Changing Your Life With Stoic Philosophy | Ryan Holiday Speaks To USC Football


Ego is this sort of timeless force that is
constantly getting in between us and what we want to do. And it’s getting, it’s it’s taking this goal,
this brass ring we’re after. And it’s moving in a little bit further away
each time. And so if you go is so destructive, right? Why is it so common? My theory is that ego is sort of a defense
mechanism. It’s a things are hard things are scary, we don’t have a lot of good examples of what
a humble confident leader looks like. And so because it’s scary, because we’re far
from home, because we are trying to do things that we don’t have a lot of good examples. For egos like a blanket, it’s a, it’s a, it’s
a shield, it’s a way to make us feel less scared. Rather than owning that feeling. We put this sort of false, this in front of
us in Alcoholics Anonymous, they say that ego stands for edging God out. The idea being that instead of sort of being
humble, instead of being small, instead of appreciating the reality of our situation,
we take up ego as this sort of protective armor. But it’s not armor because it makes us more
vulnerable. In the long run, instead of ego, I want you
to have confidence, confidence is strong confidence is earned confidence is based on information. It’s not based on that voice in your head. And so sorry for the little mess up on the
slides. But what we’re going to go through is sort
of the three phases that we happen to be in in life, right, we’re either aspiring to do
something, were either in the middle of great success, or we are experiencing the adversity
in every person is at one of those three phases at some point in the course of their life,
and we’re constantly rotating through all this. You it was you were aspiring to play college
football, now you’re here playing college football. But tomorrow, you could, you could you could
be benched, you could experience some injury, you could struggle in school, you could struggle
on the playing field, we’re going to be at one of those three phases. And ego is distinctly different at each one
of those phases, but equally problematic at all of them. And so we’re going to go through why ego is
a problem at all of those phases. So aspiring, this is when we are trying to
do something in life when we are we are starting out. And we’re engaging on a journey when we’re
trying to get better when we’re trying to improve. And I think this begins with taking up what
we call the student mindset, how can we learn? How can we instead of thinking that we already
know something? How do we focus on what we learn, right? This is Kirk Hammett right here. He’s in this mediocre heavy metal band called
Exodus. Maybe the name is familiar to some of you
who know heavy metal. But Kirk Hammett is chosen out of this band to be the lead guitarist
in a band called Metallica. Metallica is like the up and coming band at
this time. So basically, this is like getting drafted,
right? Or this is like getting recruited to play
for a university like this one. You’re pretty good. But now you’ve made it. And so what does he do? Right? He’s made it does he celebrate as you go buy
a nice car? Does he party? No, he does the opposite. He goes out and he finds the greatest guitar
teacher that he could possibly have. He, he’s good. But he wants to get much better. And he knows that the learning curve that
he’s on is about to get much deeper. So he hires this guy named Joe Satriani, who
himself is one of the greatest guitar players of all time. And what Satriani says is that it’s not that
him it wasn’t good. It’s that he had this set of skills, but he
couldn’t quite leave them all in together. And so for two years, he’s like, officially
a rock star now, right? He’s, he’s in this huge band, he’s making
a ton of money, they’re recording an album that’s going to go on to sell millions of
copies. And every day, he’s leaving the studio and
doing what going to have more lessons and how to be better at this thing that he’s already
one of the best at. And this is an essential way to keep ego at
bay, you focus not on how good you are not on what you’ve done, but on how much better
you can get. And this keeps us the student is humble. The person who thinks they’ve mastered something
is not humble. Epictetus, one of the Stoic philosophers who
would say, it’s impossible to learn that what you think you already know, you guys were
the best players in middle school, you were the best players in high school. You’re the best players in college. Right? But as you go up each level, what happens
is the the level of competition gets much higher. So if you think that you’re great, if you
think to go back to this Epictetus quote, If you think you know everything, if you think
you’ve got it, the problem is now you can’t adjust to this reality where you actually
don’t quite have it, right, where there’s a lot left for you to learn. And so if we can, if we can say that Actually,
