Ego is the enemy in 7% of the time

You may not have time to read an whole book but I have good news. Many authors do promotional interviews and talks where they discuss the main points of their book.

Additionaly, there is a thriving community of content creators that create book review blogs and YouTube vidoes. For many of the books I read, I find I can get a good feel for about half it’s content in less than 10% of the time.

The Ego is the Enemy audiobook clocks in at about seven hours whereas the content of this post takes about thrity minutes — around 7% of the time.

Animated Book Sample

from Fight Mediocrity

Time: 9:47

fightmediocirity is a Youtuber who creates animated book reviews. For Ego is the enemy he animated a sample from the Audiobook read by Ryan Holiday.

Book Review

From Brian Johnson

Time: 12:39

Brian Johnson creates tons of ridiculously great content including thorough book reviews that he calls Philosopher’s Notes. I watch pretty much every Philospher’s Note TV episode he creates.

Book Summary

from Paul Minors

I just discovered Paul Minors book reviews while researching this post. He basically created a modern Cliff Notes for Ego is the Enemy using text directly from the book. It’s a short read (maybe 10 minute).
Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday [BOOK SUMMARY & PDF]

Get the book!

The book is packed with many more stories and examples that highlight and elucidate the many faces of ego. If you’re interested, get the book through my Amazon link or wherever you usually get books.

If you want more

You now have a taste of at least half the ideas from Ego is the Enemy in about 7% of the time. But there is so much more good content. If you have some more time, checkout these great interviews and talks with Ryan Holiday.

Talk at Google

Google has a Talks at Google video series where they invite all kinds of people like authors, actors, technologist, etc. to give talks on their area expertise. This is Ryan Holiday’s talk at Google on Ego is the Enemy

Time: 47 minutes

The Tim Ferriss Show

from Tim Ferriss

I watch, listen, and read pretty much everything Tim Ferriss creates — including every episode of his podcast, The Tim Ferriss Show. Tim is also deeply into stoic philosophy and previously interviewed Ryan on his podcast to talk about The Obstacle is the Way. This time around Tim put up two podcast with Ryan. The first one is the standard format where Tim interviews Ryan. And the second is a sample from the Ego is the Enemy audiobook.

I really enjoy the long interview format of Tim’s podcast but I don’t usually have an hour and a half to listen to in one sitting. Most of these podcast are available for download either through iTunes or any podcast app like Downcast which is what I use. Enjoy!

Interview with Ryan Holiday

Time: 1:41:44

Useful lessons from workaholic anonymous, corporate implosions, and more

Sample chapter: Whats Important

Time: 0:22:32

The School of Greatness Podcast

From Lewis Howes

Lewis Howes recently released a book called The School of Greatness after creating an incredible podcast with guests like Tony Robbins, Tim Ferriss, Daymond John, and Ariana Huffington. He’s just a fantatstic human being and he’s in a perfect position to teach others how to be great.

Watch his interview with Ryan Holiday about Ego is the Enemy. It’s also avialable to download via iTunes and whatever podcasting apps you use.

Time: 1:03:22

You may also like this post from Learn More Faster

Three of the hardest lessons from ego is the enemy

About the author

Ryan Holiday is a media strategist and prominent writer on strategy and business. After dropping out of college at nineteen to apprentice under Robert Greene, author of The 48 Laws of Power, he went on to advise many bestselling authors and multiplatinum musicians. He served as director of marketing at American Apparel for many years, where his campaigns have been used as case studies by Twitter, YouTube, and Google and written about in AdAge, the New York Times, and Fast Company.
Other books from Ryan

Three of the Hardest Lessons from Ego Is the Enemy

Photo Credit: Top / Bottom

Still riding the wave of his last book, The Obstacle is the Way, Ryan Holiday takes on an even bigger obstacle — the human ego. Ego is the enemy is full of timeless truths that are sometimes deceptively obvious but exceedingly difficult to practice.

