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Ego is the enemy

Book notes for "Ego is the enemy" by Ryan Holiday

Highlights:

When we remove ego, we're left with what is real. What replaces ego is humility, yes-but rock-hard humility and confidence. Whereas ego is artificial, this type of confidence can hold weight. Ego is stolen.  Confidence is earned. Ego is self-anointed, its swagger is artifice. One is girding yourself, the other gaslighting. It's the difference between potent and poisonous. loc 265

Detachment is a sort of natural ego antidote. It's easy to be emotionally invested and infatuated with your own work. Any and every narcissist can do that. What is rare is not raw talent, skill, or even confidence, but humility, diligence, and self-awareness. loc 368

We will learn that though we think big, we must act and live small in order to accomplish what we seek. Because we will be action and education focused, and forgo validation and status, our ambition will not be grandiose but iterative-one foot in front of the other, learning and growing and putting in the time. loc 371

It was easier to talk about writing, to do the exciting things related to art and creativity and literature, than to commit the act itself.  She's not the only one. Someone recently published a book called Working On My Novel, filled with social media posts from writers who are clearly not working on their novels. loc 412

The only relationship between work and chatter is that one kills the other. Let the others slap each other on the back while you're back in the lab or the gym or pounding the pavement. Plug that hole-that one, right in the middle of your face-that can drain you of your vital life force. Watch what happens. Watch how much better you get. loc 452

The mixed martial arts pioneer and multi-title champion Frank Shamrock has a system he trains fighters in that he calls plus, minus, and equal.  Each fighter, to become great, he said, needs to have someone better that they can learn from, someone lesser who they can teach, and someone equal that they can challenge themselves against. loc 576

It tends to surprise people how humble aspiring greats seem to have been. What do you mean they weren't aggressive, entitled, aware of their own greatness or their destiny? The reality is that, though they were confident, the act of being an eternal student kept these men and women humble. "It is impossible to learn that which one thinks one already knows," Epictetus says. loc 601

Passion typically masks a weakness. Its breathlessness and impetuousness and franticness are poor substitutes for discipline, for mastery, for strength and purpose and perseverance. loc 674

There is an old saying, "Say little, do much." What we really ought to do is update and apply a version of that to our early approach. Be lesser, do more. Imagine if for every person you met, you thought of some way to help them, something you could do for them? And you looked at it in a way that entirely benefited them and not you. The cumulative effect this would have over time would be profound: You'd learn a great deal by solving diverse problems. You'd develop a reputation for being indispensable. You'd have countless new relationships. You'd have an enormous bank of favors to call upon down the road. loc 774

Because if you pick up this mantle once, you'll see what most people's egos prevent them from appreciating: the person who clears the path ultimately controls its direction, just as the canvas shapes the painting. loc 796

The question to ask, when you feel pride, then, is this: What am I missing right now that a more humble person might see? What am I avoiding, or running from, with my bluster, franticness, and embellishments? It is far better to ask and answer these questions now, with the stakes still low, than it will be later. loc 1012

As a young man, Bill Clinton began a collection of note cards upon which he would write names and phone numbers of friends and acquaintances who might be of service when he eventually entered politics. Each night, before he ever had a reason to, he would flip through the box, make phone calls, write letters, or add notations about their interactions.  Over the years, this collection grew-to ten thousand cards (before it was eventually digitized). It's what put him in the Oval Office loc 1056

Fac, si facis. (Do it if you're going to do it.) loc 1067

Every time you sit down to work, remind yourself: I am delaying gratification by doing this. I am passing the marshmallow test. I am earning what my ambition burns for. I am making an investment in myself instead of in my ego. Give yourself a little credit for this choice, but not so much, because you've got to get back to the task at hand: practicing, working, improving. loc 1082

Work is finding yourself alone at the track when the weather kept everyone else indoors. Work is pushing through the pain and crappy first drafts and prototypes. It is ignoring whatever plaudits others are getting, and more importantly, ignoring whatever plaudits you may be getting. Because there is work to be done. Work doesn't want to be good.  It is made so, despite the headwind. loc 1085

