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 of Ryan Holiday and I am glad to have picked this book and learned about the ego as much as I learn from the other two books of him.

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 feel that book has done that for me.

Ryan does not deal with Ego as in Freudian sense or modern psychology and rather 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.

The book is divided into three parts like his other books. Aspirations, Success, and Failure. Ryan hopes for readers to 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 need to be careful of our motive behind it, as it will determine 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, we speak more than we act, and we speak more than we intend to endure. It’s a temptation that exists for everyone replacing action with talk and hype and gain attention. As they say “you can not build reputation on what you’re intend to accomplish it.”
  • We seem to think that silence is the sign of weakness (for Ego it is), it is easy to talk instead of acting on our goals. Whereas silence is a strength and enables us to think and act particularly early in on the journey. As poet Hesiod stated “A man’s best treasure is a thrifty tongue”.

2) Restrain Yourself

  • Ryan explains restraining self in tempting situation 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—something big and important 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 inflated EGO.
  • At the end, 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 talk, talk, talk. Nothing can help more than work, be it in personal or professional life. He explains that it’s Ego which is not willing putting in the work for something which is not assured, or cannot be defined in timeline.
  • Ego is satisfied in planning, talking and doing all the work which looks glorious, getting attention and let go of all the work which is necessary and don’t get attention.


Ryan calls Ego wicked sister of Success. As we reach to top or near the top, we face the temptation to slow down, take shortcuts, stop learning, listen, forget what got us successful or close to it. And Ego plays a major 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 student and remain open to learn. To overcome new challenges we much 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 start making and sharing our narrative and Ryan warns not to make such mistakes as it takes one away from what is responsible for success in the first place, and secondly no one was ever sure of success, may be in faith but not in knowledge.
  • Ryan suggests to keep eyes on ball all the time, in fact as we succeed, we are responsible for more and then there is less room for error, as much more is at stake in compare 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, discipline as we wish. Though opposite is often true, as we progress and so are responsibilities.
  • As we grow in position We may move from doing more to deciding more and that requires even more order, discipline and managing ourselves better.

4) Beware of Disease ‘ME’

  • Ryan suggests being aware of disease called ‘ME’. It usually takes over as we progress and become prominent, if left unchecked and driven us to calls solely keeping our own 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 being the cause of the failure or restraining us from moving from failures to success.

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, every moment or situation that 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 outcome and focus on putting our best efforts and constantly improve.

3) Maintain Your Own Scorecard

  • Ryan advises to set our own standard and see success/failure from that point of view instead of outside world.
  • Warren Buffett calls this inner score card. Doing our best and keep improving and let outside accolades, praise and wins be by product of being our best self.

I have also created a video of a few quotes from the book – Hope you like it. Please do 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 am certain you’ll get a great perspective on how you look at these phases of life.

You may download Ego is the Enemy E-Book here. 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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