Archives For Ryan Holiday

“The future bears down upon each one of us with all the hazards of the unknown.”  — Plutarch

There is no way around it: We will experience difficulty. We will feel the touch of failure. As Benjamin Franklin observed, those who “drink to the bottom of the cup must expect to meet with some of the dregs.” Or as the 49ers coach Bill Walsh says, “Almost always, your road to victory goes through a place called ‘failure.’”

All great men and women went through difficulties to get to where they are, all of them made mistakes. They found within those experiences some benefit—even if it was simply the realization that they were not infallible and that things would not always go their way. They found that self ­awareness was the way out and through—if they hadn’t, they wouldn’t have gotten better and they wouldn’t have been able to rise again.

For us to follow their example and push through failure we can be sure of one thing we’ll want to avoid. Ego. Unless we use this moment as an opportunity to understand ourselves and our own mind better, ego will seek out failure like true north. Unless we learn, right here and right now, from our mistakes.

During times of adversity, we need to keep in mind the four principles below to help us get back up on our feet and do so without ego, which when unleashed will only make things worse.

Alive time or dead time?

According to bestselling author 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.

During times of failure the ego in all of us wants to complain about how the situation sucks. How it’s unfair. How we’d rather be doing just about anything else. And it’s this attitude that creates dead time we can never get back. In this way, ego is the mortal enemy of alive time.

It’s easy to be angry, to be aggrieved, to be depressed or heartbroken. Ego says: I don’t want this. I want ______. I want it my way. But this accomplishes nothing!

Let us say, the next time we find ourselves stuck: This is an opportunity for me. I am using it for my purposes. I will not let this be dead time for me. The dead time was when we were controlled by ego.

Alive time. Dead time. Which will it be?

Focus on what you can control.

Failure and rejection can be a miserable place. How do you carry on? How do you take pride in yourself and your work?

The famous coach John Wooden’s advice to his players gives the answer: 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.”

That’s it. Your effort, doing the best, is what you can control. This is what you need to focus on.

Do your work. Do it well. Then “let go and let God.“ That’s all there needs to be. Recognition and rewards — ­those are just extra. Rejection, that’s on them, not on us.

In other words, the less attached we are to outcomes the better. When fulfilling our own standards is what fills us with pride and self-­respect. When the effort — not the results, good or bad — is enough. With ego, this is not nearly sufficient — it wants recognition and validation.

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 own standards. 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.

Don’t let ego hold sway and distract you with whether or not we are getting credit and validation. It’s far better when doing good work is sufficient.

Don’t make things worse.

People make mistakes all the time. 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.

Ego asks: Why is this happening to me? How do I save this and prove to everyone I’m as great as they think? It’s the animal fear of even the slightest sign of weakness.

“Act with fortitude and honor,” Alexander Hamilton once wrote to a distraught friend in serious financial and legal trouble of the man’s own making. “If you cannot reasonably hope for a favorable extrication, do not plunge deeper. Have the courage to make a full stop.”

A full stop. It’s not that you should quit everything. It’s that a fighter who can’t tap out or a boxer who can’t recognize when it’s time to retire gets hurt. Seriously so. You have to be able to see the bigger picture. Are you going to make it worse? Or are you going to emerge from this with your dignity and character intact? Are you going to live to fight another day?

Always love.

One of ego’s worst traits is the tendency to turn a minor inconvenience or insult into a massive sore. The wound festers, becomes infected, and can borderline kill us with the hatred and anger bubbling up. Hatred is ego embodied.

In failure or adversity, it’s so easy to hate. Hate defers blame. It makes someone else responsible. It’s a distraction too; we don’t do much else when we’re busy getting revenge or investigating the wrongs that have supposedly been done to us. Does this get us any closer to where we want to be? No. It just keeps us where we are — or worse, arrests our development entirely.

