What’s the difference between confidence and ego, and how does ego hinder us from our own greatness both professionally and as a father? My guest today on episode 100 of the Good Dad Project is Ryan Holiday, NY Times Bestselling author of Ego is the Enemy. He’s also a brand new dad to a three-month-old son. Listen as he illuminates us on the difference between being confident and being egotistical, and how to surrender the ego to become a student of life.
RYAN HOLIDAY is a strategist and writer. He dropped out of college at nineteen to apprentice under Robert Greene, author of The 48 Laws of Power, and later served as the director of marketing for American Apparel. His company, Brass Check, has advised clients like Google, TASER, and Complex, as well as many prominent bestselling authors. Holiday has written five books, and now lives on a ranch outside Austin, Texas where he does his writing and work in between raising cattle, donkeys, goats, and his son.
When Ryan’s life crashed and burned, he became fascinated by the ego. Influenced by stoic philosophy, he got a quote tattooed on each arm. One says, “the obstacle is the way,” and the other says, “ego is the enemy.” Ryan says that our ego changes during our lives and that each one of us is experiencing one of three stages – aspiring to be something great, achieving success, or in the midst of a downfall and facing adversity.” During each of these stages, there are few situations where ego is helpful.
“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”
― Marcus Aurelius
Envy and Ego
Technology has seemed to create the age of the ego, and on social media, it’s easy to create an ideal looking life. We only post the most interesting moments with enhanced with filters that make our reality seem better and brighter to the outside world. In reality, our day-to-day routine is usually pretty boring and we might not be having the exciting life we portray on social media.
At the same time, we look at the wonderful lives others have crafted on their social media profiles and fail to remember that they curate the best parts to share just like we do. We compare our real lives to their contrived ones feel inferior. This can make us experience envy and jealousy that isn’t even real, and amplifies our ego in a toxic way.
Confidence versus Ego
- Confidence is the belief that you can do something. You know what you are good and bad at, and are fully aware of what’s outside your control.
- Ego is denying the possibility of failure and creates a sense of entitlement to success. Ego sets up unrealistic expectations so that when reality sets in, it causes a huge disruption.
Success and Ego
There are many notorious egoists are also extremely successful. Muhammad Ali, Steve Jobs, and Donald Trump are known for their huge egos, and looking at their great success leads one to believe that their egos had a hand in getting them to the top, but Ryan Holiday says you will also see that for these successful people, their ego is a constant source of disruption. In addition to the public controversies, there are private costs of ego that we never see. Most of us fail to consider how much more successful these people would be if their egos didn’t cause them so many unnecessary problems.
Why Your Ego is the Enemy
Ego and Failure
The ego gives us an unwarranted certainty about outcomes. We fail to make the distinction of what we can and cannot control. Like the fate of talented boxers who rise to fame, but are eventually defeated in an upset. They were overly confident in their ability to win and underestimated their opponent. If we overestimate our abilities, we leave ourselves vulnerable to unforeseen blows, and our downfall baffles us.
Ego and Relationships
Ego disconnects us from the people and the world around us. We don’t allow ourselves to be authentic and vulnerable, we lose touch with what’s going on inside us and fail to empathize with others.
Ego and Personal Growth
Ego blocks our ability to learn. If we think we already know everything, are the best at everything, and control everything, then we’re not going to learn anything new. We become stagnant in our lives and wonder why we’re not getting anywhere.
“It is impossible to begin to learn that which one thinks one already knows.”
Fatherhood and Ego
How do we buffer our ego and increase our genuine confidence?
Focus on Your Personal Life
Most of us believe that if only we can get our professional lives in order, everything else will fall into place. Ryan Holiday says that we’ve got it all backwards. When our personal lives are in order, we are centered and balanced and everything we do comes from a good place. The rest comes together.
Be Open to Feedback
Ryan warns against making the mistake of reading a few books about parenting and acting like you know everything. Rather than judge other parents against what you think you know, focus on the areas you don’t know about. Apply same rigor and openness to feedback to your personal life as you do in your professional life.
Being a Dad is Not Doing. It’s Being.
Dads are busy and driven. We’re always working on something, but Ryan Holiday says ours kid are not going to understand why we’re distracted by a phone call or meeting. Make a commitment, even if it’s only five minutes, to instead of doing something you think needs to be done, to be present with your kid.
Surrendering Your Ego
Counterintuitively, the secret to building more confidence is surrendering the ego. Once we let go of the ego, we open the ability to learn. The more we learn, the more confident we become.
Ryan suggest to learn as much as possible. Every person you meet, everything you do is going to teach you.
Explicitly seek our situations where you can learn and ask yourself “what is the lesson here?” Become a student of life.
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