion, to be around passion, to rekindle their passion. Same goes for TED and the now enormous SXSW and a thousand other events, retreats, and summits, all fueled by what they claim to be life’s

most important force.

Here’s what those same people haven’t told you: your passion may be the very thing holding you back from power or influence or accomplishment.

Because just as often, we fail with—no, because of—passion.

Early on in her ascendant political career, a visitor once spoke of Eleanor

Roosevelt’s “passionate interest” in a piece of social legislation. The person had meant it as a compliment. But Eleanor’s response is illustrative. “Yes,” she did support the cause, she said. “But I hardly think the word ‘passionate’ applies to me.”

As a genteel, accomplished, and patient woman born while the embers of the quiet Victorian virtues were still warm, Roosevelt was above passion. She had purpose. She had direction. She wasn’t driven by passion, but by reason.

George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld, on the other hand, were passionate about Iraq. Christopher McCandless was bursting with passion as he headed “into the wild.” So was Robert Falcon Scott as he set out to explore the arctic, bitten as he was with “the Pole mania” (as were many climbers of the tragic 1996 Everest climb, momentarily struck with what psychologists now call “goalodicy”). The inventor and investors of the Segway believed they had a world-changing innovation on their hands and put everything into evangelizing it. That all of these talented, smart individuals were fervent believers in what they sought to do is without dispute. It’s also clear that they were also unprepared and incapable of grasping the objections and real concerns of everyone else around them.

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# FOLLOW THE CANVAS STRATEGY

Great men have almost always shown themselves as ready to obey as they afterwards provedable to command.

—LORD MAHON

In the Roman system of art and science, there existed a concept for which we have only a partial analog. Successful businessmen, politicians, or rich playboys would subsidize a number of writers, thinkers, artists, and performers.

More than just being paid to produce works of art, these artists performed a number of tasks in exchange for protection, food, and gifts. One of the roles was that of an anteambulo—literally meaning “one who clears the path.” An anteambulo proceeded in front of his patron anywhere they traveled in Rome, making way, communicating messages, and generally making the patron’s life easier.


# Maintaining Success 

Never stop learning

In every situation in life, there is an opportunity to learn. It’s important for us not to let our ego get in the way of our learning. So many times we are too afraid to look stupid by asking for help, until it is too late. That’s when the silent toll is taken. So many times we stay in our own comfort zone, for fear of looking stupid, and fail to learn or ask questions. When we finally realize it, it is often too late to change course. Prevent this problem by reading books on subjects you know nothing about, change your surroundings and the people you spend time with.

 

# Avoid narratives

Don’t tell your self a narrative about a past success or failure. Look at the facts instead. Such a narrative can go to your head and harm your performance going forward. Don’t set out to try and change the world. Really big things are often started by doing really small things. Scale your ambitions as you go. 

Say no more often

When we say yes to things because of ego, vanity, or fear of missing out, we prevent the very happiness we are seeking by saying yes in the first place. A sense of competition is important, but it is equally important to know who you are competing with and why. Each of us has a unique potential and purpose. Accomplish the most that you’re capable of in whatever you choose.

Ask yourself why you do what you do. Life requires trade-offs. Train yourself to opt out of races that don’t matter.

Certainty, control, and paranoia

Don’t fall prey to the assumption that everything is within your control and the outcome is certain. Stop trying to change things that are outside of your control. Get your perceptions under control. Lose your sense of entitlement. Seneca once said, “he who indulges empty fears earns himself real fears.”

Urgent and important are not synonyms. Set priorities, I think big picture, and let the people below you do their jobs. Accept that other people maybe more qualified for the job then you. Don’t let your ego get in the way of the ingredients for a successful project or company come together. Learn how to manage your self and your emotions first, then learn how to manage an organization before your industry eat you alive.

Avoid the obsession with “me”

Early in our careers, it’s easy to put our egos aside—the innocent climb. But as we gain success, it’s natural to start chasing accolades. The desire to make it to the top does not make you a bad person. However, there is a balance. Time spent managing your image is important, but ultimately it is a distraction towards achieving your goals. Don’t worry about getting credit for your accomplishments.

When we put our relationship with the universe into perspective, it causes us to ask important questions: Who am I? What is my purpose here? Material success in perpetual busyness takes us away from these questions. Ego tells us that meaning comes from activity. In reality, meaning comes from being a part of something bigger than ourselves. For example, spend more time in nature to make yourself feel small.