You know what is a better response to an attack or a slight or something you don’t like? Love. That’s right, love. For the neighbor who won’t turn down the music. For the parent that let you down. For the bureaucrat who lost your paperwork. For the group that rejects you. For the critic who attacks you. The former partner who stole your business idea. The bitch or the bastard who cheated on you. Love.

We find that what defines great leaders is that instead of hating their enemies, they feel a sort of pity and empathy for them. Think of Martin Luther King Jr., over and over again, preaching that hate was a burden and love was freedom. Love was transformational, hate was debilitating. “Hate,” he said “is a cancer that gnaws away at the very vital center of your life and your existence. It is like eroding acid that eats away the best and the objective center of your life.”

***

These are the behaviors and standards we need to embrace and commit to to be able to handle adversity. We will choose alive time and not let any moment go to waste. We will focus only on what we can control: exerting maximum effort at being our best selves. We will act with dignity and decorum and emerge with our character intact.

The difficulty that we are experiencing now? It is not a position we chose for ourselves, but we can push through with strength and purpose, not ego. In other words, we will not let ego turn a temporary failure into a permanent one. That’s a choice we can make.

This post appeared originally on Entrepreneur 



“The worst disease which can afflict business executives in their work is not, as popularly supposed, alcoholism; it’s egotism.”  — Harold Geneen

You worked hard, you made some smart bets and here you are, successful. Maybe someone acquired your startup for an unbelievable sum. Maybe you’re an athlete and your team just won a championship. Maybe you’re a filmmaker and received a grant to have your film made. Maybe you just won a coveted award in your field.

After we give ourselves proper credit, our ego wants us to think, I’m special. I’m better. The rules don’t apply to me. We become entitled, controlling, paranoid, selfish, even delusional.

As Aristotle observed, “it is hard to bear the results of good fortune suitably.”

When success arrives, ego begins to toy with our minds and weaken what made us win in the first place. This is the worst thing that can happen, because things get harder as we become more successful. In sports, the schedule gets harder after a winning season, the bad teams get better draft picks, and the salary cap makes it tough to keep a team together. Taxes go up the more you make.

If you want to survive those new challenges, you must learn to fight these five manifestations of ego.

Disease of me.

Pat Riley, the famous coach and manager who led the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat to multiple championships, says that great teams tend to follow a trajectory. When they start—before they have won—a team is innocent. If the conditions are right, they come together, they watch out for each other and work together toward their collective goal. This stage, he calls the “innocent climb.”

After a team starts to win and media attention begins, the simple bonds that joined the individuals together begin to fray. Players calculate their own importance. Chests swell. Frustrations emerge. Egos appear. The innocent climb, Pat Riley says, is almost always followed by the “disease of me.” It can “strike any winning team in any year and at any moment,” and does so with alarming regularity.

Once we’ve “made it,” our tendency is to switch to a mindset of “getting what’s mine.” Now, all of a sudden awards and recognition matter—even though they weren’t what got us here. We need that money, that title, that media attention—not for the team or the cause, but for ourselves. Because we’ve earned it.

Let’s make one thing clear: we never earn the right to be greedy or to pursue our interests at the expense of everyone else.

To think otherwise is not only egotistical and selfish, it’s counter-productive.

Entitlement.

With success, particularly power, comes entitlement, one of the greatest and most dangerous delusions. It doesn’t matter if you’re a billionaire, a millionaire, or just a kid who snagged a good job early. The complete and utter sense of certainty that got you here can become a liability if you’re not careful. The demands and dream you had for a better life? The ambition that fueled your effort? These begin as earnest drives but left unchecked become hubris and entitlement.

Entitlement assumes: This is mine. I’ve earned it. At the same time, entitlement nickels and dimes other people because it can’t conceive of valuing another person’s time as highly as its own. It delivers tirades and pronouncements that exhaust the people who work for and with us, who have no choice other than to go along.