no, I don’t know everything, there’s so much left for me to learn, we have the ability
to get a lot better ego is this sort of impediment to improvement, because it doesn’t believe
that it needs to improve. Ralph Waldo Emerson, every man I meet is my
master in some point. And in that I learned from him. I’ve talked to coaches and teams all over
the world. And what I think is always interesting is
that the head coach usually sits in the front row just like this. Not because there’s very, there’s usually
very little I can teach that person, he probably knows more about this than then than I do. But he’s in the front row taking notes, not
just because he wants to set a good example. But there is maybe a 1% chance that there is something
that I could pass along. So what what greats have is not a sense that
they know everything, but actually a hunger and awareness of what they don’t know. And an eagerness to go find that from any
and every source. Socrates is considered the wisest man in the
world. What’s the secret, he was aware of his own
ignorance, he was aware of what he didn’t know. And so again, this is what we want to cultivate
in ourselves. So I don’t like this idea of faking it till
you make it. I think that another word for that is lying,
or fraud. I like doing the work, I’m going to make it
happen with my own work with my own effort. Bill Bradley, when you are not practicing,
remember, someone somewhere is practicing. And when you meet that person, they will be
you. Right? ego thinks that it’s it already is the best
humility says, I’m going to work until I am the best. So there’s the innocent client, that’s where
we’re all aligned. But then it’s precisely when things start
to go well, that now ego says, Well, I’m not getting enough credit. I’m not getting enough recognition. Why are they talking to me this way? Don’t they understand all the things that
I’ve accomplished, right? And and so now ego starts to, to tear at the
bonds that once kept the team together. The decision made construct any winning team
at any moment. That’s what Pat Riley was saying. So you have to be constantly on guard for
this. And I think the job of a leader is to manage
your own ego, right to keep your own ego in check, to be aware of egos around you to make
sure that you’re not bumping into other people’s, you’re not threatening them, you’re not overriding
them, you’re not making them feel small and insecure. The goal here should be ego listening as part
of one larger unit, right? That’s what that’s what a team is, if I am
not for myself, who will be for me, but if I am only for myself, who am I think that’s
the essential question. And then of course, I think where ego really
gets us in trouble, when we’re successful is that it whispers in our ear that we don’t
have to do the right thing that we can get away with anything that we’re special that
we’re above the rules. This is certainly Tiger Woods his problem,
right? That he felt like the rules didn’t apply to
him that he could get away with anything that he was special because of how great he was. This is Marcus Aurelius. I write about the ancient Stokes a lot of
my books, and he’s the emperor of Rome. But he’s also this philosopher. So when he takes over as Emperor, what does
he do? The first thing he does is he anoints his
brother co Emperor. So imagine your your name’s captain of the
team, this is an incredible honor. Is your first instinct, how do I share this? How do I bring someone up with me, but that’s
what he did. And this is a great line, it says, just that
you do the right thing. The rest doesn’t matter. Right? Whatever the conditions, whether you’re tired,
whether people are looking, whether they aren’t looking, whether you’re going to be criticized
for it, what matters is that you do the right thing. Doesn’t matter what he goes telling me what
matters is, is it the right thing. And then there’s this moment where after Marcus
becomes Emperor, the Empire is very heavily in debt. And there’s a lot of things that Emperor can
do in this situation, right? He could levy taxes on the poor, he could
invade another country could print more money, he could do things that would basically hurt
everyone but him. That’s actually not what Marcus does. The first thing he does, he starts he walks
through the Imperial Palace, all his possessions, and he begins pointing at all the most valuable
possessions that the Emperor owns. And he he asked his men to sell them. So he starts selling off the palace furnishings,
to pay down the debt. He says, Why should the Roman people suffer? If I’m not going to feel the pain first? And I think that’s what a leader does. They do the right thing, even when it costs
them. And in fact, they’re willing to take the hit
first before anyone else. And he has this great line and meditations. He says, Let’s waste no more time arguing