Authors and creators often say that they write or create to scratch their own itch. Meaning, they create the things they want to exist in the world. With Ryan Holiday’s outlier success as an author and media strategist over the last decade, he is perfectly suited to write and need this book.

He dropped out of college at 19 and ended up working for acclaimed author Robert Green who has written several best sellers including The 48 Laws of Power. Ryan wrote four books in the past four years while also serving as the director of marketing for American Apparel. His last book, The Obstacle is the Way, spent time on many best seller list and recently went viral in the professional sports community.

So why did he decide to write about ego?

In interviews he said The Obstacle is the Way is about external obstacles while Ego is the Enemy is meant to address the biggest internal obstacle.

Ego is a tricky topic for a non-psychological book and Ryan is definitely not trying to take on Freud. By Ego, he means the “Unhealthy belief in your own importance”. He is talking about the common use of the word ego as in “he is an egomaniac” or “she is a huge ego”.

Ego has many faces and is clarified best through examples rather than definitions. Throughout the book Ryan provides many examples of ego in himself and others. At times it felt like a stretch to say that so many things are ego. But continuing with the characteristic pragmatism of stoic philosophy, it makes sense to express these ideas through examples and stories.

One of the trickiest things about ego is that it’s hidden in plain sight. He says “Most of us aren’t “egomaniacs,” but ego is there at the root of almost every conceivable problem and obstacle”“From why we don’t have what we want to why having what we want doesn’t seem to make us feel any better.”

Hardest Lessons

Like many lessons from religion, history, and philosophy the ideas tend to be easy to digest, borderline obvious, and obviously appealing but very difficult to follow because they are often contrary to human nature. There are many hard lessons in the book but these three lessons are particularly difficult for me.

To Be or To Do

To be or to do—life is a constant roll call.

Maybe we’ve been asking each generation the wrong question this whole time. Instead of asking, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” maybe we should have been asking “What are you willing to do when you grow up”? Because as Ryan says ,“Doing great work is a struggle. It’s draining, it’s demoralizing, it’s frightening”.

This is a hard lesson for me because I love ideas. I love thinking about big ideas and dreaming about things that I’d like to do. But dreaming is the easy part. Doing is the hard part, and consistently doing is even harder.

Most people want to be rich or be famous or be successful but if they asked themselves: Do I want to get up at 5 am everyday? Do I want to take on huge responsibilities? Do I want to give up my time? The answer is at best “I guess if that’s what it takes”. In order to do, you have to want to do as much as you want to be. And the best way I’ve found for doing this is to figure out what’s important to you and focus on that.

Figure out what’s important to you

First things first, if you haven’t decided what’s important to you then you need to stop everything and make the decision. If you don’t know what’s important to you, how can you make any other decision?

I get it. It’s a really hard question. It is the hard question.

Sometimes thoughts like “I want to be happy” come to mind. And I think “Am I just being a hedonist” or “Will searching for happiness just lead selfishness?

This is one of those questions where you just have to be a Jedi and search your feelings. Start paying attention to how things make you feel. What turns you up and what turns you off. What you love about life and what you hate about it. Think about the big decisions you made in the past and what you did instead of who you want to be.

If you haven’t had the epiphone of what’s important to you then you need to make a decision anyway. It can change, and it will change, it will always change. It may be helpful to have a higher level purpose. One of the most important things for me to do is to grow everyday because some form of daily growth is 100% in my control and I think it is a catalyst for every other thing I want to do. Because daily personal growth is a higher level goal, what I do from week to week can change while still doing what is most important.

Restrain Yourself

Ryan says it best in these two quotes:

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.
Those who have subdued their ego understand that it doesn’t degrade you when others treat you poorly; it degrades them.

To me this is the classic ego problem. We’ve all seen people in the public eye blow up spectacularly. Angrily lashing out and seemingly defending themselves in a spectacular over reaction. But even if you’re not in the public eye, when your best friend says something you find critical, or your partner points out your weakness’ or your colleague throws a backhanded comment your way for the tenth meeting in a row. With millions of years of instincts to overcome, self restraint is really hard in the moment.

