This book is deeply influenced by Stoic philosophy and all the great classical thinkers. The aim of this book is to help you suppress ego early before bad habits take hold, to replace the temptations of ego with humility and discipline when we experience success, and to cultivate strength and fortitude so that when fate turns against you, you’re not wrecked by failure. In short, this book will help us be:
1- Humble in our aspirations
2- Gracious in our success
3- Resilient in our failures
That's why the main topics of this book consists of 3 chapters:
Most of us are in these stages in a fluid senses:
1- We're aspiring until we succeed;
2- We succeed until we fail or until we aspire to more; and
3- After we fail we can begin to aspire or succeed again.
Ego is the enemy every step along this way. In a sense, ego is the enemy of building, of maintaining, and of recovering.
Wherever you are, whatever you're doing, your worst enemy already lives inside you: your ego. In this book, ego is defined as an unhealthy belief in our own importance; arrogance, self-centered ambition. It's that petulant child inside every person, the one that chooses getting his or her way over anything or anyone else. The need to be better than, more than, recognized for, far past any reasonable utility - that's ego.
Bill Walsh explained ego in the following senses: (i) when self-confidence becomes arrogance; (ii) when assertiveness becomes obstinacy; and (iii) when self-assurance becomes reckless abandon.
Ego is the conscious separation from everything, which manifest negatively in the following circumstances:-
- We can't work with other people if we've put up walls;
- We can't improve the world if we don't understand it or ourselves;
- We can't take or receive feedback if we are incapable of or uninterested in hearing from outside sources;
- We can't recognize opportunities - or create them - if instead of seeing what is in front of us, we live inside our own fantasy.
Ego tells us what we want to hear, when we want to hear it.
Now, let's see the discussion in Chapter I of this book, ASPIRE.
This chapter inspires us that even though we think big, we must act and live small in order to accomplish what we seek.
Ego is our enemy on that journey, so that when we do achieve our success, it will not sink us but make us stronger.
Ryan Holiday divides into several sub-categories in this chapter, which is the sub-categories that are related to "Aspire":
(a) Talk, (b) To be or To do; (c) Become a Student; (d) Don't be Passionate; (e) Follow the Canvas Strategy; (f) Restrain Yourself; (g) Get Out of Your Own Head; (h) The Danger of Early Pride; (i) Work; and (j) For Everything that Comes Next, Ego is the Enemy.
When we are aspiring, ego is always remind us that we are the best of all. Traits of ego from the above sub-categories can be read as follows:
a - Talk
Temptation that exist to everyone is for talk and hype to replace action. Technology asking you, prodding you, soliciting talk.
At the beginning of any path, we're excited and nervous, so we seek to comfort ourselves externally instead of inwardly. There's a weak side to each of us, that - like trade union - isn't exactly malicious but at the end of the day still wants to get as much public credit and attention as it can for doing the least. That side we call ego.
We seem to think that silence is a sign of weakness, so we talk, talk as though our life depends on it. In actuality, silence is strength - particularly early on in any journey.
Turn the inner turmoil into product - and eventually to stillness. They ignore the impulse to seek recognition before they act. They don’t talk to much.
b -To be or To do
Whatever we seek to do in life, reality soon intrudes on our youthful idealism. This reality comes in many names and forms: incentives, commitments, recognition, and politics. In every case, they can quickly redirect us from doing to being. From earning to pretending. Ego aids in that deception every step of the way. Therefore, if we're not careful, we can very easily find ourselves corrupted by the very occupation we wish to serve.
Know your purpose will help you to answer the question "To be or to do?"
It's about the doing, not the recognition.
Opportunity, no matter how gratifying or rewarding, must be evaluated along strict guidelines: Does this help me do what I have set out to do? Does this allow me to do what I need to do? Am I being selfish or selfless? In this course, it is not "Who do I want to be in life?" but "What is it that I want to accomplish in life?" Setting aside selfish interest, it asks: What calling does it serve? What principles govern my choices? Do I want to be like everyone else or do I want to do something different?
Think about this the next time you face that choice: Do I need this? Or is it really about ego? Are you ready to make the right decision? Or do the prizes still glitter off in the distance? To be or to do - life is a constant roll call.
c - Become a Student
The reality is that though the high achievers are confident, the act of being an external student kept these men and women humble.
You can't learn if you think you already know. You will not find the answers if you're too conceited and self-assured to ask the questions. You cannot get better if you're convinced your are the best.
Humility is what keeps us there, concerned that we don't know enough and that we must continue to study. Ego rushes to the end, rationalizes that patience is for losers (wrongly seeing it as a weakness), and assumes that we're good enough to give our talents a go in the world.
Ego is defensive, precisely when we cannot afford to be defensive. It blocks us from improving by telling us that we don't need to improve. Then, we wonder why we don't get the results we want, why others are better and why their success is more lasting. Ego makes us so hardheaded and hostile to feedback that it drives them away or puts them beyond our reach.
d - Don't be Passionate
Don't be driven by passion, but by reason. Do your job with reason and never be "passion's slave".
If the definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over and expecting different results, then passion is a form of mental retardation - deliberately blunting our most critical cognitive functions. The waste is often appalling in retrospect; the best years of our life burned out like a pair of spinning tires against the asphalt.
