Book Review: Ego is the enemy you were not expecting

By in Culture
A photo of Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday is captured on October 10, 2020. THE SHEAF / Kristine Jones

Ryan Holiday preaches the “long game” and other lessons with an insistent voice in his book Ego is the Enemy.

The book is divided into three parts: “Aspire,” “Success” and “Failure.” Apparently, these are the stages in which Holiday experienced ego in his life, again and again. 

Holiday is a media strategist and writer, who dropped out of college when he turned 19 to apprentice under author Robert Green. He was American Apparel’s director of marketing and then founded Brass Check, a company that has advised big-leaguers like Google and bestselling authors.

That said, almost everything he says in this book is simply common sense, decorated with flowery words and strategically placed narratives. Undoubtedly, this book shows his skills as a well-seasoned media strategist and writer. However, within the book you will find valuable lessons woven into short, real life stories — including his own. 

In the book’s “Painful Prologue,” he touches on his personal journey, following his realization that the same things that made him successful had become his undoing.

“It wasn’t so much the amount of work but the outsized role it had taken in my sense of self,” he writes. 

He looks back into his past where everyone called him “the kid” — the one going places —  because of his ambition and drive. Looking at his list of accomplishments, his willingness to reveal the trials he faced as he scaled his way to the top speaks volumes about his effort. 

He notes that he“was a prisoner to [his] own thoughts” in the prologue, starting off the readers on a humbling experience where he reveals his flaws. The intensity of the message only gets stronger as you continue, making the book a fast and gripping read. 

In an early chapter, he asks: “To be, or to do?” The entire chapter is very sobering and prepares the reader by asking hard questions about what they are about to confront — themselves. 

Why is ego our enemy? Because ego tells us what we want to hear. Holiday stresses the importance of doing the “quiet, and important work” — the long game, as he calls it, for it reaps the most success at the likely price of being unrecognized. This part humbled me in many ways. 

I read this book for a reason. I wanted to know for myself if ego is indeed a factor that is hindering my progress. I found my answer.

As a student, I am always seeing new information and opportunities — which would be great if they didn’t end up becoming distractions. I had become quick to jump into the next thing rather than devoting my attention to what was already in front of me. I was unfocused. 

According to this book, two of the most critical questions you can ask yourself are “Who do I want to be?” and “What path will I take?” I will admit, I am quick to assume responsibility for others. My personal desires and needs always come second — or don’t come at all. All for what? To make someone else’s life easier? To be more in control? 

This book helped me find my answer — that I want to be free. I want to be free from the expectations that I was never meant nor willing to fulfill.

So if you want to entertain your ego, then chase people and tick the “right boxes.”

If you want to reach your potential, then replace this with doing quiet but important work. I am going to do just that.

Ego is your enemy is a self-help book meant to awaken and erase whatever grand image you made yourself to be in your head. It’s going to hurt, but it will heal and help you in the end.

Just let his words sink into your being.

Kristine Jones A. Del Socorro | Culture Editor

Photo: Kristine Jones A. Del Socorro | Culture Editor