Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday: Summary & Notes

Rated: 8/10

Available at: Amazon

ISBN: 1591847818

Related: Perennial Seller, The Obstacle is the Way


A relatively quick read of historical examples and Stoic philosophy for living a successful life, particularly through your work.

Good when you need some motivation, or to keep yourself grounded.



Talk, Talk, Talk

So what is scarce and rare? Silence. The ability to deliberately keep yourself out of the conversation and subsist without its validation. Silence is the respite of the confident and the strong.

To Be or To Do?

  • “To be or to do ? Which way will you go?” - John Boyd

Become A Student

  • Updating your appraisal of your talents in a downward direction is one of the most difficult things to do in life — but it is almost always a component of mastery.  The pretence of knowledge is our most dangerous vice, because it prevents us from getting any better.  Studious self-assessment is the antidote.
  • To become great and to stay great, they must all know what came before, what is going on now, and what comes next.

Don’t Be Passionate

  • Passion typically masks a weakness. Its breathlessness and impetuousness and franticness are poor substitutes for discipline, for mastery, for strength and purpose and perseverance. You need to be able to spot this in others and in yourself, because while the origins of passion may be earnest and good, its effects are comical and then monstrous.
  • What humans require in our ascent is purpose and realism. Purpose, you could say, is like passion with boundaries . Realism is detachment and perspective.

Follow the Canvas Strategy

  • That’s what the canvas strategy is about — helping yourself by helping others. Making a concerted effort to trade your short - term gratification for a longer - term payoff.
  • Once we fight this emotional and egotistical impulse, the canvas strategy is easy.  The iterations are endless:
  • Maybe it’s coming up with ideas to hand over to your boss. 
  • Find people, thinkers, up - and - comers to introduce them to each other. Cross wires to create new sparks. 
  • Find what nobody else wants to do and do it. 
  • Find inefficiencies and waste and redundancies. Identify leaks and patches to free up resources for new areas. 
  • Produce more than everyone else and give your ideas away.

The Danger of Pride

Pride blunts the very instrument we need to own in order to succeed : our mind . Our ability to learn, to adapt, to be flexible, to build relationships, all of this is dulled by pride .

Work, Work, Work

  • Fac, si facis. (Do it if you’re going to do it)


Always Stay a Student

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • An amateur is defensive . The professional finds learning ( and even , occasionally , being shown up ) to be enjoyable; they like being challenged and humbled, and engage in education as an ongoing and endless process.

What’s Important to You?

  • On an individual level, however, it’s absolutely critical that you know who you’re competing with and why, that you have a clear sense of the space you’re in.

Beware the Disease of Me

  • Play for the name on the front of the jersey, he says, and they’ll remember the name on the back.

Meditate on the Immensity

  • 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.
  • Feel unprotected against the elements or forces or surroundings. Remind yourself how pointless it is to rage and fight and try to one - up those around you. Go and put yourself in touch with the infinite, and end your conscious separation from the world. Reconcile yourself a bit better with the realities of life. Realize how much came before you, and how only wisps of it remain. Let the feeling carry you as long as you can. Then when you start to feel better or bigger than, go and do it again.


The Effort is Enough

  • “Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self - satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.” - John Wooden 
  • “Ambition," Marcus Aurelius reminded himself, “means tying your well - being to what other people say or do . . . Sanity means tying it to your own actions.” 
  • Do your work. Do it well. Then “let go and let God." That’s all there needs to be. 
  • Recognition and rewards — those are just extra. Rejection, that’s on them, not on us.
  • Doing the work is enough.

Fight Club Moments

  • In fact, many significant life changes come from moments in which we are thoroughly demolished, in which everything we thought we knew about the world is rendered false.
  • A look at history finds that these events seem to be defined by three traits: 
  • 1. They almost always came at the hands of some outside force or person. 
  • 2. They often involved things we already knew about ourselves, but were too scared to admit. 
  • 3. From the ruin came the opportunity for great progress and improvement.

Draw the Line

  • Recovery is not grand, it’s one step in front of the other

Always Love

  • Meanwhile, love is right there . Egoless, open, positive, vulnerable, peaceful, and productive.

For Everything That Comes Next, Ego is the Enemy...

  • Not to aspire or seek out of ego. 
  • To have success without ego. 
  • To push through failure with strength, not ego.


  • 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. You must sweep the floor every minute of every day.  And then sweep again.

Want to get my latest book notes? Subscribe to my newsletter to get one email a week with new book notes, blog posts, and favorite articles.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.