what a good man is like, let’s just be one, right? And that’s what we have to do it particularly
in our moments of greatest success, because that’s what it reflects most on us. And then of course, there are going to be
moments of failure. We’re going to have success and there’s going
to be setbacks, maybe setbacks, inflicted by our own ego, maybe totally unfair. setbacks, right. That’s the reality life kicks our ass. It just does, right. Murphy’s Law, what can go wrong will, we are
going to be publicly embarrassed, we’re going to be criticized, we’re going to be attacked,
things are going to go wrong, going to fail, we’re going to lose, we’re going to mess up. Now, here’s where ego is really toxic, right? Because if your ego was there on the way up
whispering in your ear, that you’re special, that you’re better than everyone else, that that you winning a lot says that you’re
a great human being, or that having a lot of money makes you the best person around. Well, now what happens if those things are
taken away? Right? If If what you love is what people are saying
about you on Twitter? Do you actually love that? They’re saying things about you on Twitter
and you love how nice they’re being? Well, then how do you handle it with all when
all of a sudden they turn on you? Right? And so if ego is they’re taking a lot of this
into being our identity, we’re really fucked when things aren’t going well. And so is Ben Horowitz. He’s one of the most successful investors
of all time, Airbnb, Dropbox, Uber, multi billion billions of dollars in investments. He says, The hard thing isn’t setting a big
goal. The hard thing is what you do when you start
to fail, when you start to experience difficulty when the dream turns into a nightmare. And that is going to happen in life. We are going to have setbacks, we’re going
to get hurt, we’re going to get benched. We’re going to get criticized, we’re going
to drop a pass, right things are going to happen. And then how do we respond? This is really where we prove who we are. You got to be tough, you guys stick with it. Of course, you got to have determination and
grit. And it’s also important to remember that for
the most part, these are very first world problems, right? We are very, I think what we want to do is
practice gratitude. Ego is always about how can I have more? How can I be better than everyone else. But what what humility and confidence can
focus on is what we’re grateful for, that we’re born right now that we live in this
country, right? That we live in a time of peace that we we’ve
been given all the gifts that we’ve been given, we can focus on what we’re grateful for, rather
than on what we’ve been deprived of in this very moment. But what Warren Buffett talks about is the
idea of having an inner scorecard versus an outer scorecard. So an outer scorecard is winning attention,
you’re getting social media followers. It’s being promoted, it’s being recognized. It’s It’s It’s externals, right. But in in an inner scorecard is a sense of,
are you getting better? Are you putting in the work? Are you proud of what you’re actually doing? Is this something that’s in your control? Or is it something outside of your control? And for the richest man in the world, clearly
very successful by any external metric? To say that an inner scorecard is more important,
I think that’s something we should listen to. Okay, here’s Nick Saban raising the national
championship trophy, right? What’s he doing? He’s not smiling. And is that because he’s incapable of being
happy? Now, what he talks about is, even when he’s
winning, what he’s thinking about is whether he did everything the way that he set out
to do them, did he? Did he win, not by the score, like the scoreboard. But did he win by the team following through
on the standards, or the game plan that they set up? JOHN wooden, he said the same thing? He said, winning is not determined by the
box score at the end of the game winning is, is did we play our absolute best game? And I know that’s easy to say, it’s very hard
to live right? Can you measure yourself by an internal scorecard
of your own standards, not your external one. So this happened to me on one on one of my
books, actually, with egos the enemy, so the most copies out of any of my books, it should
have debuted at number one on the national bestseller list. But it wasn’t there, what happened, we don’t
know. Got, maybe it got screwed over. Maybe it got edited, maybe just got forgotten,
but I earned this thing. And then they didn’t give it to me. So am I going to feel like that book is a
failure because I didn’t get this piece of record. Now because what I take pride in is that I
know that I wrote the very best book that I was capable of writing in that moment. And so pride for me what I wear, where I’m
putting my identity is not on the outcome, but on the input, right. And that allows me to never be never be knocked down by these external things. So it says we must establish our identity
