Modern life and the Web gives opportunity for our egos to grow. While a 'like' might feel good, is it, in fact, holding us back? Does Ryan Holiday have the cure for modern life?
Two months we negotiated. Proposal after proposal. The business idea waiting to be sliced.
Three co-founders, myself included, were trying to decide equity shares. Different skills, assets and money were being brought to the table and we wanted our slices to reflect these.
How many businesses have flunked at this first hurdle? Projects stumped? Movements stopped?
Ego Is The Enemy by Ryan Holiday rattled through my letterbox. It was a day before our next scheduled negotiation.
Been waiting for this book for ages. Highlighters at the ready. pic.twitter.com/HXv4HlH4k9— Tom Church (@tomchurch) June 25, 2016
Looking at the front cover, a headless statue of someone at sometime, I was excited. Ryan is a formidable story teller, the Demosthenes of our day. By the end of the first chapter - a story of William Sherman, a United States military general who's ascent was slow, steady and strategic - I already had my answer:
"If your belief in yourself is not dependent on actual achievement, then what is it dependent on? The answer, too often when we are just setting out is nothing. Ego."
I was trying to divide a cake that did not exist. Mere speculation. And the taste? That was imagination too.
Few books cause such deep introspection that you put them down because you forgot to breathe. Fewer still have the effect of making everything you know seem alien. It's like driving to a destination only to arrive wondering, how did I get here?
Ego Is The Enemy makes for uncomfortable reading - in the best of ways. In the epilogue Ryan asks, "How do you feel? Tired? Confused?" I felt none of these things. Rather, to borrow from his friend Danielle Bolelli, I felt like I had awakened in a room, suffocating from waves of unswept leaves. In other words, I had work to do.
I recognised his message in all aspects of life: my relationship, family and work. Ego - that voice you think is yours - seeps in everywhere.
Ego is not new. It is not exclusive to modern life nor is it a product of our time. Yet modern inventions - Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, Twitter, the Web, digital publishing, tabloids, gossip mags, page views - have perpetuated it.
Ryan Holiday has found the cure.
At the next negotiation I shifted my position and the deal was done. I did not feel any different. Only that a few more leaves had been swept but that I still had much more to do.