As Ryan points out later in the book, Love is the perfect antidote for anger and fear. And can be exactly what you need to restrain yourself. Martin Luther King Jr may be the best example of restraint to ever live. There is an incredible story about MLK Jr in Birmingham in Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath. MLK Jr is giving one of his first speeches at the 16th Street Baptist Church and a massive 200lb Nazi walks on stage and attacks him. As everyone else in the church descends on the attacker, King covers the assailant with his body to protect the attacker and whispers in his ear: “You’re not going to win the battle. We’re going to win, and I love you” (source)

After hearing that incredible story I realized, I never have an excuse. Even if someone physically attacks me I still have a choice. And I can choose to react or I can choose restraint.

So what can we do about our often hidden but omnipresent ego?

Ryan gives the antidote as “What humans require in our ascent is purpose and realism. Purpose, you could say, is like passion with boundaries. Realism is detachment and perspective.” Your ego wants life to be easy. It wants to be rewarded without doing in the hard work. But that is the opposite of what you need to want in order to get what you want.

The booked is packed with many more hard lessons and insights. I really enjoyed the masterful blend of diagnosis and prescription that is the hallmark of great stoic writing.

Where can I find more about Ryan Holiday?

The best place to find him is through is website:

I’m not sure how he finds the time, but in addition to writing books every year, he reads five or ten books a month and sends out a newsletter with his thoughts. I really enjoy getting his email every month, if you’re interested you can sign up here:

If you haven’t read any of his books yet I recommend starting with The Obstacle is the way followed by Ego is the Enemy

Everything you need to know about Drive by Dan Pink in 6% of the time

I highly recommend reading to the whole book but if you want to learn more even faster, here is a great learning hack.

Many authors give a TED talk or create a YouTube video on the subject of their book. In about 20 minutes, you can get a good idea of the main points and overall direction.

This is Dan Pink’s TED Talk called The puzzle of motivation

Core idea

There is a big gap between what science knows and what business does. Science knows that motivating people with a carrot or stick often doesn’t work. But Business keeps doing exactly that.

When you are motivated to by a reward or by fear of punishment, you feel a level of anxiety to get the task done now. You narrow your focus and you concentrate.

If you are sweeping a floor or putting together parts on an assembly line, then increased focus and concentration is a good thing and will produce more results.

For every other challenge we face, where the path to the solution is unclear and requires creativity, rewards and punishments become blinders and lead to worse performance.

So how do you motivate people without a carrot or stick?

You need to tap into the intrinsic motivation of Mastery, Autonomy, and Purpose.


People are intrinsically motivated to get good at things just to get good at them. Have you ever found yourself spending hours solving a puzzle or playing a video game without an external reward?


People love to make their own decisions and are turned off when told what to do.


Throughout history we’ve seen people do extraordinary things for a greater cause. From religious wars, to civil rights movements, to silicon valley startups. Tap into purpose and you will unleash an an ocean of energy you didn’t think possible.

More details in the book

In the book, Pink goes into more detail about:

  • The evolution of motivation systems from Motivation 1.0 to Motivation 3.0
  • Why Carrots and Sticks (often) don’t work
  • Intrinsic vs Extrinsic Motivation
  • Mastery, Autonomy, and Purpose

Get the book from Amazon

Review from Brian Johnson

Brian Johnson is a master at distilling the top 5 big ideas from great books. I often use his reviews to screen books before I buy them.

For more wisdom in less time, watch his review of Drive.

About the Author

From his about page

Short Bio: Daniel H. Pink is the author of five provocative books — including three long-running New York Timesbestsellers, A Whole New Mind , Drive , and To Sell Is Human . Dan’s books have been translated into 35 languages and have sold more than 2 million copies worldwide. He lives in Washington, DC, with his wife and their three children.

Other books by Dan Pink