Find the middle ground

Aristotle’s golden mean suggests that if you fail to find a reasonable balance between two extremes, we put ourselves at risk of failure. It’s easy to be endlessly ambitious, and it’s easy to be complacent. We have to be careful to avoid what Jim’s Collins calls the undisciplined pursuit of more. Stay humble, retain your sense of purpose, protect your sobriety, and nurture your connection to the world around us. We need to accept that win streaks and successes tend to revert back to the mean, so we shouldn’t let them go to our heads.

# Failure

Ego loves the notion of whether or not something is fair. Well, life isn’t fair. Things won’t go our way all the time, and that’s okay. Ego adds self-injury to every other failure you might experience. See through your failures. Don’t think of yourself highly, but don’t underestimate your value.

We are all subject to the rules of gravity and averages. It may come in the form of being overlooked for a promotion, not getting into your first choice of university, or losing a valued relationship. Everyone faces challenges at some point. The only way out is through. How you respond to what life throws at you is what matters.

According to Robert Greene, there are two types of time: alive time and dead time. Alive time is the time spent growing and learning. Dead time is wasted being passive and nonproductive. Use your time to work on great things, rather than giving in to mediocrity and not accomplishing anything of real importance.

Focus only on the job in front of you and doing the right thing. Don’t waste your time worrying about whether or not the right thing will happen to you. Doing good work is enough. Stop caring about the outcome. Change how you define success. It should come from a peace of mind you gain from the knowledge that you did your absolute best.

Try to see the bigger picture

Our egos make us fall into the sunk cost fallacy. Have the courage to stop what you’re doing if it’s not working. At any given time, we might be aspiring, succeeding, or failing. This is transient. Whatever phase we are in is not a statement of your value as a human being. If you’re failing, you have to work your way back to first principles in order to right the ship. The only real failure is to abandon your principles.

Humility allows you to have your own barometer of success. If you rely on external definitions of what constitutes success and failure, you won’t live up to your true potential and will probably never be great. Vein men never hear anything but praise. You can get lucky and still win, but you can’t become the best version of yourself through luck alone.

Show love (no matter what)

If somebody does wrong to you, hating them in return will only make you feel worse. Hate is a cancer that gnaws away at your life. It’s easy to be hateful. It’s really hard to love in a tough situation. Try it though.

Conclusion

Aspiration leads to success, and adversity. Success creates its own adversity. Adversity leads to aspiration, and more success. It’s a constantly repeating cycle. Ego will always lead us toward failure. Aspire to success without ego.

Mastering our egos is incredibly difficult, because it requires rigorous self-examination. It is admirable and good to want to be better off financially, better business people, better athletes, and do great things. However, it is even more admirable to want to be happier, more humble, and better people in general. It’s important to note that perfecting our personal side can make us better business people, but rarely the reverse is true.

# KeyPoints & Quotes # 

# ASPIRE

Here, we are setting out to do something. We have a goal, a calling, a new beginning. Every great journey begins here—yet far too many of us never reach our intended destination. Ego more often than not is the culprit. We build ourselves up with fantastical stories, we pretend we have it all figured out, we let our star burn bright and hot only to fizzle out, and we have no idea why. These are symptoms of ego, for which humility and reality are the cure.

# To Whatever You Apire Ego is Enemy 

He is a bold surgeon, they say, whose hand does not tremble when he performs an operation upon his own person; and he is often equally bold who does not hesitate to pull off the mysterious veil of self-delusion, which covers from his view the deformities of his own conduct.

—ADAM SMITH

# BECOME A STUDENT

Let No Man’s Ghost Come Back to Say My Training Let Me Down.

—SIGN IN THE NEW YORK FIRE DEPARTMENT TRAINING ACADEMY

# TO BE OR TO DO?

In this formative period, the soul is unsoiled by warfare with the world. It lies, like a block of pure, uncut Parian marble, ready to be fashioned into—what?

—ORISON SWETT MARDEN

# TALK, TALK, TALK

Those who know do not speak.

Those who speak do not know.

—LAO TZU

# DON’T BE PASSIONATE

You seem to want that vivida vis animi which spurs and excites most young men to please, to shine, to excel. Without the desire and the pains necessary to be considerable, depend upon it, you never can be so.

—LORD CHESTERFIELD

# FOLLOW THE CANVAS STRATEGY

Great men have almost always shown themselves as ready to obey as they afterwards proved able to command.

# RESTRAIN YOURSELF

I have observed that those who have accomplished the greatest results are those who “keep under the body”; are those who never grow excited or lose self-control, but are always calm, self-possessed, patient, and polite.

