Ego is the Enemy

Well, the day is here. I get to finally tell you all about my next book, Ego is the Enemy (BN)(iBooks)(UK)(Audio is coming soon). It’s a book that took more than two years, three book proposals, a dozen drafts and hundreds of hours in the making. It was a process that left behind (at least for me personally) many painful lessons, toxic relationships and bad habits. The result is what I think I can say is my best writing and my proudest economy.

Ego is the Enemy begins where The Obstacle Is The Way leaves off—asking: What do we do when our greatest obstacle is ourselves? How do we conquer the arrogance that comes with success or the blinding focus that accompanies ambition? In every phase of life—whether we’re aspiring to something, reaping the rewards of success or dealing with the difficulties of adversity or failure—ego is our enemy. It is the worst ingredient to add into any situation.

We know this, intuitively, but how do we actually do something about it? I decided to look at the lives of some of history’s greatest figures. How did someone like George Marshall manage to accomplish so much without ever falling prey to the destructive vanity that impeded the careers of Douglas MacArthur or George Patton? How did Katharine Graham, raised in a life of immense privilege, find the courage and strength amidst terrible tragedy to become one of the 20th century’s best CEOs? How does someone like Bill Belichick keep a franchise together despite huge salaries and the perils of fame? How did Eleanor Roosevelt balance passion and purpose, poise and power? And conversely, how has an inability to navigate these tricky problems ruined brilliant men like Howard Hughes or John DeLorean? How many empires have imploded because of egotistical leaders?

These are the stories I tell in the book and I draw on the philosophy of the Stoics, of Aristotle, of Adam Smith, Alan Watts, Benjamin Franklin and Goethe to try to answer the difficult questions that they provoke. I haven’t been able to share that work or those answers until now. Until today.

Now, I can finally announce that Ego is the Enemy is available for preorder and that it will be released in less than a month. Even better, I have all sorts of awesome stuff to share with everyone who wants to order it right now. As someone who buys a lot of books, I don’t make the decision to pre-order very many. So I want to make it worth your while to pre-order mine—ridiculously worth your while. Below you’ll see a series of offers and bonuses for anyone that pre-orders the book. There’s also bonuses for those of you who think that people in your life might like this book and decide to order it for them now as well.


If you pre-order 1 copy of the book before June 14th, you’ll receive:

*1 exclusive BONUS chapter of Ego is the Enemy titled “Take Care of Yourself” (it wasn’t something I was able to put in the book—but it’s one of my favorite chapters—and one I think you’ll enjoy a lot)

*1 exclusive copy of “Ego is the Enemy Reading List”, which details all the books and sources that led me to writing Ego is the Enemy.

*Instant access to the Introduction & Prologue of Ego is the Enemy, before anyone else.

*1 free Ego is the Enemy temporary tattoo. (Like with Obstacle, I got a matching tattoo for the maxim behind this book and my publisher made a replica for anyone that preorders)

Click here to pre-order 1 copy, then email your receipt to with “Preorder #1” in the subject.

If you pre-order 5 copies of the book before June 14th, you’ll receive:

All of the above (bonus chapter from the book, the reading list, temporary tattoo and instant access to Introduction & Prologue) PLUS:

* 1 one-of-a-kind, original signed 4×6 notecard that I actually used while researching and writing this book. I’ll pick one at random, sign it, and mail it to you (I make myself a copy of it to keep for my records). You can use it as a bookmark, paste it inside your copy of the book, or put it on your wall.

*3 personalized book recommendations that I’ll select just for you. You tell me a little about what you like to read and I’ll personally pick out three books that I think you should read and will enjoy.

*Free lifetime access to “Growth Hacker Marketing: The Course”. It is a completely self-paced online course – you decide when you start and when you finish. (a $39 dollar value)

Click here to pre-order 5 copies, then email your receipt to with “Preorder #2” in the subject.

