Notes: Ego Is the Enemy

By: Ryan Holiday

How strongly I recommend it: 9/10

Cerita hidup seseorang kadang bisa merepresentasi cerita-cerita lain yang ada. Dan langkah pertama yang seorang protagonis lakukan untuk bisa mencapai tujuan yang sedang dia kejar, adalah mengenal siapa musuh dan antagonis yang sebenarnya ada dalam cerita itu.

Membaca Ego is the Enemy mengingatkan saya saat membaca War of Art karya Stephen Pressfield. Ada pesan yang ternyata masing-masing saling melengkapi. Bedanya War of Art lebih fokus untuk membahas resistance sebagai musuh utama saat seseorang mau mengerjakan proses kreatif, yang nggak mudah. Ego is The Enemy, memberi gambaran lebih luas dan menurut saya lebih menarik, praktis, dan lebih berguna. Ryan Holiday, penulis buku ini adalah salah satu penggemar Stoic Philosophy.

Stoicism adalah sekolah filosofi yang didirikan di Athena oleh Zeno of Citium dimasa awal-awal abad ketiga sebelum masehi. Namanya diturunkan dari bahasa Yunani stoa, yang artinya serambi, karena itulah tempat Zeno pertama kali mengajar. Beberapa filsuf terkenalnya adalah Marcus Aerulius seorang kaisar Roma, Seneca yang terkenal dalam banyak hal termasuk perannya sebagai penasihat kaisar Nero, dan Epictetus.

Saat ini, beberapa orang yang mempelajari stoic philosophy dan sering memberi quote tentang itu yang saya tahu adalah Warren Buffet, Tim Ferris dan Charlie Munger. Selain itu ada juga George Washington, Walt Whitman, Frederick the Great, Eugène Delacroix, Adam Smith, Immanuel Kant, Thomas Jefferson, Matthew Arnold, Ambrose Bierce, Theodore Roosevelt, William Alexander Percy, Ralph Waldo Emerson. Dilihat dari tulisan dan karya-karya yang mereka buat, ternyata cukup sering meng-quote essay-essay filsuf stoic.

Tentang Ego

Buku ini mengambil Ego sebagai pusat dari apa yang akan dibahas lebih detilnya. Secara umum gambarannya adalah membahas Ego, lalu menyesuaikannya dengan peran dan sikap seseorang dalam beberapa state: hasrat (aspire), Kesuksesan (successs), and Kegagalan (fail).

The aim of that structure is simple: 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.

The orator Demosthenes once said that virtue begins with understanding and is fulfilled by courage.

Ryan Holiday mendefinisikan Ego sebagai:

The ego we see most commonly goes by a more casual definition: an unhealthy belief in our own importance. Arrogance. Self-centered ambition. That’s the definition this book will use. 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.

The performance artist Marina Abramović puts it directly: “If you start believing in your greatness, it is the death of your creativity.”

“Be natural and yourself and this glittering flattery will be as the passing breeze of the sea on a warm summer day.”

Salah satu perspektif yang paling inspiratif menurut saya adalah tentag konsep dead time dan alive time.

According to Robert Greene, there are two types of time in our lives: dead time, when people are passive and waiting, and alive time, when people are learning and acting and utilizing every second. Every moment of failure, every moment or situation that we did not deliberately choose or control, presents this choice: Alive time. Dead time. Which will it be?

Humble in our aspirations

Nggak perlu omongin semua yang kita lakukan, atau prestasi spesifik. Biarkan hasil yang memperlihatkan itu. Ini sama seperti yang Derek Sivers bilang di Ted Talk-nya.

Those who know do not speak. Those who speak do not know. —LAO TZU

The only relationship between work and chatter is that one kills the other.

We will learn that though we think big, we must act and live small in order to accomplish what we seek. Because we will be action and education focused, and forgo validation and status, our ambition will not be grandiose but iterative—one foot in front of the other, learning and growing and putting in the time.

Humility

You cannot get better if you’re convinced you are the best.

Ego doesn’t allow for proper incubation either. To become what we ultimately hope to become often takes long periods of obscurity, of sitting and wrestling with some topic or paradox. Humility is what keeps us there, concerned that we don’t know enough and that we must continue to study.

Our teachers in life are not only those we pay, as Hammett paid Satriani. Nor are they necessarily part of some training dojo, like it is for Shamrock. Many of the best teachers are free. They volunteer because, like you, they once were young and had the same goals you do.

