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Ego Is the Enemy Hardcover – June 14, 2016

4.6 out of 5 stars 493 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Portfolio (June 14, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591847818
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591847816
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9 x 7.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (493 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,233 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By M. JEFFREY MCMAHON TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 13, 2016
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
As I was reading Ryan Holiday’s quotation-rich book Ego Is the Enemy, I began to realize one cannot simple tear down one’s ego. Such a process is actually twofold: The ego diminishes, and the self-respect flourishes. One event can’t occur without the other.

This is a spiritual dynamic albeit a secular and philosophical one in the hands of Ryan Holiday. He wants to “remind” us with “moral stories” to be our better selves, “our better impulses.”

A humanist, Holiday believes we can, as Aristotle said, smooth out the warped wood that is human nature. To smooth the wood, we must confront and defuse our ego. He defines the ego as “an unhealthy belief in your own importance.” He elaborates: “It’s that petulant child inside every person, the one that chooses getting his or her way over anything or anyone else. The need to be better than, more than, recognized for, far past any reasonable utility—that’s ego.” This ego “distorts reality,” and in fact disconnects us from reality (funny, as I read this book I thought of Walter White from Breaking Bad).

This taming of the ego, however, cannot be performed in a vacuum. We must at the same time, Holiday reminds us, find a purpose and find our dignity and self-respect. Purpose, meaning, dignity, self-respect, and endless curiosity are the antidotes to ego.

One of the most salient lessons I learned is that nurturing the ego is a form of death or as Holiday, quoting Robert Greene, refers to as “dead time.” In one of my favorite passages, we read: “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.
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If ego is nothing more than a Freudian concept to you, then you may not have any idea how it’s holding you back right now. But don’t think that author Ryan Holiday aims to bore us with the same stale pop-psychology tropes that most books on the Self-Help shelf use to fill out their pages. What the author has provided us is actually a great work of modern practical philosophy.

Those familiar with Holiday’s last book, “The Obstacle is the Way,” will know exactly what practical philosophy means. Eschewing the commonly held view that philosophy is the province of academics in classrooms bloviating about abstract concepts, Holiday follows the Stoic tradition that puts philosophy firmly in the realm of everyday life. It’s about learning to deal with destructive emotions, unpredictable circumstances, self-interested people, and yes, ego, without succumbing to them. It’s philosophy as a way of achieving a better life.

In “Ego is the Enemy,” Holiday moves beyond the clinical definitions of ego and places the concept firmly in the realm of the practical. To be sure, the clinical and the practical in this case have some common ground. Modern psychologists define the ego as a critical part of identity construction, and further, an egotist as someone excessively focused on himself. Holiday defines ego along those lines: “an unhealthy belief in our own importance. Arrogance. Self-centered ambition…It’s when the notion of ourselves and the world grows so inflated that it begins to distort the reality that surrounds us.”

The idea that becoming untethered from reality is the primary symptom of an ego out of control is the thread that unites all three sections of this book.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The main point of this book is that ego gets in the way of success, personal growth, and doing seriously good work. In just over 200 smallish pages, Holiday defends his point with various examples and explanations.

There are three main parts to the book: 1) Aspire, 2) Success, and 3) Failure. Holiday explains how the ego can ruin aspiration and success, and how it can get in the way of learning from failure. He also notes that these three things happen to everyone, so if we can subdue ego in and through them, it'll help make us grow. (As a side there is some cussing, so it's probably not for kids.)

I do agree with the basic premise of this book: a narcissist is his own greatest enemy. A big head means a big fall. I enjoyed many of the quotes Holiday used from various people throughout history. A few examples: "It is impossible to learn that which one thinks one already knows" (Epictetus). "When you are not practicing, remember, someone somewhere is practicing, and when you meet him he will win" (Bill Bradley). "People learn from their failures. Seldom do they learn anything from success" (Harold Geneen).

I also agreed with Holiday's points about always being a student, of not just talking, but doing, and realizing one is tiny in the big scheme of things. The reason I gave the book 3 stars (which means "average") was because there was quite a bit of repetition and similar statements. I found myself saying, "He's said this already," or "He could have said that in 1 page instead of 4." The repetition also made the book sort of run together, so even though there were 3 parts, they sounded similar.
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