If you pre-order 20 copies of the book before June 14th, you’ll receive:

All of the above (bonus chapter from the book, the reading list, instant access to Introduction & Prologue, temporary tattoo, the $39 growth hacker course and signed notecard) PLUS:

*A 30 minute strategy call with me. In this call, we can talk about whatever you’d like, whether it’s strategy, books, or obstacles. It will be your open forum. As you can see, I usually charge $1500 for an hour call like this—even more when I talk to companies and public figures. I’ve done hundreds of these in the past year, and truly feel they deliver a ton of value.

Click here to pre-order 20 copies, then email your receipt to with “Preorder #3” in the subject.

If you pre-order 50 copies of the book before June 14th, you’ll receive:

All of the above (bonus chapter from the book, the reading list, instant access to Introduction & Prologue, $39 growth hacker course, temporary tattoo and signed notecard) PLUS:

*A 1 hour strategy call with me. In this call, we can talk about whatever you’d like, whether it’s strategy, books, or obstacles. It will be your open forum. As you can see, I usually charge $1500 for an hour call like this—even more when I talk to companies and public figures. I’ve done hundreds of these in the past year, and truly feel they deliver a ton of value.

*An invitation to a private book launch party hosted at the Hostel Kids mansion in Austin, Texas on June 17th. It will be an intimate gathering of friends, clients, authors artists, and other interesting people I spend time with here in town. There may even be some bonus BBQ available.

*A limited edition autographed Early Proof of Ego is the Enemy, as well as autographed copies of The Obstacle Is The Way, Growth Hacker Marketing, and Trust Me, I’m Lying. You get the whole catalog, personalized however you’d like.

Click here to pre-order 50 copies, then email your receipt to with “Preorder #4” in the subject.
In order to purchase 50 copies on Amazon, simply change the quantity to 50 in the shopping cart. Or you can split it in two orders.

Choose Your Own Bonus:

Maybe you have a better idea for a bonus? Well, make me an offer of how many books you’d preorder for it (Hint: Start with more than 50). Last time I made this offer, I ended up giving a talk for a group of executives in Riverside, California. I consulted for a handful of startups. I did a year long consulting arrangement with an author who ultimately published a book and created a podcast. I’ve done lunch and dinner with people who had specific business problems they wanted to solve. All that is on the table, and more. Let me know what you have in mind, I’d love to make something big happen (and places like 800-CEO-READ give great discounts on bulk purchases). So reach out.

You can buy the book anywhere, including through the following links:

Barnes & Noble
Books A Million

*Fine Print: This offer applies to digital or physical or audiobook (which is not up yet but will be available soon). I’m running this all myself so please give me a minute to reply and get things set (I’m in the middle of a book launch here!). Any prize that involves me mailing something to you has to be for US only. Thanks again for the support everyone.

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This is a somewhat unusual post. It is not the full announcement for my next book, Ego Is The Enemy (B&N)(UK), but is the first time I’m talking about it.

Ego Is The Enemy takes the thinking in The Obstacle Is The Way, and applies it to our greatest internal obstacle—our own ego. If The Obstacle Is The Way was a philosophical approach to dealing with the difficulties we face in life, Ego Is The Enemy is a philosophical exploration of difficulties we create for ourselves in life. Early in our careers, ego impedes learning and the cultivation of talent. With success, ego can blind us to our faults and sow future problems. In failure, ego magnifies each blow and makes recovery more difficult. At every stage, ego holds us back.

The book draws on a vast array of stories and examples, from literature to philosophy to history. Using the stories of people like William T. Sherman, Katharine Graham, Bill Belichick, and Eleanor Roosevelt, all of whom reached the highest levels of power and success by conquering their own egos. It also tells a bit of my own story over the last two years, and the disastrous effects of ego on the companies I’ve helped build as well as in my own personal life.

Thanks to your support, my last book was incredibly well received, it even unexpectedly found a strong footing with professional athletes. It couldn’t have happened without you. As I did last time, I wanted to reach out to you, my readers, for help and ideas in introducing this book to communities and potential audiences. If you have a podcast, have a friend who does, run a big blog, or can think of an influencer who would love this book, let me know in the form below. I’m open to anything, of course, but please, let’s think in terms of ROI for its June 14 release date.