Right before he destroyed his own billion-­dollar company, Ty Warner, creator of Beanie Babies, overrode the cautious objections of one of his employees and bragged, “I could put the Ty heart on manure and they’d buy it!” He was wrong. And the company not only catastrophically failed, he later narrowly missed going to jail.

With success and power, more often than not, we begin to overestimate our own power. Then we lose perspective. And there begins our downfall.

Control.

Entitlement comes hand in hand with the poisonous need to micromanage and control. Your ego says: it all must be done my way—even little things, even inconsequential things.

It can become paralyzing perfectionism, or a million pointless battles fought merely for the sake of exerting its say. It too exhausts people whose help we need, particularly quiet people who don’t object until we’ve pushed them to their breaking point. We fight with the clerk at the airport, the customer service representative on the telephone, the agent who examines our claim.

To what end? In reality, we don’t control the weather, we don’t control the market, we don’t control other people, and our efforts and energies in spite of this are pure waste. Efforts and energies that would have been better spent strengthening our position, are now making it worse. A smart man or woman must regularly remind themselves of the limits of their power and reach.

Paranoia.

The Oval Office tapes of Richard Nixon offer a harrowing insight into a man who has lost his grip not just on what he is legally allowed to do, on what his job was (to serve the people), but on reality itself. He vacillates wildly from supreme confidence to dread and fear. He talks over his subordinates and rejects information and feedback that challenges what he wants to believe. He lives in a bubble in which no one can say no—not even his conscience. It made for a sad and pitiful demise from one of the world’s most prestigious and powerful positions.

Paranoia, another deadly manifestation of ego when we’ve achieved success, says: I can’t trust anyone. I’m in this totally by myself and for myself. It says, I’m surrounded by fools. It says, focusing on my work, my obligations, myself is not enough. I also have to be orchestrating various machinations behind the scenes—to get them before they get me; to get them back for the slights I perceive.

In its frenzy to protect itself, paranoia creates the persecution it seeks to avoid, making the owner a prisoner of its own delusions. “He who indulges empty fears earns himself real fears,” wrote Seneca, who as a Roman statesman witnessed destructive paranoia at the highest levels.

Believing your own story.

In 1979, football coach and general manager Bill Walsh took the 49ers from being the worst team in football, and perhaps professional sports, to a Super Bowl victory, in just three years. Looking back, he refused to indulge in telling himself a story that it was his plan all along. It would have been delusional to think that at the time, taking over a team that bad. Instead, he created of culture of excellence and instilled what he called his “standard of performance” — the behaviors and standards necessary to win.

Narrative is when you look back at an improbable or unlikely path to your success and say: I knew it all along. Instead of: I hoped. I worked. Or even: I thought this could happen. To accept the narratives we build looking back wouldn’t be a harmless personal gratification. They don’t change the past, they do have the power to negatively impact our future.

From that point, your ego makes you think that success in the future is just the natural next part of the story — when really it’s rooted in work, creativity, persistence, and luck.

Resist indulging your ego in building narratives — instead, stay focused on the task at hand, securing your base and creating success.

***

These are all instances of ego working against us—right when we’ve made it, undermining us, knocking us off balance. With recognition, achievement and success we need to find stabilizers to balance our ego and pride.

We can’t let victory make us selfish and self-centered. We need to guard ourselves from some of the greatest and most dangerous delusions: entitle­ment, control, and paranoia. And instead of pre­tending that we are living some great story, we must remain focused on the execution and on executing with excellence.

If not, ego will take it all from us.

This piece appeared originally on Entrepreneur



2016 was a busy year of writing for me (and reading—but that’s in a different post). Not only did I publish two books, and launch the new daily newsletter for DailyStoic.com, but I wrote something like 100 articles. Back of the envelop math, that comes to roughly 2 articles per week, and ~150,000 words (all in that’s probably 275,000 words not including ghostwriting). There were times where I felt a little bit like I was stretching myself too slim, but I’m actually hoping to do more, and do even better writing in the year to come.