What humans require is (i) purpose and (ii) realism. Purpose is like passion with boundaries. Realism is detachment and perspective. Purpose is about pursuing something outside yourself as opposed to pleasuring yourself. More than purpose, we also need realism. Where do we start? What we do first? What do we do right now? Etc.
e- Follow the Canvas Strategy
The Canvas Strategy is similar to the definition of "Anteambulo", which means clearing the path. Finding the direction someone already intended to head and helping them pack, freeing them up to focus on their strengths. In fact, making things better rather than simply looking as if you are.
It's not about kissing ass. It's not about making someone look good. It's about providing the support so that others can be good.
The canvas strategy is about helping yourself by helping others. Making a concerted effort to trade your short-term gratification for a longer-term payoff. Whereas everyone else wants to get credit and be "respected", you can forget credit. You can forget it so hard that you're glad when others get it instead of you - that was your aim, after all. Let the others take their credit on credit, while you defer and earn interest on the principal.
Greatness comes from humble beginnings; it comes from grunt work. Find canvases for other people to paint on. Be an anteambulo. Clear the path for the people above you and you will eventually create a path for yourself.
Examples of Canvas Strategy:
- Maybe it's coming up with ideas to hand over to your boss;
- Find people, thinkers, up-and-comers to introduce them to each other. Cross wires to create new sparks;
- Find what nobody else wants to do and do it;
- Find inefficiencies and waste and redundancies. Identify leaks and patches to free up resources for new areas;
- Produce more than everyone else and give your ideas away.
The person who clears the path ultimately controls its direction, just as the canvas shapes the painting.
f - Restrain Yourself
Put aside both of your ego and in some respects your basic sense of fairness and rights as a human being.
It doesn't matter how talented you are, how great your connections are, how much money you have. When you want to do something - something big and important and meaningful - you will be subjected to treatment ranging from indifference to outright sabotage. Count on it.
Those who have subdued their ego understand that it doesn't degrade you when others treat you poorly; it degrades them.
Up ahead there will be: Slights. Dismissals. Little fuck yous. One-sided compromises. You'll get yelled at. You'll have to work behind the scenes to salvage what should have been easy. All this will make you angry. This will make you want to fight back. This will make you want to say: I am better than this. I deserve more. Your ego screams aloud. Instead, you must do nothing. Take it. Eat it until you're sick. Endure it. Quietly brush it off and work harder. Play the game. Ignore the noise; for the love of God, do not let it distract you. Restraint is a difficult skill but a critical one. You will often be tempted, you will probably even be overcome. No one is perfect with it, but try we must.
g - Get Out of Your Own Head
What successful people do is curb such flights of fancy. They ignore the temptations that might make them feel important or skew their perspective.
Our imagination is dangerous when it runs wild. We have to rein our perceptions in. Otherwise, lost in the excitement, how can we accurately predict the future or interpret events? How can we stay hungry and aware? How can we appreciate the present moment? How can we be creative within the realm of practicality?
Living clearly and presently takes courage. Don't live in the haze of the abstract, live with the tangible and real, even if especially if, it's uncomfortable. Be part of what's going on around you. Feast on it, adjust for it. There's no one to perform for. There is just work to be done and lessons to be learned, in al that is around us.
h - The Danger of Early Pride
Pride is a distraction and a deluder.
Pride blunts the very instrument we need to own in order to succeed: our mind. Our ability to learn, to adapt, to be flexible, to build relationships, all of this is dulled by pride. Most dangerously, this tends to happen either early in life or in the process - when we're flushed with beginner's conceit. Only later do you realize that that bump on the head was the least of what was risked.
Protect ourselves against the validation and gratification that will quickly come our way if we show promise. Protect ourselves against people and things that make us feel good or rather, too good. We must prepare for pride and kill it early, or it will kill what we aspire to. We must be on guard against that wild self-confidence and self-obsession. The first product of self-knowledge is humility.
When you feel pride, ask this: "What am I missing right now that a more humble person might see? What am I avoiding, or running from, with my bluster, franticness, and embellishments?"
Just because you are quiet doesn't mean that you are without pride. Privately thinking you're better than others is still pride. It's still dangerous.
We are still striving, and it is the strivers who should be our peers - not the proud and the accomplished.
i - Work
All things require work. To get where we want to go isn't about brilliance, but continual effort.
Our ego wants the ideas and the fact that we aspire to do something about them to be enough. It wants to be paid well for its time and it wants to do the fun stuff - the stuff that gets attention, credit or glory.
There's no triumph without toil.
Every time you sit down to work, remind yourself: I am delaying gratification by doing this. I am passing the marshmallow test. I am earning what my ambition burns for. I am making an investment in myself instead of in my ego. Give yourself a little credit for this choice, but not so much, because you've got to get back to the task at hand: practicing, working, improving.
Work is finding yourself alone at the track when the weather kept everyone else indoors. Works is pushing through the pain and crappy first drafts and prototypes. It is ignoring whatever plaudits others are getting, and more importantly, ignoring whatever plaudits you may be getting. Because there is work to be done. Work doesn't want to be good. It is made so, despite the headwind.
j - For Everything that Comes Next, Ego is the Enemy
It will be a lonely fight to be real, to say 'I am not going to take the edge off'. I am in this for the long game, no matter how brutal it might be. To do, not be.
Show personality that is ambitious but patient, innovative without being brash, brave without being dangerous.
What comes next is going to test you in ways that you cannot begin to understand. For ego is wicked sister of success.