If you have ideas, suggestions or better, have access to a large audience of your own, might want to order in bulk in exchange for speaking or consulting, or want to cover the book, I want to hear from you. Filling out the form below will give me an idea of how you can help with the launch.

Fill out my online form.

*Note: Don’t worry, I’ll still be doing all my normal marketing stuff, including a pre-order campaign like last time. This is just a way to hear from people who might have marketing/media relationships that will help the book. To get updates about Ego Is The Enemy, sign up for my reading newsletter.

Epiphanies are bullshit. People think it’s some momentous wake up call that leads to innovation, identity crises, insight or breakthroughs.

Like that’s why someone “suddenly” quits the NFL. Or goes public with allegations. Or proposes a bold new theory about the world after staying up all night.

But the people who think that are mostly people who haven’t done anything like that. And probably never will. They haven’t had to walk away from a big job or a lot of money. Or ever questioned some dominant point of view or institution. Their creative output is next to nil. They’re too busy chasing (or waiting for) an El Dorado that doesn’t exist.

I get it. You want to be like the people you admire–and they all seem inspired, bold, and have no problem burning the place to ground. I wanted to be like that too.

But then I actually made some of those decisions. I dropped out of college and it was terrifying. I decided to write an expose about the media in which I would have to admit bad things I had done. I broke ranks with a mentor and friend and it’s been eating me up inside.

So lately, I’ve been trying to think about how that actually goes down. What is it actually like to come to question everything and change your mind or life? What do you need to know going into it?

In The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn argued for the first time that it wasn’t flashes of brilliance that change scientific thinking, but instead it’s a slow process in which assumptions slowly unravel and then require a new explanation—a paradigm shift as he called it. In this frothy period of shift and flux, real breakthroughs begin to occur.

That isn’t how we like to imagine it though. We picture Edward Snowden hearing his bosses lay out some maniacal plan to spy on the world and deciding: “I am going to bring those motherfuckers down.” In actuality, he sat on the info for five years before going public. Doing what? Probably thinking, probably afraid, probably changing his mind a million times. It’s always more complicated—in fact, the whistleblower is usually complicit in the crimes in some way or at least blinded to their severity before coming forward.

The Fosbury Flop—which turned the Olympic High Jump on its head—wasn’t something that Dick Fosbury tried out for the first time at the 1968 Games. Nor was it something he was even certain about. Instead he’d been fooling with jumping and falling over the bar sideways as opposed to hurdling it since elementary school–to only middling results. He’d tried it high school and was told it was a “short cut to mediocrity.” He kept going back to way you were supposed to but that didn’t work either. As we know now though—after his Gold Medal and every medal since—that he was right and his technique stuck.

We think The Great Gatsby was a sniper shot of insight into the Jazz Age and its participants. In fact, the book was rejected and reworked by F. Scott Fitzgerald’s editor three times and only turned out to be right four years after publication, after the market crashed.

I think movies and television are partially responsible for this total misconception about the world. Because they can only show scenes, because they can’t get us inside the character’s head, we’ve started to think that’s how our lives should be. I think of that scene in Benjamin Button where Brad Pitt sneaks out one morning without a word and never comes back because he doesn’t want to burden his wife and family.

Yeah OK, like they would have been fighting for months and not known why. Like they wouldn’t have broached the topic or floated alternatives. Like the breakup would have stuck the first time. And he wouldn’t have been torn up inside and done a bunch of stupid things to cope with it. But as viewers all we’re left with is the action, the montage scene and the ultimate vindication, but not the process which precedes and proceeds it.

This is insidious because it intimidates first timers and the fearful. Because we believe that it must have been clear for other people, and yet it feels so opaque for us, we convince themselves not to take a risk. We doubt ourselves because we’re cut off from the humanness of the experience and the vulnerability that’s actually there.

When I wrote my first book, which was positioned as a confessional, every interviewer would ask me when I realized what I wanted to do. They’d say, “What was the thing you were asked to do that you regretted, that made you realize?”

