Ego is the Enemy Book Summary I Ryan Holiday

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Book – Ego is the Enemy (Summary)

Author – Ryan Holiday

Genre – Self-help Book

Published Year – 2016

Ego is the Enemy is the 3rd book I have read by Ryan Holiday, and I am glad to have picked this book and learned about the Ego as much as I know from the other two books.

Ryan claims the purpose of this book is not to encourage, inspire, or make you feel special but to make you think less of yourself and be liberated to accomplish the world-changing work you’ve set out to achieve. I believe that the book has done that for me.

Ryan does not deal with Ego as in the Freudian sense or modern psychology and instead uses the more common definition of Ego, like an unhealthy belief in our importance. Arrogance. Self-centered ambition.

About the Book

While the history books are filled with tales of obsessive, visionary geniuses who remade the world in their image with sheer, almost irrational force, Ryan claims that if you go looking, you’ll find 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.

Like his other books, the book is divided into three parts—aspirations, Success, and Failure. Ryan hopes readers will gain humility while aspiring, being gracious in Success, and remaining resilient during failure.


This is where it all starts. We aspire to become someone and accomplish something. We must be careful of our motive behind it, as it will determine the sustenance of what we achieve, and have the cake and eat it too.

1) Talk, Talk, Talk

  • We often get caught in this one. We speak more than we work, speak more than we act, and speak more than we intend to endure. It’s a temptation that exists for everyone, replacing action with talk and hype to gain attention. They say, “You can not build a reputation on what you intend to accomplish.”
  • We seem to think that silence is a sign of weakness (for Ego, it is); it is easy to talk instead of acting on our goals. At the same time, silence is a strength and enables us to think and act particularly early on the journey. As poet Hesiod stated, “A man’s best treasure is a thrifty tongue.”

2) Restrain Yourself

  • Ryan explains restraining oneself in tempting situations is the Key to long-term Success. As mentioned in this Paragraph.
  • It doesn’t matter how talented you are, how great your connections are, how much money you have. When you want to do something significant, influential, and meaningful, you will be subjected to treatment ranging from indifference to outright sabotage. Count on it.

3) The Danger of Early Pride –

  • Ryan cautions readers from indulging in early pride, as that’s a sure-shot way of getting stagnant. This usually happens in early career or in the process of making big. We tend to exaggerate our wins and lose focus in the game as pride takes over, which is nothing but an inflated EGO.
  • Ultimately, this isn’t about deferring pride because “you don’t deserve it yet.” It isn’t “Don’t boast about what hasn’t happened yet.” It is more directly “Don’t boast.” There’s nothing in it for you.

4) Work, Work, Work

  • Ryan advises putting in the work instead of talking. Nothing can help more than work, whether personal or professional. He explains that the Ego is unwilling to put in the position for something that is not assured or cannot be defined in the timeline.
  • Ego is satisfied in planning, talking, and doing all the work that looks glorious, getting attention, and letting go of all the work that is necessary and doesn’t get attention.


Ryan calls Ego the wicked sister of Success. As we reach the top or near the top, we face the temptation to slow down, take shortcuts, stop learning, listen, and forget what got us successful or close to it. And Ego plays a significant role in it.

1) Stay Student

  • As we grow in life and at work, we continually face new challenges, and to tackle them, we need to stay Students and remain open to learning. To overcome new challenges, we must keep learning new things. As they say, we cannot solve any problem with the mind that created it.
  • Physicist John Wheeler put it nicely – As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance.
  • No matter what you’ve done up to this point, you better still be a student. If you’re not still learning, you’re already dying.

2) Don’t Tell Yourself a Story

  • As we start gaining Success or cross certain milestones, we often begin making and sharing our narrative, and Ryan warns us not to make such mistakes as it takes one away from what is responsible for Success in the first place. Secondly, no one was ever sure of Success, maybe in faith but not knowledge.
  • Ryan suggests keeping an eye on the ball all the time; as we succeed, we are responsible for more, and then there is less room for error, as much more is at stake compared to our initial phase.
  • We must shun the false crown and continue working on what got us there because that’s the only thing that will keep us there.

3) Managing Yourself

  • As we succeed or progress in life, we often believe that we call shots, let go of order, and discipline as we wish. Though the opposite is often true, as we progress, so are responsibilities.
  • As we grow in position, We may move from doing more to deciding more, which requires even more order, discipline, and managing ourselves better.

4) Beware of Disease’ ME’

  • Ryan suggests being aware of a disease called ‘ME.’ It usually takes over as we progress and become prominent, if left unchecked, and drives us to calls solely keeping our benefits in mind.
  • This Paragraph says it well in the book – The writer Cheryl Strayed once told a young reader, “You’re becoming who you are going to be, and so you might as well not be an as*hole.” This is one of the most dangerous ironies of Success—it can make us someone we never wanted to be in the first place. The Disease of ‘ME’ can corrupt the most innocent climb.


In part three, Ryan discusses how not only aspiring and Success but failure is also affected by Ego. Either because of the loss or restrain from moving from failures to successes.

1) Alive Time – Dead Time –

  • According to Robert Greene – There are two types of time in our lives: dead time – when people are passive and waiting, and alive time – when people are learning and acting and utilizing every second.
  • Every moment of failure or situation we did not deliberately choose or control presents this choice: Alive time. Dead time.

2) Effort is Enough

  • It’s far better when doing good work is sufficient. In other words, the less attached we are to outcomes, the better.
  • All we control is our effort and not the outcome. Ryan suggests detachment with work, focusing on putting in our best efforts, and constantly improving.

3) Maintain Your Scorecard

  • Ryan advises us to set our standard and see success/failure from that point of view instead of the outside world.
  • Warren Buffett calls this the inner scorecard. Doing our best and improving and letting outside accolades, praise, and wins be a product of being our best self.

I have also created a video of a few quotes from the book – I hope you like it. Please subscribe to my YouTube channel – Myread4change.

Conclusion –

Every day for the rest of your life, you will find yourself at one of three phases: aspiration, Success, failure. You will battle the Ego in each of them. You will make mistakes in each of them. It’s like sweeping the floor. We have to do it daily to keep our homes clean.

I recommend Ego is the Enemy, and I am sure you’ll get a great perspective on how you look at these phases of life.

You may consider his two other books: Obstacle is the Way & Stillness is the Key.

Please share your few words in the comment below.

Thank you for your time…


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