Ego Is The Enemy: LinkedIn Speaker Series with Ryan Holiday

May 30, 2017

“When someone tells you they see something of themselves in you, and then they catastrophically implode in a very public, avoidable way, you sort of go, whoa, I don't want that to happen to me.”

Ryan Holiday might be an unlikely face to speak about ego, but the 29-year-old has already experienced the euphoric highs of success and the humbling lows of failure — enough to lend credit to his philosophy behind why you, and more specifically your ego, may be your own worst enemy. He is a college dropout, the former director of marketing for American Apparel, a five-time author, and now lives on a ranch outside of Austin, Texas, where he writes “in between raising cattle, donkeys, and goats.” It’s a path that didn’t come without reflection and insight.

Holiday joined us for the latest LinkedIn Speaker Series and spoke about his new book, Ego Is the Enemy, and what we can do to combat the catastrophic results when we let ego take over.

Through historical anecdotes, research, and observation, Holiday sees life as one of three, cyclical stages: aspiring, succeeding, or failing. And no matter what stage you’re in, ego can affect them all.

The first way to combat ego is early on, when you’re in the “aspire” stage, and one way you prevent ego from taking the wheel is to not only adopt a student mindset, but never let it go.

In quoting Epictetus, “It's impossible for a person to learn that which they think they already know.” Holiday reminds us that when you think you know everything, in some ways you are right, because you don't learn anything more. Commit to learning from people who are better than you, challenge yourself against someone as good as you, and pass on these lessons to someone not as good as you. It’s this student mindset that can keep ego at bay.

Eventually in life, you’ll come to a point where you’ve done it. You’ve made it to the top of the mountain and success tastes sweet. But there’s danger in this early pride and the focus on amassing attention and accolades. Holiday recognizes that in the beginning of our career, there’s a need to  make a name for yourself, but if you give in too much, it will divert you from where you really want to go. Instead, focus on the work and let it do the talking for you.

And as much as we try to avoid it, failure is certain. But that’s just the thing: everyone fails. Instead of measuring yourself by how you think others measure you, create your own inner scorecard and measure yourself by what you think success and failure looks like. What matters is that you are not indifferent to what you've accomplished, but that you know that what you did was the best you could have done at that moment. This is the stronger measurement of success and failure.

Throughout his talk, Holiday reminds us that ego is a short-term solution that creates long-term problems, and shifting your mindset throughout these three phases of life can help prevent ego-driven outcomes. Dig into more solutions by watching the full LinkedIn Speaker Series below or listen to the podcast.