Ego is the Enemy

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Ryan Holiday wrote another book right after “The Obstacle is the Way.” It is called, “Ego is the Enemy”.

It is another favorite of mine.

I have never really thought of my ego before. His big ideas are:

  • What does “ego” mean
  • Having substance in your life not flash
  • How long does mastery take? Does it take more than 10,000 hours?
  • How to be your authentic self and the virtues of that decision
  • How to have true craftsmanship rather than the appearance of it

Ryan Holiday says he is not a religious man but I think he is very spiritual.  He has studied the Stoics and here is his definition from another of his websites, thedaily, (another book he has written):

“Stoicism was founded in Athens by Zeno of Citium in the early 3rd century BC, but was famously practiced by the likes of EpictetusSeneca and Marcus Aurelius. The philosophy asserts that virtue (such as wisdom) is happiness and judgment should be based on behavior, rather than words. That we don’t control and cannot rely on external events, only ourselves and our responses.”

He said his two book titles are so relevant to our modern life he tattooed each title—the Obstacle is the Way and Ego is the Enemy— on each arm to remind him as he goes though his day,  that when he is in some kind of discomfort, it is not remembering one or the other of these two principles.


In the chapter, “Draw the Line” he writes about John Delorean. Even I, who have no interest in cars, can remember this  one from the early 80’s. It made a splash! This car  was also immortalized in “Back to the Future” in 1985. Ryan Holiday writes:

“John Delorean ran his car company into the ground with a mix of outsized ambition, negligence, narcissism, greed and mismanagement. As the bad news began to pile up and the picture as made clear and public, how do you think he responded?’

“Was it resigned acceptance? Did he acknowledge the errors his disgruntled employees were speaking out about for the first time? Was he able to reflect, even slightly  on the mistakes and decisions that had brought him, his investors and his employees so much trouble?’

“He didn’t. Instead as his company began to sputter he arranged for a 220 pounds of cocaine to right his failing finances. He is caught. It is embarrassing.’

And then Ryan Holiday says:

“If only he had stopped. If at any point he had said, Is this the person I want to be?” Instead, “he found himself a hole and kept digging until he made it all the way to hell.”

I had an ego experience where this happened to me.

We have a few rentals that we rent to students in the Provo/Orem area. I was working with a young couple who were very sharp and on the ball. We got started emailing each other and ran into they weren’t getting mine and I wasn’t seeing theirs. Logistics—we figured that out. Then as we were ready for them to sign the lease, they wanted to each put in half of the deposit, and I looked at them and said, “You aren’t married?” which is only a red flag to me because they had represented to me that they were. She said, “Actually, we are getting married in August 2018.” Then they wanted to sublet to save money, until they got married, which is a problem for me because  I would have to essentially check those future tenants references. Anyway, we kept working through issues and moving forward but I only got her half of the deposit over Venmo. Throughout the day I kept checking Venmo and I didn’t see her fiance’s half. I finally sent a text saying, “Where is the other half?” She said, “He sent it 7 hours ago!” I said, “I don’t see it.” Because I have burned a few times before by people not being forthcoming with the deposit, this time having  two unmarried people signing a lease together, and wanting to sublet, I sent her a text saying, ” I think I am going to pass.” She sent back a panicky text with a screen shot showing that he had paid.

I realized I hadn’t refreshed my Venmo screen and  he had paid, 7 hours earlier! I quickly texted her back and apologized. “My bad” I said. I said, “Let’s move forward.” Then she sent back a text to me saying,

“We are going to pass. The emails where we weren’t  connecting, and now this, plus the expense of an apartment before we get married, it’s just not adding up for us.”

I was really bugged. A weekend’s worth of effort down the drain.

About an hour later, as my mind kept churning, I realized,


What I realized in my self-examination is that I  was initially making the power play and saying “I pass” but she is the one that ultimately  ended our deal. She broke up with me! As soon as I realized my ego was involved, my angst evaporated. I felt this surge of relief like my ego was an unwanted visitor that I had the power to escort to the door and politely ask to leave.  I went over the whole exchange again and realized how unprofessional I had  been and resolved  to never  send curt texts ever again. What a valuable thing to learn at my age.

Again, like “The Obstacle is the Way” I started seeing “Ego is the Enemy” scenarios playing out all over the place in my life and in others. I feel like I have gained another superpower to extract myself from the unnecessary drama in life. Wahoo! What a relief heightened self-awareness is. As I get better at this thing called life I can resist being right, or smarter or the best. As you realize your ego is the enemy you start wanting to avoid that kind of pain. Those kind of thoughts are the enemy. I can focus on being present, enjoying the blessings put in my path and express more gratitude , which in turn leads to that lovely state of mind called happiness.

This heightened self-awareness can be such a blessing when teaching your children. You helping them understand their ego and seeing it in others will help smooth their path as well.

The other great thing Ryan Holiday does is he has a book list for every year since 2012. He is a voracious reader, logging on average 250 books a year. I looked over his list for one year and started salivating. Enjoy! (at the end of the journaling blog page, which is at the top of his site, he has a secret book list, then a blog page under that on the 42 best books he has ever read, and then has lists of his favorite books by years.)


3 thoughts on “Ego is the Enemy

  1. Pingback: "Peace Like A River…"

  2. Pingback: Way of the Warrior Kid – "Peace Like A River…"

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