Here’s what those same people haven’t told you: your passion may be the very thing holding you back from power or influence or accomplishment. Because just as often, we fail with—no, because of—passion.

Many people know of Benjamin Franklin’s famous pseudonymous letters written under names like Silence Dogood. What a clever young prodigy, they think, and miss the most impressive part entirely: Franklin wrote those letters, submitted them by sliding them under the print-shop door, and received absolutely no credit for them until much later in his life.

Greatness comes from humble beginnings; it comes from grunt work. It means you’re the least important person in the room—until you change that with results.

I have observed that those who have accomplished the greatest results are those who “keep under the body”; are those who never grow excited or lose self-control, but are always calm, self-possessed, patient, and polite. —BOOKER T. WASHINGTON

Your ego will do you no favors here, whether you’re struggling with a publisher, with critics, with enemies, or a capricious boss. It doesn’t matter that they don’t understand or that you know better. It’s too early for that. It’s too soon.

Those who have subdued their ego understand that it doesn’t degrade you when others treat you poorly; it degrades them.

A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you. —C. S. LEWIS

Work, Work, Work

The best plan is only good intentions unless it degenerates into work.

Fac, si facis. (Do it if you’re going to do it.)

Work is finding yourself alone at the track when the weather kept everyone else indoors. Work is pushing through the pain and crappy first drafts and prototypes.

As our power or talents grow, we like to think that makes us special—that we live in blessed, unprecedented times. This is compounded by the fact that so many of the photos we see from even fifty years ago are still in black and white, and we seem to assume that the world was in black and white. Obviously, it wasn’t—their sky was the same color as ours (in some places brighter than ours), they bled the same way we did, and their cheeks got flushed just like ours do. We are just like them, and always will be.

Whether what you’re going through is your fault or your problem doesn’t matter, because it’s yours to deal with right now.

As they say, this moment is not your life. But it is a moment in your life. How will you use it? John Wooden’s advice to his players says it: Change the definition of success. “Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.”

Resilient in our failures

Maintain Your Own Scorecard

I never look back, except to find out about mistakes … I only see danger in thinking back about things you are proud of. —ELISABETH NOELLE-NEUMANN

This is characteristic of how great people think. It’s not that they find failure in every success. They just hold themselves to a standard that exceeds what society might consider to be objective success. Because of that, they don’t much care what other people think; they care whether they meet their own standards. And these standards are much, much higher than everyone else’s.

For us, the scoreboard can’t be the only scoreboard. Warren Buffett has said the same thing, making a distinction between the inner scorecard and the external one. Your potential, the absolute best you’re capable of—that’s the metric to measure yourself against. Your standards are. Winning is not enough. People can get lucky and win. People can be assholes and win. Anyone can win. But not everyone is the best possible version of themselves.

I don’t like work—no man does—but I like what is in the work—the chance to find yourself. —JOSEPH CONRAD

Mistakes

People make mistakes all the time. They start companies they think they can manage. They have grand and bold visions that were a little too grandiose. This is all perfectly fine; it’s what being an entrepreneur or a creative or even a business executive is about. We take risks. We mess up. The problem is that when we get our identity tied up in our work, we worry that any kind of failure will then say something bad about us as a person. It’s a fear of taking responsibility, of admitting that we might have messed up. It’s the sunk cost fallacy. And so we throw good money and good life after bad and end up making everything so much worse.

Tim Ferris punya latihan bagus tentang ini, namanya Fear Setting.

“He who fears death will never do anything worthy of a living man,” Seneca once said. Alter that: He who will do anything to avoid failure will almost certainly do something worthy of a failure.

The only real failure is abandoning your principles. Killing what you love because you can’t bear to part from it is selfish and stupid. If your reputation can’t absorb a few blows, it wasn’t worth anything in the first place.

In William Manchester’s epic biography of the life of Winston Churchill, the middle volume—a third of the set—is titled Alone. For a full eight years, Churchill stood more or less by himself against his shortsighted peers, against the rising threat of fascism, even among the West.

Final Note about Ego

What you face right now could, should, and can be such a path. Wisdom or ignorance? Ego is the swing vote.

Not to aspire or seek out of ego. To have success without ego. To push through failure with strength, not ego.

Every day for the rest of your life you will find yourself at one of three phases: aspiration, success, failure. You will battle the ego in each of them. You will make mistakes in each of them. You must sweep the floor every minute of every day. And then sweep again.