Anyway, in case you missed any of them or are looking for something to read, I thought I would put them here—all in one place. I also recently put up a page on this site that highlights some of my favorite posts I’ve written from the last ten or so years. You can also sign up to get the posts via email when they happen by clicking here.

More to come in 2017. Enjoy!

THOUGHT CATALOG 

If You Only Read A Few Books In 2017, Read These 

23 Things I Learned About Writing, Strategy And Life From Tim Ferriss

The Relationship Between ‘Talk’ And ‘Work’ Is That One Kills The Other

Here’s Why I Won’t Be Exploiting My Kids On Social Media

Please, Please, For The Love Of God: Do Not Start a Podcast

37 Wise & Life-Changing Lessons From The Ancient Stoics

Sorry, Offering To Work For Free Is A Really Bad Strategy (But Not For The Reasons You Think)

16 Rules That Every Kind, Smart and Compassionate Traveler Follows When They Fly

29 Lessons From The Greatest Strategic Minds Who Ever Lived, Fought, Or Led

Hey Dad, Here Are 49 More Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Vote For Donald Trump

21 Life Lessons Learned From Some Of The World’s Greatest Sports Coaches

12 Books of Aphorisms, Sayings & Moral Reminders That Belong In Every Library

25 Ways To Kill The Toxic Ego That Will Ruin Your Life

The Moments No One Wants to Experience But Everyone Needs To Succeed

29 Pieces Of Life Changing Advice I Collected By My 29th Birthday

Don’t Follow Your Passion, It’s What’s Holding You Back

There’s Only One Way To Kill The Jealousy That’s Ruining Your Life 

44 Writing Hacks From Some of the Greatest Writers Who Ever Lived

The Most Important Part of The Creative Process That Everyone Misses: A Draw-Down Period

The Best Way To Learn Is To Ask — Even The Dumb Questions 

If You Do This, You Should Be Banned From Email

Don’t Say ‘Maybe’ If You Want To Say ‘No’ 

19 Marvelous, Unbelievable Books About The Strange History of Man and Animals

The Obstacle Really Is The Way

If You Don’t Take The Money, They Can’t Tell You What To Do

15 Short, Powerful and Provocative Books Everyone Should Read

31 Ways To Get More ‘Deep Work’ Accomplished

What Books To Base Your Life On (From Someone Who Reads A Lot)

Read This If You Just Need Someone To Give You A Chance At Your Dream Job

Did You Actually Read That? The Joy of Reading Really Really Long Books

NEW YORK OBSERVER

We Are Living in a Post-Shame World—And That’s Not a Good Thing 

We Don’t Have a Fake News Problem—We Are the Fake News Problem

Want to Really Make America Great Again? Stop Reading the News.

Mike Cernovich Exclusive Interview: How This Right-Wing ‘Troll’ Reaches 100M People a Month

100 Things I Learned in 10 Years and 100 Reads of Marcus Aurelius’ ‘Meditations’

Interview: Inside the World of Influencer Marketing With a Don Draper of Social Video

The Timeless Link Between Writing and Running and Why It Makes for Better Work

When Will YouTube Deal With Its Audiobook and Podcast Piracy Problem?

The Biggest Threat to Your Success Is the Story You Tell Yourself About Success

The Difference Between NBA Stars and Flame-Outs Is the Secret to Success in Any Field

The 3 Ways Ego Will Derail Your Career Before It Really Begins

Doing the Work Is Enough: Stop Letting Others Dictate Your Worth

Hypocrites, Much? How Gawker Reported on Other Crippling Bankruptcies and Lawsuits

The Toxic Force That Poisoned the Uber and Lyft Battle in Austin

Peter Thiel’s Reminder to the Gawker Generation: Actions Have Consequences

Behind the Stunt: How a Fake Book Cover Got 5 Million Views

How Tim Ferriss Became the ‘Oprah of Audio’—Behind the Podcast With 70M-Plus Downloads

