Maybe you're young and brimming with ambition. Maybe you're young and struggling. Maybe you've already accomplished enough to last a lifetime. Maybe you're stunned to find out how empty it is at the top. Maybe you're charged with leading others through a crisis. Maybe you just got fired. Maybe you just hit rock bottom.
Wherever you are, whatever you're doing, your worst enemy already lives inside of you: your ego.
In this excerpt from Ego Is the Enemy, Ryan Holiday, best-selling author of The Obstacle Is the Way, tackles the non-Freudian or casual definition of ego and its dangers: an unhealthy belief in our own importance. Ego is that petulant child inside every person, the one who chooses getting his or her way over anything or anyone else. If ego is the voice that tells us we're better than we really are, we can say ego inhibits true success by preventing a direct and honest connection to the world around us.
Holiday, a Wunderkind marketer and strategist, seemed to have the world on a string by age 25. But soon the "influence, platform, press, resources, money ... [and] notoriety" clouded the downward spiral going on in so many other areas of his life. He diagnosed himself as a workaholic whose drive might kill him. His fiancee left him because he no longer seemed to be the same person. His faith in himself collapsed.
Months later, after much self-exploration, Holiday realized that the stories he told himself about himself were what took him down. When we remove ego, he writes, we're left with what's real: humility, yes--but rock-hard humility and confidence. Whereas ego is artificial, this type of confidence can hold weight. Ego is stolen; confidence is earned. Some learn humility. Some choose ego. Some are prepared for the fluctuations of fate, both positive and negative. Others are not.
Which will you choose? Who will you be?
In 1879, the preservationist and explorer John Muir took his first trip to Alaska. As he explored the fjords and rocky landscapes of Alaska's now famous Glacier Bay, a powerful feeling-struck him all at once. He'd always been in love with nature, and here in the unique summer climate of the Far North, in this single moment, it was as if the entire world was in sync. As if he could see the entire ecosystem and circle of life before him. His pulse began to pick up, and he and the group were "warmed and quickened into sympathy with everything, taken back into the heart of nature" from which we all came.