Many of us insist the main impediment to a full, successful life is the outside world. In fact, the most common enemy lies within: our ego. Early in our careers, it impedes learning and the cultivation of talent. With success, it can blind us to our faults and sow future problems. In failure, it magnifies each blow and makes recovery more difficult. At every stage, ego holds us back. In an era that glorifies social media, reality TV, and other forms of shameless self-promotion, the battle against ego must be fought on many fronts. Armed with the lessons in this book, as Holiday writes, “you will be less invested in the story you tell about your own specialness, and as a result, you will be liberated to accomplish the world-changing work you’ve set out to achieve.”
- For people with ambition, talent, drives, and potential to fulfill, ego comes with the territory.
- If you start believing in your greatness, it is the death of your creativity.
- Just one thing keeps ego around - comfort. Pursuing great work is often terrifying. Ego soothes that fear.
- Ego has worked for some. Many of history’s most famous men and women were notoriously egotistical. But so were many of its greatest failures. Far more of them, in fact.
At any given time in life, people find themselves at one of three stages.
- We’re aspiring to do something.
- We have achieved success.
- Or we have failed.
- Most of us are in these stages in a fluid sense. We are aspiring until we succeed, we succeed until we fail or until we aspire to do more, and after we fail we can begin to aspire or succeed again. We should aspire to be:
- Humble in our ambitions
- Gracious in our success
- Resilient in our failures.
- The ability to evaluate one’s own ability is an important skill. Detachment is sort of a natural ego antidote.
- At the beginning of any path, we’re excited and nervous. So, we seek to comfort ourselves externally instead of internally. Our ego wants us to get as much public credit and attention as it can for doing the least.
- People who do great work talk only when they have earned it.
- Having authority is not the same as being an authority. Impressing people is different from being truly impressive. Life constantly gives us the choice to be something, or to do something.
- A man is worked upon by what he works on. What you choose to do with your time and what you choose to do for money works on you.
- The power of being a student is not just that it is an extended period of instruction, it also places the ego and ambition in someone else’s hands. The pretense of knowledge is our most dangerous vice, because it prevents us from getting any better.
- It is better to be in control and do your job rather than to be passion’s slave. The critical work that you want to do will require your deliberation and consideration. Not passion.
- Pride blunts our mind and dulls our ability to learn and adapt.
- Success is intoxicating, yet to sustain it requires sobriety. We can’t keep learning if we think we know everything.
- When we are aspiring, we must resist the urge to reverse engineer success from other people’s stories. When we achieve our own, We must resist the urge to pretend that everything unfolded exactly as we’d planned. Instead of pretending that we are living some great story, we must remain focused on the execution- and on executing with excellence.
- All of us waste precious life doing things we don’t like, to prove ourselves to people we don’t respect, and to get things we don’t want. Most of us begin with a clear idea of what we want in life. As we start getting successful, we meet other successful people who make you feel insignificant. No matter how well you’re doing, your ego and their accomplishments make you feel like nothing - just as others make them feel the same way. It’s a cycle that goes on forever, while our brief time on earth does not.
- We should know who we’re competing with and why, because different people are running for different reasons. We cannot be better than, have more than everyone, everywhere.
- Ego needs honors and rewards in order to be validated. Confidence, on the other hand, is able to wait and focus on the task at hand regardless of external recognition.
- Going out in the wilderness can silence the noise around you, giving you perspective and help in understanding the bigger picture.
- Life isn’t fair. Good people fail all the time. Failure always arrives uninvited, but through our ego, far too many of us allow it to stick around.
- Many of the breaks in life are random. Do not depend on external validation and rewards. Do your work, and do it well.
- Winning is not enough. Anyone, even assholes, can win. Measure yourself against the absolute best you’re capable of. Make a distinction between the inner scorecard and the external one.