The reality is never. I’m really struggling with it. It’s a fucking process. One that ironically didn’t even start to feel like it made sense until well into the writing and publishing process. Because that’s how people are, they act before they are fully ready and they figure things out as they go.

But I have to tell people something—so I give them an answer. Dropping out of college was the same thing. It was something I’d been considering, sure. Then I got an offer. Then I decided not to take it. Then I decided it was worth the risk. Almost immediately after, I felt it had been a mistake. But by then, I’d got into a rhythm. But a year later, I seriously considered going back. Yet my bio—my narrative—makes it seems like I knew at 19. (In fact, I turned 20 during the months this all transpired.) It’s not true, but that doesn’t help some other 19-year-old struggling with whether to leave college.

So if you’re staring some life changing decision in the face right now, you need to understand this. It is always going to be inscrutable. There will not be clarity. Not before, not during, not until well, well after.

You see, Thomas Kuhn said something else very wise and applicable here. Once a new paradigm takes hold, he said, it becomes almost impossible for people born into that paradigm to understand the logic of the system that came before them. As Kuhn put it, incommensurability separates one paradigm from the one that preceded it.

We can hardly recognize the world that we used to live in, and whatever it was that made us think the way we did. Because now things are radically different.

It would be nice if this was a clean break, but it isn’t. It’s like an internal Civil War—eventually there is a clear winner, but it didn’t feel that way at the time. It took a while for everything to get sorted out.

What I mean to say is this: embrace the limbo period. Take risk. Question things. Do not wait for certainty to act…because it isn’t coming. It never has.

This post appeared originally on Thought Catalog.

Warren Buffett is undoubtedly considered one of the greatest investors of all times. His empire, Berkshire Hathaway, is worth $355 billion, an increase of 1,826,163 percent since 1964 when Buffett took over. He owns (or owns big chunks) of some of the biggest brands in the world including GEICO, Dairy Queen, NetJets, half of Heinz, and significant holdings in companies such as American Express, IBM, and Wells Fargo. But Buffett’s very best investment—responsible for literally billions of dollars in profits over the years—was very cheap. Because it was a book.

That’s right, a book.

In his 2013 letter to shareholders [pdf link], Buffett explained that a single book, The Intelligent Investor, written by his mentor Benjamin Graham was, “of all the investments I ever made…[it] was the best.” Buffett even named one of his sons after him.

In my own life I can say I had similar books. The magnitude was not the same, but in relative terms the impact was still there. Each one of these was for me, what the economist Tyler Cowen calls a “quake book.” They shook my entire world and then, as it happened, were responsible for a great deal of success in my career, relationships, and my happiness.

The first came when I was in college in the mid-aughts and I was invited to a small, private summit of college journalists that Dr. Drew, then the host of Loveline, was hosting. After it ended, he was standing in the corner and I cautiously made my way over and decided to ask what books he would recommend a young man like myself. The books he turned me on to were those written by the stoic philosophers Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus. I’d been going through a rough times and it was exactly what I needed. My life has not been the same since. This was a special event in my life but whatever you’re working on right now, whatever problem you’re struggling with, is probably addressed in some book somewhere written by someone a lot smarter than you.

Whatever problem you’re struggling with is probably addressed in some book somewhere written by someone a lot smarter than you.

People have been moving West, leaving school, investing their savings, getting dumped or filing for divorce, starting businesses, quitting their jobs, fighting, and dying for thousands of years. This is all written down, often in the first person. Read it. Maybe you are an entrepreneur running your own business and looking for an innovative marketing approach. Maybe you want to understand power and strategy. Or you simply want to be a better person. Trust me, the answer is there in books.

So That’s Why We Read, but How?

No one says: How do you have time to eat? How do you have time to sleep or have sex? You make time. It’s the stuff of life.

Step one is adding books to that list. The key to reading lots of book begins with no longer thinking of it as some extra activity that you do. It’s not a pastime, it’s a priority. As Erasmus, the 16th century scholar once put it, “When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes.”