and everything we do. Notice it’s not about outcomes. It’s about what we do what we put in. And so if you can take satisfaction in in
that it not only insulates you from from bad times, but it but it, it prevents you from
being puffed up by your success. So what if you do everything wrong? And you still win? Is that really a success? I would argue, no, I’ll give you an example
of this. So this is Tom Brady’s draft card, drafted
in 2000. It’s probably in better shape now than he
was in 2000. But he’s taken the hundred and 99th pick in
the second round. So in many respects, this is probably not
just the greatest draft pick in the history of the NFL, it’s maybe the greatest draft
pick in the history of sports period, it might be the best hire in the history of business
to take the greatest quarterback of all time to get them in the sixth round. You think the Patriots would be ecstatic? Right? How great are we at drafting that we picked
Tom Brady in the sixth round? Well, actually, they’re not ecstatic. Of course, they’re very happy that they get
Tom Brady for so cheap. But what they focus on is the fact that they
took this guy in the fifth round, this is Dave’s to Chelsea, I’m sure he’s a very nice
person. But he doesn’t even make it out of training
camp. So actually, the director of personnel for
the Patriots keeps a picture of Chelsea on his desk for many years as a reminder, not
that he blew it. But to not let the ego go to his head not
to congratulate himself or to take credit for something that if he was really being
honest, he didn’t fully understand when he did it, if the Patriots just sat there and
said, Yes, we’re amazing. we drafted Tom Brady in the sixth round, they’re
not going to get better at scouting talent. If instead they sit there and they go, How
the hell did we wait for? How did How the hell did we wait for five
through five rounds before we took this guy? Now they’re going to think about this. And they’re going to get better drafting each
year as a result. And so Marcus release would say what we want
to do is accept success without arrogance, and to let failure go with indifference, right? We want to let things go, whether people are
saying we’re fucking amazing, or whether people are saying that we’re trash, right? Because they don’t know what matters is what
we know. What matters is the standards that we set
for ourselves and what we’re doing. I think the other thing that’s going to happen
in life is we’re going to have moments where we’re not in control where we have where we’re
stuck, right, maybe you’re redshirting for a year, maybe you’re playing as delayed for
two hours. Maybe you’re you’re benched in favor of someone
else. Maybe you’re forced to retake a class, these
are going to be moments where we’re not in control, where we have what you might call
dead time. As an example, this is a guy named Malcolm
little, he was a basically a low level criminal and Harlem. And he ends up getting caught, he goes to
jail, sentenced to 10 years and in a penitentiary. He spends the first basically year of that
sentence, being very angry about the fact that he’s in jail, and and not liking it,
of course. But then he asked himself, what am I going
to do with this time, right, he could become a better criminal in jail, he could sit there
and watch the seconds of his life take away, or he could use this time. So he ends up he goes to the prison library,
and the commissary he buys a notebook, and he checks out a dictionary. And he begins to transfer word by word. The dictionary basically teaches himself to
read this way, teaches himself a vocab, Larry this way. And then he starts reading everything he can
get his hands on. He reads history, he reads philosophy, he
reads religion. And it’s in this process that Malcolm little
is transformed into Malcolm X. He would say from that until I left that prison
and every free moment I had, if I was not reading in my library, I was reading in my
bunk. He becomes Malcolm X. Why does Malcolm X wear glasses? It’s because he actually wears out his eyes
reading in the dim light of prison, people would ask him where he went to college because
he was so smart. And he said, books, that’s where he went to
college, he just read, he transformed himself. He took a lot, he took dead time, time, he
was not in control. And he turned it into what we would call a
live time. Right? He made use of every possible second. And so the one of the thoughts I would leave
you guys with is ego says this is unfair, I hate this. I don’t want this. I just have to wait this out. Confidence. Humility says, Okay, what can I accept about
this situation that will allow me to move forward, instead of spending one second, complaining
about the hit that blew out my knee, or the fact that that I got chosen, or someone got
chosen over me, what I’m going to focus on is how I can use this position that I’m now
