Is Ego your Enemy?
In the ‘70s, Skyhooks, an iconic Australian band, had a hit song, ‘Ego is not a dirty word’. So iconic, that the mere mention of the word “Ego” sends the Australian (of my era) mind into a lyric mode. (Am I right?)
I grew up believing that Ego wasn’t a dirty word however in recent reads, ‘ego’ has raised its head as the culprit and the demise of so many known identifies. Ego caught my eye while book browsing and this week I read Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday, a New York media columnist, reformed workaholic and historian.
To be told that ego is the enemy, the reason for so much sadness, failures, and unfulfilled dreams, proved a challenging read. However, as I flicked through the pages, it proved to be an interesting, informative and I must say, influential read. If a book can change your view on a matter then it’s been a worthy read. I was really challenged by this book’s content– more so than any other book I’ve read during my self-imposed reading ‘challenge’. Ryan’s style is sophisticated, yet soothing with so many stories and his blatantly biased beliefs.
With his rich source of historical stories and fact, I found the read a most educative read – it’s saved me reading 20+ historical books – learning about his choice of individuals who have either suffered their own demise of egotism or mastered a humble life. I feel most informed about; Aristotle, Churchill, Machiavelli, General Marshall, Howard Hughes, Genghis Khan, Benjamin Franklin, Katharine Graham, Angela Merkel, Malcolm X, Steve Jobs and Adam Smith.
The book is organised into three sections: Aspire, Success, and Failure. Purposely designed to heighten your awareness when ego will plague you, encouraging you to start your training to suppress ego and to replace the temptations and cultivate strength. In other words: be humble in our aspirations, gracious in our success and resilient in our failures.
I would expect that my many extroverted mates will be intimidated with the views scattered through the book and suspect that 51% of the population, the introverts in our world, will agree with the populated world of extroverts who are overly noisy about their passion for sharing in their egotistical manner!
I found myself sinking into thoughts of the past, using this new Ego lens to view people’s performance, behaviours and management of matters. Ego has taken the paramount place in guiding their choices and humility has been left behind.
I suspect that this book would be a great gift for that person who’s Ego needs taming or needs some training.
I’ve been following Ryan on Twitter for the past week and he shares an abundance of historical quotes. This is evidently his style as the book is saturated with wisdom and challenging thoughts. To master our greatest opponent, our ego, let’s contemplete these thoughts:
· Passion typically masks a weakness – it is a poor substitute for discipline, master, strength, purpose and perseverance.
· We tend to think that ego equals confidence, which is what we need to be in charge. In fact, it can have the opposite effect.
· Pride blunts the very instrument we need to own in order to succeed: our mind.
· Passion is form over function. Purpose is function, function, function.
· What is rare is not raw talent, skill or even confidence but humility, diligence and self-awareness
· The ability to deliberately keep yourself out of the conversation and subsist without its validation. Silence is the respite of the confident and the strong.
· Talk depletes us – while goal visualisation is important, after a certain point our mind begins to confuse it with actual progress – the same goes for verbalization.
· The only relationship between work and chatter is that one kills the other.
· If you start believing in your greatness, it is the death of your creativity.
· Only when free of ego and baggage can anyone perform to their utmost.
· When we remove ego, we’re left with what is real.
· It is poise, not pose.
· One might say that the ability to evaluate one’s own ability is the most important skill of all. Without it, improvement is impossible.
· Don’t allow your ego’s noise to indulge in games – ignore the noise, don’t allow it to distract you. Restraint is a critical skill.
· Man is pushed by drives but he is pulled by values.
· Disease of Me – after a team starts to win, the simple bonds that joined the individuals begin to fray – people calculate their importance.
· Silence the noise around you; ‘go into the wilderness and return with inspiration, a plan, perspective and an understanding of the larger picture.
· Creativity is a matter of receptiveness and recognition. This cannot happen if you’re convinced the world revolves around you.
· Power doesn’t so much corrupt: that’s too simple. It fragments, closes options, mesmerizes – clouds the mind precisely when it needs to be clear. Sobriety is a counterbalance, a hangover cure – or better, a prevention method.
· Ego can’t see both sides of the issue. It can’t get better because it only sees the validation.
· Vain men never hear anything but praise.
· Not everyone is the best possible version of themselves.
A great metaphor is shared regarding training to master your ego. Training is like sweeping the floor. Just because we’ve done it once, doesn’t mean the floor is clean forever. Every day dust comes back. Every day we must sweep. (Every minute of the day and then sweep again.)
If you struggle with the discipline of changing your behaviour, it's worth considering asking for guidance. Get in contact with me to help you with your ego.
I’m looking forward to my 20th book which I found in my library – it’s by Donald Trump!
I’m endeavouring to read 52 Business/Professional/Personal Development books in 52 weeks. Yep, that’s one a week. As I read each book, I’ll share my thoughts, learning and recommendations. If there is a book that you’ve been meaning to read, let me know and I’ll read it for us!