Not to say you have to take it as far as Erasmus, who lived a bit of a monkish existence. Personally, books are probably my single largest expense each year—behind housing and food. Since dropping out of college, I’ve averaged well over $1,000 a year in books (even more in 2013 when I bought basically my entire Amazon wishlist for tax purposes). In a given year I purchase at least 100, but closer to 250, books.

While some might bristle at such an expense, it’s become quite natural—I budget for it like any other necessity. It’s not something you do because you feel like it, but because it’s a reflex, a default. Like breathing. Like drinking.

Step two is to turn reading into a daily and regular routine. Carry a book with you at all times. Every time you get a second, crack it open. You also need to constantly be discovering new books. As a simple rule of thumb, always ask the smart people you meet for book recommendations, as I did with Dr. Drew (and if you need more recommendations, I am your man). Don’t borrow books—build your library instead and take pride in that. It will be an investment that pays off in the long run. If you see anything that remotely interests you, just buy it. If you don’t get to read it immediately and it piles up, that’s ok. It’s part of building your “anti-library,” or the stack of unread books that will humble you and remind you just how much there is still to learn.

A small sampling of my notecards, taken from books as I read them.

A small sampling of my notecards, taken from books as I read them.

But don’t just passively read. Make reading an active process. Make notes and comments to yourself as you read (this is called marginalia). If you see an anecdote or quote you like, transfer it to a commonplace book and use a system to organize and store all of it. For my last book, The Obstacle Is the Way, the actual writing of the book took only a few months, because the years of reading and research that went into were already there, systematized and ready to use, all thanks to my notecards and common place book.


Marginalia in action.

Even if you are not a writer, having stories and quotes ready at hand will always come in useful, whether it is in conversations, presentations, memos, pitches, etc. Always strive to return back to the purpose of it. As the Roman philosopher Seneca said, we need to read so that “words become works.” I love reading more than almost anything, but even I’ll admit that it would be a waste of time if I just let it all accumulate in my head. More than that, I wouldn’t truly know what I’d read because I’d never put myself out there, applied it, or made connections.

My commonplace book and a collection of notecards.

My commonplace book and a collection of notecards.

Step three, be ruthless about acquiring knowledge through books. If you see anything that remotely intrigues you–just get it. Quit books that don’t hold your interest or deliver the goods. Swarm onto topics that do, even if there is no immediate relevancy to what you’re doing. After all, creativity comes from combining old ideas into something new. Reading a variety of topics gives you more ammo than your competition.

If something enthralls you and you want to deeply understand it, go at it. You don’t have to slowly trudge along through a book. Think of someone like Frederick Douglass, who brought himself up out of slavery by sneaking out and teaching himself to read, or Richard Wright who forged notes from his white boss so he could check out books from the library. Books weren’t some idle pursuit or pastime for these great individuals, they were survival itself.

So Get Started!

Of course, many of the benefits of reading are intrinsic and personal. They allow us to relax, they teach us empathy, and provide quiet time in a noisy world. At the same time, a look at any random sampling of successful people finds a common trait: a love of books and an education that was primarily self-driven.

Many of these people lived thousands of years ago, when reading was considerably more difficult. They didn’t have mandatory schooling, they didn’t have Amazon or magical Kindles. Lincoln, for instance, often took notes on the books he read on pieces of wood he found. We live in a time where books from every age (many that were previously lost to history) are not only available, but cheap or even entirely free.

It’s up to us to take advantage of these circumstances. The only thing stopping us, is us.

This post appeared originally on 99U.

It took me way too long to get my act together on this, but I’ve finally put all my writing in one place. Now you can get all the writing I do for this site, Thought Catalog and New York Observer and other outlets, via email.

This site is still my favorite place to post stuff but, most of my long form stuff (usually two columns or so per week) is now published on other outlets, where it reaches a larger audience. Why do I write so much? Well, that’s a whole other question (one that I answered on one of those sites, in case you missed it)


For those of you using RSS readers (that’s what I use), the feed for this site will continue to work as it always has, and so will my email book recommendations. You can also follow me on Twitter and Facebook where I post most of my writing as well.