in to move forward to get better in some way, how can I turn this into a good thing that happened to me, they’ve done some
interesting studies on elite athletes where actually after an injury, they come back,
and they’re better in some way. And the academic term for this is post traumatic
growth. And so the idea being that the athlete is
injured, yes. And it would be better if they weren’t injured,
right? They never had a weak knee, or they didn’t
blow out their elbow, or whatever it was. But maybe they spend that time becoming a
better teammate, or re evaluating why they’re playing the game in the first place. Or if you know what Tommy john surgery is,
right, where they take the tendon from one elbow and put it into an elbow. So the player actually, because they blew
out their arm, they come back with a stronger tendon to begin with this is post traumatic
growth, but also, how do they elevate or change their game to compensate for this injury that
they have? How do that, you know, because now let’s say
they can’t run this way. They change how they run, and they get better
in a new way. As players get older, this is what they have
to do. They don’t have the raw, explosive strength
anymore. But they’re smarter, they’re wiser, they know
the game better. So they’re improving their elevating their
game in a different way. So how do you use what happens to be better
for it? The Stokes, they have this concept of more
Fatty, which translates to a love of fate. And Marcus really is the image he uses for
it. He says it’s like fire. He says everything you throw in front of a
fire becomes fuel for the fire, right? The person who is hungry, who can make use
of everything that happens to them. That’s the person who gets better and better. So the last thing I would say and is how do
we keep ego in check? I think one of the things we’ve got to do
is we got to get off social media as much as humanly possible, right? So this is Glacier Bay, in Alaska, it’s very
hard to be obsessed with yourself when you are looking at the beauty or the majesty of
something much bigger than yourself, right? Meanwhile, you’re staring at the alerts of
your phone, and you do feel important, and you do feel distracted. And it’s hard to think about the big picture. When you are meticulously monitoring everything
that everyone is saying about you. That’s a problem. When you have this device in your pocket,
where you tweet and say everything that pops in your head, particularly when you’re angry,
when you’re upset when you’ve been hurt, right, that’s a bad position to be. And we often say things we regret out of ego. But instead of saying them privately, we’ve
now said them in front of all of the entire world on on social media, and that where we
get ourselves in trouble. So I urge you guys to sort of step out of
your bubble, to step away from technology to even step away from football have something
the opposite of football that allows you to center yourself on a regular basis. I live in Texas on a small farm and every
morning I go for a long walk, I watched the sun come up. And in this moment, I’m I’m not me the author. I’m not someone who’s ambitious. I’m just out there sort of equal to everyone
else in the world. And this is an important centering experience
for me. And you know, the grass, Tyson saying, when
we look up at the sky, we feel very small. But we also feel connected to something larger
than ourselves. This my donkey, his name, his buddy, bought
him on Craigslist, he cost $100. And when I walk out and I see him, he’s just
standing there. He just stands there. He just doesn’t do anything. He just stands there. And it’s funny. I when I first got him, I would just sort
of laugh. Like I thought he’s just really dumb that
he just stands there, he doesn’t do it thing. And then I realized like this is his job,
right? Like, as long as he doesn’t die. That’s a pretty successful day for him. Right? And so he’s not beating himself up. He’s not comparing himself against other people. He’s not whipping himself. He’s not checking how many Twitter followers
or Instagram followers he has. He’s not he’s not fighting the other donkeys. He’s just fully being himself. He’s experiencing sort of complete stillness
and completeness. Even if only for a few minutes. I keep this coin in my pocket. It says memento mori, and it there’s a quote
from Marcus Aurelius. He says, you can leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and
think. I think, to me, that’s the ultimate antidote
to ego is remembering how short life is to remember how lucky we are to even be alive
in this moment. And then to sort of fully be present and appreciate
all of it, and to not waste a second of it, thinking that I’m better or superior or worse
than any other person and alive so thank you guys very much. Thanks for watching. please click subscribe below for more content
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