Meet the Man Who Sold Hundreds of Thousands of Books With Blank Pages in Them

Meet the Man Who Rejected Advertising and Still Runs a Profitable Media Site

Goodbye and Good Riddance: Sociopathy of Gawker and Gawker-Like Media Finally Exposed

Interview: After 11,000 Posts, This Blogger Reveals All the Problems With the Media

EXCLUSIVE: How This Marketer Created a Fake Best Seller—And Got a Real Book Deal

The Cause of This Nightmare Election? Media Greed and Shameless Traffic Worship

How Rumblr’s Marketing Agency Gamed the Media for $100k in Business

EXCLUSIVE: Meet the Social Media Genius Behind Dan Bilzerian and Verne Troyer

This Is the Hollowed-Out World That Outrage Culture Has Created

DAILY STOIC

3 Stoic Exercises That Will Help Create Your Best Month Yet

Stoicism Can Help Put Criticism In Perspective

How Does A Stoic Respond To Failure

Translating The Stoics: An Interview With “The Daily Stoic” Co-Author Stephen Hanselman

On Stoicism and Not Giving a F*ck: An Interview with Mark Manson

An Interview with the Master: Robert Greene on Stoicism

Stoicism In Professional Sports: An Interview with NFL Exec Michael Lombardi

Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking: An Interview with Oliver Burkeman

A Guide To The Good Life: An Interview With William B. Irvine

Philosophy for Life: An Interview With Jules Evans

Doing the Right Thing Can Cost You Everything

Who Is Marcus Aurelius? Getting To Know The Roman Emperor

Who Is Seneca? Inside The Mind of The World’s Most Interesting Stoic

Who Is Epictetus? From Slave To World’s Most Sought After Philosopher

BOING BOING

Here’s an ancient philosophy so simple even a 5-year-old could understand it

The fascinating and ego-killing existence of human wormholes

THE GUARDIAN 

How would the Stoics cope today?

THE DAILY BEAST

Gay Talese Isn’t Alone: Why Aren’t More Books Factchecked?

99U

Do You Have to Be a Jerk to Be Successful?

CRACKED

5 “Geniuses” Who Drove Their Legacies Into the Ground

FAST COMPANY

The Crucial Thing Commencement Speakers Get Wrong About Success

How To Advance Your Career While You’re Stuck Doing Grunt Work

PSYCHOLOGY TODAY

Meet Your Worst Enemy

How to Beat Perfectionism, Make Progress, and Find Happiness

ENTREPRENEUR 

5 Truths of Ancient Wisdom That Will Make You a Better Entrepreneur

The 3 Ways Ego Will Derail Your Career Before It Really Begins

4 Ways To Push Through Adversity and Failure Without Ego

5 Deadly Kinds of Ego That Prey Upon Your Success

MEDIUM

7 Stoic Meditations To Get The Most Out of Today (and Life)

Here’s Why Smart People Believe The Nonsense That Trump Might Win

Here’s Why You’re The Only One Who Gets To Define What Success Is

The Maxim For Every Successful Person: ‘Always Stay A Student’

HUFFINGTON POST 

Dear Dad, Please Don’t Vote For Donald Trump

Why Ego Is the Enemy in Business and in Life

MINDBODYGREEN

How To Shut Down Your Ego + Tap Into The Immensity Of Your Potential

NEWSWEEK

What’s Wrong With Today’s Media?

INC.

58 Books That Will Make You Better, No Matter Who You Are

BUSINESS INSIDER 

The philosophy of Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius is supposed to help you be more resilient and at peace — here’s how to master it in 7 days

LINKEDIN

An ancient guide to solving all work problems once and for all

The Canvas Strategy: The Quickest Way to Career Success

You’re Not Stuck, You’re Just Using Your Time Wrong

Here’s the Strategy Elite Athletes Follow to Perform at the Highest Level