Another great read of 2018 is “Ego Is The Enemy” by Ryan Holiday and this is a book that everyone should read. And if you have read it already, you should probably read it again. Why? Because the things Holiday says are worth remembering and because it is always worth being on the watch for our greatest enemy – ego.
So What Is Ego?
To quote Holiday, “ego is an unhealthy belief in our own importance; the need to be better than, more than, recognized for, far past any reasonable utility”. One of the biggest problems with ego is that disconnects us from objective reality and prevents us from having an honest connection with the world. So how would we fight the ego and stay humble along the way?
Holiday has a lot of ideas and suggestions for it; I prefer to group them into a few critical areas.
Don’t Be, But Do
Be action focused. It is crucial.
In the world where we are constantly overwhelmed by social media that tells us to dream big, reach for more, visualize our success, dear greatly, we start believing and visualizing so much that we think that we are half way there by thinking big. Yes, it is important to have goals and know where you are moving, but thinking big can also, in reality, make us weak. It is small actions and everyday routines that bring us forward – “one foot in front of the other, learning and growing and putting in the time”. But this happens when we act, and not just think.
In a similar way, we also like to talk about things rather than act. And social media is there, tempting us to share another tweet, to post another picture, to talk about ourselves to satisfy the ego. While talking about how things would be, what we could do to achieve our goal, we are not actually moving forward. On the opposite, we are doing everything but focusing on the task that we want to accomplish. In fact, the research has shown that visualization and verbalization at some point cause us to confuse the reality with what we would like it to be. Instead of staying connected to reality, ego makes us think things that we are not, and talk about things that we want rather than do steps to accomplish them.
We often ask the question “What do I want to be in life?”. Instead, the question that is worth asking is “What is that I want to accomplish?” because it immediately shifts the focus from being to doing, to purpose. As Holiday puts it, “if your purpose is something larger than you – to accomplish something, to prove something to yourself – then suddenly everything becomes both easier and more difficult; easier in a sense that you know what is that you need to do“.
We are often required to tell stories about ourselves – to build our personal brand, to create the fiction about our lives. But beware your imagination because the danger of it is that it will make you believe that you are someone that you are not. Get out of your head, your head is your ego which disconnects you from the real world.
Work. Work. And Work A Lot. It is not a sexy idea, but it brings you forward.
And remember that “having authority is not the same as being an authority”. Impressing people is utterly different from being truly impressive.
Be A Student. Always
There is always space to grow. Or as Socrates said “all I know is that I know nothing”. You can not learn if you think that you are the best so do not let your ego make you blind with our own greatness and success. Keep your eyes open and look around, you can learn from everyone and everything.
It is hard to admit that you are not the best and it is hard to put in time and effort. And you are also constantly getting that message that you are going to get it, that you will succeed and you should dare and you will get it in one shot. As soon as you start believing that you are special and better than others, you lose and your ego wins. You are not special and you are not better, you are average. You are as average as many other successful people were. The sooner you realize it, the more chance you have to move further because you will start putting in an effort. So fight your ago and admit to yourself that you are average.
Some days you would need to do the worst work that no one wants to do. Do it. Do more, be less. Help others by helping yourself – learning the things that no one wants to do will make your skill set unique. Yes, it will be hard to do things no one wants to do, to do the worst work and the ego will tell you so but…
- Find what nobody wants to do and do it.
- Find inefficiencies and redundancies. Identify leaks and patches for a new area.
- Produce more than anyone else and give your ideas away
You will need to get out of your comfort zone too. Why do not we like doing something? Like talking a new language that we are learning with people? We are shy and our ego is scared that it will be damaged. “Oh I will look stupid”, it thinks (this is exactly about me). Subject yourself to it deliberately. Change your mind and always speak that language.
Have A Purpose and Reason
We know how we are supposed to be driven by a passion to accomplish something great. In fact, we should not be. The thing that we should be driven by is a clear reason and a purpose.
Passion is about (I am so passionate about…). Purpose is to and for (I must do…. I was put there to accomplish… I am willing to endure … for the sake of this). Actually, purpose de-emphasizes the I. Purpose is about pursuing something outside yourself as opposed to pleasuring yourself.
And this is exactly why it tames the ego. It suddenly becomes about more than you while passion is exclusively about your own self.
When you will set out to do something great, you will be met with a lot of criticism and skepticism. And it will hurt your ego which will want to respond back. Do nothing about it. Take it and endure it but do not let it distract you from what you have set out to do. And having a purpose will make the rest the noise that you can let pass by.
Imagine that you are on a 21-hour flight. Oh man, this is pretty boring to be locked in a plane for such a long time. Will it be your alive time or dead time?
Use it – read a book, respond to emails, do things you never have time for. You can make the best of your time and use it towards a purpose.
Life is going to throw all kind of failures at you. Will you let yourself be a victim or will you be in control of how you respond to external circumstance? Make it your alive time.
Ego is the enemy, obstacle is the way.
Read Ryan Holiday. There is so much more.