(One of) the definitions: The ego represents the conscious part of the personality, the part of the psyche that is perceived as ‘I.’ This layer of personality encounters the external physical and social world based on rational data gathered through observation, memory, and thought. It is the part that remembers, evaluates, plans, and in other ways responds and behaves in the environment of the physical and social world. Unlike the id, the ego is guided by the reality principle in behavior; instincts cannot be satisfied just for the sake of pleasure. Taking into account the real situation, the ego, even if indirectly, strives to enable the satisfaction of what the instinctive part of the psyche aims for. The ego delays gratification, chooses acceptable situations, and adapts instincts to the real conditions of the external environment. According to Freud, it coexists with the id (the unconscious part of the psyche) and the superego (the part that represents conscience or the internalization of social norms). The ego does not coexist with either personality or the body; rather, it serves to integrate these and other aspects of personality, such as imagination and behavior. It mediates between the id and the superego, building various defense mechanisms.
“There are three types of egotists: egotists who live for themselves and let others live; egotists who live for themselves but do not let others live; and finally, egotists who neither live for themselves nor let others live” – Ivan Turgenev
“He who falls in love with himself will have no rivals” – Benjamin Franklin
“The ego is an octopus with countless tentacles, feeding on all forms of ignorance” – Unknown author
Ego… perhaps the greatest, yet closest, enemy of mankind. The one that leads us into illusion, feeds our arrogance, pride, stubbornness, obstinacy, vanity, convincing us that we are much better and greater (than we might actually be) and that we deserve the world on a platter. This last part, at first glance, wouldn’t sound so bad, if the ego, with its sweet, seductive stories, didn’t lull us into some kind of deception, and it’s not exactly pushing us to strive to be better. The ego’s motto could be: “(Unrealistic, grandiose, self-loving) words, not (much) action.”
The ego dreads virtues such as humility, modesty, moderation, patience, dedication, selflessness… it sees them as weaknesses, something that does not lead to the pinnacle of success. The irony is that many media, subtly, support this view.
The ego is very vain. It believes it’s always right, that it knows best, and that it’s never to blame for our failures. No, of course, it’s not to blame. It’s always (and must always be) the boss, wife, child, state, weather, the Pope… How are such problems solved? With even more ego!
The ego is what can (and often does) lead to ruin, not just for individuals, but also for entire states. Infatuated with themselves and the idea of their grandiosity, individuals make decisions for their personal interests, often trying to mask them as “the interests of the people.”
The ego is the enemy that will lead you to ruin… if you don’t rein it in.
But let’s not get into theorizing any further.
Today’s topic is Ryan Holiday’s book, “Ego is the Enemy”.
The book is divided into three parts, delving into how the ego behaves in effort, success, and failure.
I must say right at the start, I really liked the book. It’s not some scientific-philosophical research nor a manual for freeing or controlling the ego. It’s much simpler… and more interesting. 🙂
Through biographies (and specific events) from the lives of famous historical figures, Ryan Holiday essentially gives us a biography of the ego. Don’t misunderstand, this isn’t a book about the lives of the famous. Ryan uses them as examples, then “breaks down” key events from their lives and shows us what it’s like when the ego controls us, and what it’s like when we control it, meanwhile posing questions that make us reflect on our life decisions that we have made so far, and those we are yet to make. Will we be guided by a higher purpose, or the ego?
We’ll experience examples where ego led to ruin, and where reason led to success and happiness, from ancient times to the modern era. We’ll look at the decisions of General William Sherman, strategist John “Forty Seconds” Boyd, Kirk Hammett from “Metallica,” MMA pioneer Frank Shamrock, politician Eleanor Roosevelt, the brilliant Benjamin Franklin, “New England Patriots” coach Bill Belichick, epigrammatist Martial, Jackie Robinson (the first African American player in Major League Baseball), General George McClellan, controversial Howard Hughes, conqueror Genghis Khan, legendary “49ers” coach Bill Walsh, Julius Grant, Katharine Graham of the “Washington Post,” and many others… all while analyzing their good and bad decisions. As you can see, the list encompasses various (psychological) personality profiles from different eras, so the adventure definitely won’t be boring!
The writing style is very pleasant and engaging, making the book hard to put down.
I enjoyed this book and will definitely return to it from time to time.
This is a book for all generations and ages. It doesn’t matter whether you are just starting your career, are in the middle, or at the sunset of it. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve made millions or just have enough to get by. Be sure to read this book and take some time to analyze your life decisions (both made and those yet to be made). And in the process, try to rein in your ego, before it (and vanity) destroy not just you, but also the people you care about.
And you, dear readers, what’s the situation with your ego? 🙂
(Originally reviewed: 15/09/2019)