Get out of your own head

That’s the no bullshit name of a chapter in Ego Is The Enemy by Ryan Holiday that I’d read today. It’s one of the best chapters in what I can tell so far as a very useful book.

As an aside, once I’m through with the book, I’ll be counting 2 weeks before sitting down once more with it to distil the best parts into my commonplace book. It’s a practice with a long history that I’ve committed to cultivating as a habit this year as one of my four New Year’s resolutions, and it’s oh so coincidental (is it?) that Ryan Holiday’s article was what inspired me to start on this in the first place.

One of the quotes that Ryan used in this chapter is one that I felt deeply for on the first read, and one that I really adore for its precision in capturing the kryptonite that pride really is to a person:

That on which you so pride yourself will be your ruin, you who think yourself to be someone — Menanader, old Greek playwright

Apparently Michel de Montaigne, a highly regarded French author who lived in the 1500s, inscribed part of this quote on the beam on his ceiling. That’s just a fun fact, but it makes me want to read his work to see why I’d feel such a strong connection with someone living in the 14th century. It’s a bit odd.

Having always had run-ins with pride my whole young life so far, I have a strong connection with the quote. So strong that I’m actually considering inscribing it somewhere too. Like, on my arm. As a tattoo. Maybe. I’m still incubating the idea…

fake tattoo of quote
Borrowing from the idea of rapid prototyping (and my wife’s eyeliner), I made a tattoo

Just do the work

The key insight of this chapter is this: there is no “imaginary audience” to perform for (everybody is just minding their own business), and the fact that we so often believe that there is and modify our actions to perform for this audience is a farce, and more importantly, it is hugely detrimental to our ability to grow and actually do good work.

Get out of your own head and the imaginary audience disappears. When that happens, we can then do the only thing that actually matters – doing the good, hard work.

Also published on Medium.