Book Review: Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday


By Leslie Finkel

Ryan Holiday has written this international bestseller about the how ego gets in the way of success and limits our ability to recover from failure. Holiday is a highly successful entrepreneur, the author of four books (The Obstacle in the Way, for one), and consultant to companies including Google, Taser and Complex. His fans include NFL athletes, coaches and entertainment personalities.

In Holiday’s words: “I’m referring to the colloquial definition of ego: an unhealthy belief in your own importance. It is, as Bill Walsh put it, “where confidence becomes arrogance.”

Holiday provides a prescription for getting out of your head, shedding “entitlement,” controlling ego and self-examination. The latter may be the most difficult.

Holiday offers an exercise which might do us all some good – whether we are in business, at home chasing toddlers, professional cyclists or authors.

…. Pick up a book on a topic you know next to nothing about. Put yourself in rooms where you’re the least knowledgeable person. That uncomfortable feeling, that defensiveness that you feel when your most deeply held assumptions are challenged – what about subjecting yourself to it deliberately? Change your mind. Change your surroundings.

An amateur is defensive. The professional finds learning (and even, occasionally, being shown up) to be enjoyable; they like being challenged and humbled, and engage in education as an ongoing and endless process.

(Excerpted from Ego is the Enemy, p. 105)

Holiday looks at a range of personalities: William Tecumseh Sherman, Katherine Graham, Eleanor Roosevelt and Angela Merkel among others. He also draws from literature and philosophy.

The book has some organizational issue – but they do not detract from his unique perspective on how the ego works for and against us.


Leslie Finkel is the Manager of Wellington Square Bookshop in Eagleview. Recognized as the Best Indie Bookstore by Philadelphia Magazine in 2016, the bookshop has a literary focus, hosts numerous author events and welcomes customers to relax with coffee and pastry in our vintage reading room.


Top photo credit: Ken Whytock Quotation: Humility means being open to the idea that you’re not right. via photopin (license)

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