Welcome to the second entry of our blog about our company book club! I am really hopeful that this will serve you in some purpose and help you to learn something from some of the best authors around as well as motivate you to go out and purchase some of these books to read on your own!
Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday was the second book of the Lemonade Stand Book Club. This book has an entirely different feel to it than The Fred Factor does. This book is absolutely amazing, but it can definitely feel like a punch to the gut and really does its best to keep you humble. That’s kind of the whole point of it though. It’s basically like, if you don’t think you’re humble enough to read this book and think it might offend or upset you, then you should probably be reading this book. I know that I needed to be put in my place about a few things, and this particular book has helped me realize some of those things and helped me to move past them to being a more humble learner and having a better approach towards life and keeping my ego in check.
So, let’s take a look at some of the concepts and principles that we learned while reading this book!
According to Ryan Holiday, there are basically three stages in the cycle of life, and we are constantly in one of those three. The stages are: aspiration, success, and failure. Wherever you are in your own life, you are either aspiring to become something, experiencing some kind of success, or feeling some of the pain of (but hopefully all the learning that comes from) failure.
Within each of these stages of life, ego is going to be our greatest enemy as we try to grow, learn and develop. Ego will attack us differently in each of these stages, so it is important to know what stage you are in and in what ways you could be vulnerable to falling into the traps of your own ego.
I am going to break down these three stages and discuss how they are presented in the book and how ego approaches us under each of these unique circumstances. Then I will share some of the tips that he gives for how to overcome ego and to prevent it from steering you in the wrong direction.
Stage I: Aspire
“I am going to be myself, the best version of that self. I am in this for the long game, no matter how brutal it might be.” – Ryan Holiday
What does the aspiration stage look like? Well, to put it in its most simple form, this is when we are trying to become something or trying to achieve some grand goal that we have set. We are looking to improve ourselves and to be better in some way.
So, how does ego stand in your in this stage?
It is all in the outlook of your aspirations. We should be wanting to improve the person that we are and hone the best parts of ourselves to be better than we ever have been. Ego steps in when we start comparing ourselves to other people or wanting some new title or achievement to show how good we are. Wanting to buy a new car because your neighbor just bought a new car is an ego-filled aspiration. These aren’t the goals that are really going to change your life or make you a better version of yourself. Now, maybe you’ve just become a parent, so you set a goal to purchase a new car that will better fulfill the needs of you and your family. Having other people as the reason for your goal and a goal that is oriented towards those people, could have a lasting impact on who you are and will make you a better person for them.
We need to be careful in what we are aspiring to do or else it could be meaningless, or even more ego-filled, once we actually taste success.
Stage II: Succeed
Success is wonderful, isn’t it?
It certainly can be! But it can also certainly be a stage in life where we are fueled by our own egos. I think this one is the easiest to see why an ego could get in your way while in this stage, but I do want to hit a few points that Ryan nails right on the head. This guy has some REALLY great quotes, and I am definitely going to share some of those.
The hardest thing about taking care of your ego during success is that “ego wants us to think, I’m special. I’m better. The rules don’t apply to me.” – Ryan Holiday
When you finally come out on top, when you have been aspiring for something for a long, long time, and you, at long last, achieve success, it is so, so easy to get caught up in that success and start feeling like exactly what this quote is describing. “I’m a CEO now, I can do what I want and people have to listen to me,” might be one way of thinking. “I finally achieved my goal of…. I’m unstoppable!!” Etc., etc.
There are so many ways that this can apply once success is achieved, but it is so important to not let ego get in the way once you are successful, because it will most certainly halt your progress and impede future successes that you could have been a part of had you remained humble.
When we are in this stage, and we let ego take control then “we stop learning, we stop listening, and we lose our grasp on what matters. We become victims of ourselves and the competition.” – Ryan Holiday
If you have allowed ego to take control during your aspirations and now into your success, it will become an even more vicious cycle where you have to fuel that ego more and more each day. Everything becomes about being better than somebody else.
Stamping out ego in the first stage would be the ideal situation, but, if you weren’t able to do that, this stage is absolutely pivotal before you come to the inevitable stage of failure.
Stage III: Fail
Failure. I don’t know many people who enjoy failure. It is one of the harsh realities of life that always serve to keep us grounded. It is also, according to Ryan, probably the most dangerous of the three stages to let ego win.
When we fail, we are usually feeling very vulnerable about the situation and ourselves. Failure can be a great place to learn from and to practice humility in; however, if we let ego take over, then we will start looking for other people to blame for our own mistakes. We’ll start tearing others down and trying to build ourselves up. We won’t recognize or learn from our mistakes, we will just think that what we did was perfect and everyone else was wrong or that the world is just out to get us.
This will fuel that ego beyond anything else that occurs in the other stages. It is crucial that we do not let ego in when we are in a state of failure. Stay humble. Learn.
But how do we do that? Well, luckily, Ryan didn’t leave us empty handed on this front. There are plenty of tips from this wonderful book on how to control that ego in all of the three stages and how to truly come out on top and to improve the person that you are no matter what part of life you are in!
Controlling Your Ego
The first tip that I want to highlight is to change your definition of success so that you’re internally motivated instead of externally motivated. Keep your eye on the prize of bettering yourself as a person rather than being better than other people. Making sure that your motivations are internally focused rather than externally focused, can be a key way to curb that ego right from the beginning.
One way to help do that is maintaining your own scorecard. Use this scorecard when creating your goals and aspirations, and then compare yourself against it when you think you’ve achieved success. Then you can reevaluate your score and keep pushing yourself to go higher and higher. Using this method will ensure that the reasons you are setting your goals is to improve yourself.
Another tip that I think is just great is that of “always love.” This one is so simple! If you love the people that surround you and are always acting out of love and working on serving those people at all times, then you won’t really have the space to let your own ego in.
But what about when you’ve failed? How do we manage our ego in that critical moment?
The best thing that you can do, according to Ryan, is to recognize when you’ve failed and when to let go. Learn the patterns that you go through when you experience failure and figure out how to accept that some things are definitely your responsibility. Claim that failure as your own and then let it go. Learn from it and move on. Don’t let it sit around and fester inside of you and eat you alive.
Finally, you can use your failures to grow instead of passively waiting. When you fail, don’t wait around for someone to pick you back up and tell you that you’re ok. Again, recognize that failure, and then decide to learn something from it. Every failure has a lesson to teach us, and we need to be able to discern what that lesson is. If we learn from a failure, then it becomes a success, and we are more likely to move forward and to improve ourselves.
I recently watched Disney’s “Meet the Robinsons” with my wife and daughter. At one point in the movie the main character, Lewis, fails. He instantly starts getting upset and doubting himself – letting ego take over and decide for him that he’s a disaster. Right in that moment, though, the people around him start cheering him on for failing. They say things like “what an awesome failure that was!” His entire demeanor and outlook on failure changes through the course of the movie, and he develops the catch phrase “keep moving forward.” He goes on to change the course of the entire world with his inventions.
Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that we can let failure consume and destroy us, or we can celebrate the fact that we failed, evaluate our failure, and learn from it. The humble student learns far more than the prideful.
That wraps up the points that I wanted to highlight from “Ego is the Enemy.” There is a lot more to learn from it, so I encourage you to find yourself a copy and get reading!
Take a look at the other books we have read at Lemonade Stand and what we have learned from them here!