Every man I meet is my master in some point, and in that I learn of him.  - RALPH WALDO EMERSON loc 1218

The physicist John Wheeler, who helped develop the hydrogen bomb, once observed that "as our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance." In other words, each victory and advancement that made Khan smarter also bumped him against new situations he'd never encountered before. It takes a special kind of humility to grasp that you know less, even as you know and grasp more and more. loc 1248

The solution is as straightforward as it is initially uncomfortable: Pick up a book on a topic you know next to nothing about. Put yourself in rooms where you're the least knowledgeable person. That uncomfortable feeling, that defensiveness that you feel when your most deeply held assumptions are challenged-what about subjecting yourself to it deliberately? Change your mind. Change your surroundings. loc 1268

It would be a mistake to think this was about control. The Standard of Performance was about instilling excellence. These seemingly simple but exacting standards mattered more than some grand vision or power trip.  In his eyes, if the players take care of the details, "the score takes care of itself." The winning would happen. loc 1302

We think "yes" will let us accomplish more, when in reality it prevents exactly what we seek. 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. loc 1388

According to Seneca, the Greek word euthymia is one we should think of often: it is the sense of our own path and how to stay on it without getting distracted by all the others that intersect it. In other words, it's not about beating the other guy. It's not about having more than the others. It's about being what you are, and being as good as possible at it, without succumbing to all the things that draw you away from it.  It's about going where you set out to go. About accomplishing the most that you're capable of in what you choose. That's it. No more and no less. (By the way, euthymia means "tranquillity" in English.) loc 1407

When it comes to Marshall, the old idea that selflessness and integrity could be weaknesses or hold someone back are laughably disproven. Sure, some people might have trouble telling you much about him-but each and every one of them lives in a world he was largely responsible for shaping. The credit? Who cares. loc 1640

mink and beaver and otter far back on many a river and lake; Indians and adventurers pursuing their lonely ways; birds tending to their young-everywhere, everywhere, beauty and life, and glad, rejoicing action. In this moment, he was experiencing what the Stoics would call sympatheia-a connectedness with the cosmos. The French philosopher Pierre Hadot has referred to it as the "oceanic feeling." A sense of belonging to something larger, of realizing that "human things are an infinitesimal point in the immensity." loc 1655

It's hard to be anything but humble walking alone along a beach late at night with an endless black ocean crashing loudly against the ground next to you. loc 1699

It's not that he was wrong to have great ambitions. Alexander just never grasped Aristotle's "golden mean"-that is, the middle ground.  Repeatedly, Aristotle speaks of virtue and excellence as points along a spectrum. Courage, for instance, lies between cowardice on one end and recklessness on the other. Generosity, which we all admire, must stop short of either profligacy and parsimony in order to be of any use.  Where the line-this golden mean-is can be difficult to tell, but without finding it, we risk dangerous extremes. This is why it is so hard to be excellent, loc 1780

According to 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. Which will it be? loc 1964

Hemingway had his own rock-bottom realizations as a young man. The understanding he took from them is expressed timelessly in his book A Farewell to Arms. He wrote, "The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills." loc 2121

Sometimes because we can't face what's been said or what's been done, we do the unthinkable in response to the unbearable: we escalate. This is ego in its purest and most toxic form. loc 2131

> HPMOR "learn to lose" scene

"Act with fortitude and honor," he wrote to a distraught friend in serious financial and legal trouble of the man's own making. "If you cannot reasonably hope for a favorable extrication, do not plunge deeper. Have the courage to make a full stop." loc 2201

Holding your ego against a standard (inner or indifferent or whatever you want to call it) makes it less and less likely that excess or wrongdoing is going to be tolerated by you. Because it's not about what you can get away with, it's about what you should or shouldn't do. loc 2282

Take inventory for a second. What do you dislike? Whose name fills you with revulsion and rage? Now ask: Have these strong feelings really helped you accomplish anything? loc 2349

My friend the philosopher and martial artist Daniele Bolelli once gave me a helpful metaphor. He explained that training was like sweeping the floor. Just because we've done it once, doesn't mean the floor is clean forever. Every day the dust comes back. Every day we must sweep. loc 2415