—BOOKER T. WASHINGTON


# GET OUT OF YOUR OWN HEAD

A person who thinks all the time has nothing to think about except thoughts, so he loses touch with reality and lives in a world of illusions.

# THE DANGER OF EARLY PRIDE

A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.

# WORK, WORK, WORK

The best plan is only good intentions unless it degenerates into work.

—PETER DRUCKER

# FOR EVERYTHING THAT COMES NEXT, EGO IS THE ENEMY . . .

’Tis a common proof,

Thats lowliness is young ambition’s ladder.

—SHAKESPEARE

# SUCCESS

Here we are at the top of a mountain we worked hard to climb—or at least the summit is in sight.

Now we face new temptations and problems. We breathe thinner air in an unforgiving environment.

Why is success so ephemeral? Ego shortens it. Whether a collapse is dramatic or a slow erosion, it’s always possible and often unnecessary. We stop learning, we stop listening, and we lose our grasp on what matters. We become victims of ourselves and the competition. Sobriety, openmindedness, organization, and purpose—these are the great stabilizers. They balance out the ego and pride that comes with achievement and recognition.

# To whatever success you achieve ego is enemy.

Two different characters are presented to our emulation; the one, of proud ambition and ostentatious avidity. The other, of humble modesty and equitable justice. Two different models, two different pictures, are held out to us, according to which we may fashion our own character and behaviour; the one more gaudy and glittering in its colouring; the other more correct and more exquisitely beautiful in its outline.

—ADAM SMITH

# ALWAYS STAY A STUDENT

Every man I meet is my master in some point, and in that I learn of him.

—RALPH WALDO EMERSON

# DON’T TELL YOURSELF A STORY

Myth becomes myth not in the living but in the retelling.

—DAVID MARANISS


# WHAT’S IMPORTANT TO YOU?

To know what you like is the beginning of wisdom and of old age.

—ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

# ENTITLEMENT, CONTROL, AND PARANOIA

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

—BERTRAND RUSSELL

# MANAGING YOURSELF

It is not enough to have great qualities; we should also have the management of them.

—LA ROCHEFOUCAULD

# BEWARE THE DISEASE OF ME

If I am not for myself who will be for me? If I am only for myself, who am I?

—HILLEL

# MEDITATE ON THE IMMENSITY

A monk is a man who is separated from all and who is in harmony with all.

—EVAGRIUS PONTICUS

# MAINTAIN YOUR SOBRIETY

The height of cultivation runs to simplicity.

—BRUCE LEE 

# FOR WHAT OFTEN COMES NEXT, EGO IS THE ENEMY . . .  The evidence is in, and you are the verdict.

—ANNE LAMOTT

# FAILURE

Here we are experiencing the trials endemic to any journey. Perhaps we’ve failed, perhaps our goal turned out to be harder to achieve than anticipated. 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 contributed to their occurrence in the first place. 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.

# To Whatever Failure and challenge you face ego is enemy...

It is because mankind are disposed to sympathize more entirely with our joy than with our sorrow, that we make parade of our riches, and conceal our poverty. Nothing is so mortifying as to be obliged to expose our distress to the view of the public, and to feel, that though our situation is open to the eyes of all mankind, no mortal conceives for us the half of what we suffer.

—ADAM SMITH

# ALIVE TIME OR DEAD TIME?

Vivre sans temps mort. (Live without wasted time.)

—PARISIAN POLITICAL SLOGAN

# THE EFFORT IS ENOUGH

What matters to an active man is to do the right thing; whether the right thing comes to pass should not bother him.

—GOETHE

# FIGHT CLUB MOMENTS

If you shut up truth and bury it under the ground, it will but grow, and gather to itself such explosive power that the day it bursts through it will blow up everything in its way.

—EMILE ZOLA

# DRAW THE LINE

It can ruin your life only if it ruins your character.

—MARCUS AURELIUs

# MAINTAIN YOUR OWN SCORECARD

I never look back, except to find out about mistakes . . . I only see danger in thinking back about things you are proud of.

—ELISABETH NOELLE-NEUMANN

# ALWAYS LOVE

And why should we feel anger at the world? As if the world would notice!

—EURIPIDES

# FOR EVERYTHING THAT COMES NEXT, EGO IS THE

ENEMY . . .

I don’t like work—no man does—but I like what is in the work—the chance to find yourself.

—JOSEPH CONRAD

# EPILOGUE

There is something of a civil war going on within all of our lives. There is a recalcitrant South

of our soul revolting against the North of our soul. And there is this continual struggle within the very structure of every individual life.

—MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.

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