As I’ve mentioned before, Ryan Holiday is someone I find an odd kinship with. He’s a PR guy that was more interested in writing (and probably a bit disgusted with what the PR profession was becoming).
He began his foray into writing with a couple of PR and marketing books (including the prophetic and still-relevant Trust Me I’m Lying), then pivoted over to stoic philosophy with The Obstacle is the Way.
I’ve never met the guy, but one of my last posts before going dark for a couple years was a review of Trust Me, I’m Lying. After I wrote that post, Ryan reached out to me via my website. Which impressed me, since I probably had 50 readers a day (about what I average now). It occurred to me that he has his ego in check, if he’s willing to take a few minutes to reach out to a random blogger.
Ego is the Enemy
Ego prevents growth. It convinces us we’re better than we are, insulates us from valid criticism, and convinces us that we deserve more.
In other words, ego wastes the opportunities presented by both obstacles and success. I think of it as a protective bubble we build for ourselves, soundproof and with mirrored walls.
To get the most out of life, the ego must be tamed.
That’s hard to do. But this book has some great concepts and things to think about.
And like Obstacle, this book is all about recognition of reality. Seeing things for what they are, not what you wish they were or even what others tell you. Then, taking stock of the situation and moving forward.
And it’s all about constant forward motion. The work is never done and the rewards may never come. The reward is the work itself and knowing you’ve done all you can do in any situation.
Instead of writing a full on breakdown, I’m simply going to post my notes. Some of these are direct quotes, some are my personal riffs. I’ve included links to certain references.
I’m also proud to say I’m once again on a similar path to Holiday, as he covers ideas like being in a room full of smarter people (which I phrase as being willing to lose every argument), perpetual learning, and how one small step can lead to another small step can lead to big leaps.
Pick up the book and give it a read (which only takes a few hours).
*Spelling errors are due to sloppy phone typing.*
- Take small steps that lead to your big things
- Don’t talk about it. Do it. While everyone else is high-fiving each other, you’ll be in the lab getting back to Work. Talking is easy and feels good. Doing the work is hard.
- Being somebody requires compromising to fit into a club. Doing may not get you the promotions but you don’t have to compromise yourself.
- Always be a student. Kirk Hammett took lessons from Joe Satriani – after he’d gotten the Metallica gig
- Frank shamrock’s plus, minus, equal: have someone better than you to learn from, someone less than you to teach, someone equal to you to measure and push
- Don’t follow passion. Be deliberate, purposeful
- Passion is form over function. Purpose is function function function
- Canvas strategy: find canvas for others to paint on. You’ll look good by making others look good.
- Clear a path for others and eventually you’ll create a path for yourself
- Bill Belichick made his name analyzing film and allowing senior coaches take credit for it
- Exercise restraint like Jackie Robinson, who intentionally put up with disgusting things so that eventually he could change the system
- Get out of your own head. You’re not the star of a movie and you’re not as bad as you think you are. Embrace reality. Living clearly and presently takes courage
- Don’t boast, there’s nothing in it for you. Stoop, like Ben Franklin, because people who hold their heads high hit beams
- Work work work. Because there is no triumph without toil
- Your ego thinks you’re already there, that the work is behind you. It think ideas are sufficient
- Success is intoxicating yet to sustain it requires sobriety
- Howard Hughes wrecked shit
- Genghis Khan was a perpetual student, in that he conquered then absorbed the best of each culture
- Pick up a book on a topic you know nothing about. Place yourself in rooms where you’re the least knowledgeable. That uncomfortable feeling, that defensiveness you feel when your deepest assumptions are challenged – what about subjecting yourself to it deliberately?
- Don’t tell yourself a story. Remain focused on the execution. What got you here (hard work, execution) is what will keep you here
- Money. If You don’t know how much you need, the default answer becomes more. It diverts you away from your calling and toward filling a bank account
- Ego rejects trade offs. It wants it all. No compromise.
- A smart man or woman must regularly remind themselves of their power and reach. Don’t get delusional like Xerxes or Nixon
- Ego needs honors in order to be validated. Confidence is able to wait and focus on the task at hand regardless of external recognition
- Recognize the vastness of the world and your place in it. You’re important because you’re connected to everything, but you’re also nothing. Soak it up.
- Behind every goal lies the drive to be fulfilled. But when egotism takes hold we lose track of our goal and end up somewhere we never intended.
- Eventually all things regress to the mean. Make more money, taxes go up. Won the title? Your schedule gets charder next year.
- There is live time and dead time. This moment is not your life, but it is a moment in your life. How will you use it?
- Doing the work is enough. You will be unappreciated. Sabotaged. You will fail. You will lose. Rejection is on them, though. Not us. Don’t let externals determine whether something is worth it
- Ego causes our crashes then blocks us from improving. Change comes from hearing the criticisms around you and deciding what’s valid.
- He who fears death will never do anything worthy of a living man. – Seneca. Success, failure, aspiration, it’s all transitory. Let it go, learn from it all, never abandon your principles
- Ego blocks our will to improve. Keep your own scorecard, be your own “indifferent spectator.” Discipline rather than disposition. Don’t play for applause.
- Hate is wasteful and defers blame. It’s a distraction. Love is egoless, open, positive, vulnerable, peaceful and productive
- Self awareness is the way out and through difficulties
- Honest self examination is one of the most difficult things to do. But it must be done repeatedly, like sweeping a floor. Doing it once isn’t enough.
Grab a copy of Ego is the Enemy here. Thanks Ryan for writing a great book full counterculture wisdom.