I was unsure whether to publish this blog post.
I came to the conclusion that it could be helpful to some and so I proceeded with publishing it.
As George Orwell wrote,
“I write because there is some lie that I want to expose. . . . My starting point is always a feeling of partisanship, a sense of Injustice.” — George Orwell (“On Writing”)
I felt that Ryan Holiday was doing injustice to his viewers by abusing the influence he has, by providing false hope to his readers. I think that he’s doing a lot of good — like popularizing Stoicism and promoting humility — but there is some hypocrisy that needs admitting.
I don’t need you to agree. Maybe you’ll change my mind. If you can, please do. As Marcus Aurelius wrote:
“If anyone can refute me — show me I’m making a mistake or looking at things from the wrong perspective — I’ll gladly change. It’s the truth I’m after, and the truth never harmed anyone.” Marcus Aurelius
Integrity in Blogging
I have a lot of ways to improve in as a blogger. Thus far, I’ve published 180 blog posts in under a year while studying full-time and working full-time hours. That is probably why I don’t think I’ve written incredible blog posts that everyone should be reading all the time. But I think I am improving.
I write a lot because I don’t want to be crippled by perfectionism. I realize that blogging is a perfect medium for this (if you’d excuse the pun). Medium doesn’t require you to be flawless, it is about sharing ideas, however imperfect they are.
I am very content with my audience because I am true to myself. I have integrity. I like the engagement I have and I adore my readers. Many of them are much more experienced and intelligent than I am. I am learning from them daily and reading their work as much as I can.
I like writing and I want to improve in it and I think that I am in good company by using Medium and commenting on blog posts that others have written.
Instagram & Social Media
I try to use my social media, especially my Instagram page, in similar ways. I want to share ideas and occasionally make people laugh, share a joke, funny picture, etc.
I believe we should be intentional about our Instagram use. We shouldn’t aspire to make others envious of our lifestyles, we shouldn’t want others to feel bad, or want respect from others by sharing our work ethic/ workout sessions.
We should share our true selves, be vulnerable, and spread ideas that will help others.
Hopefully, that is our ambition.
Yet, that is not what I see in Holiday’s Instagram. Here I have possibly misjudged him. I think that if he wished to be a more productive user of social media, he should rethink his relationship with Instagram.
His Twitter usage also needs some work. Quotes are eye-catching, but they rarely add value. His Twitter account is mainly just a collection of quotes that are meant to inspire you.
They are inspiring, sure. But what about sharing a political opinion? Or an article on the economy and how to change certain structures that are the remnants of an out-dated era? Or does that polarize and lose “fans”?
Narcissism vs. Humility
I thought Ego is the Enemy was fantastic. For some reason, however, as I’ve started to read more of his content and listen to his interviews, I’ve started noticing a concerning pattern.
He seems entitled in his podcasts, sharing opinions on things as if he has mastered them. Some of his blog posts suggest that he is self-sufficient, as if he does not need the praise of his fans, even to the extent of not being able to waste 15 minutes of his time (more on that later) because his time is too “precious”.
Dr. Drew Pinsky and Dr. S. Mark Young write in their book The Mirror Effect: How Celebrity Narcissism is Seducing America that narcissistic traits include: authority, entitlement, exhibitionism, exploitativeness, self-sufficiency, superiority, and vanity.
All of which I found to be recurring characteristics on Holiday’s social media accounts.
First, I was intrigued with how much Holiday exercises, then I realized that there’s not much to celebrate. Why share every time you exercise on social media? I understand — you exercise a lot. You have my respect.
Is that what you wanted?
If not, then why share it with the world?
First, I want to clarify. I don’t think that you need to be an expert on an issue if you are to share your opinion on it. That is what philosophers call a logical fallacy.
Pseudo-Intellectuals, however, celebrate the fact that they are not educated. They want others to respect them because of how they tricked the “system.” They don’t believe in education and think that being “self-made” is the most rewarding path to success.
There are problems with our educational system, that is something we should address and seek to change. In the case of Ryan Holiday, he seems to think that he is more equipped to write books without the proper education. He writes as if lack of credentials were his credentials.
Holiday is a Great Story-teller and Writer
Holiday is, no doubt, a phenomenal writer — I have benefited from him as much as anyone else. I reread his book, Ego is the Enemy, twice. I lent it to three friends and made them all read it. I’ve also read other works by him and have started reading Meditations by Marcus Aurelius mainly because of him.
I owe a lot to Holiday’s ideas from his books. His blog and social media, on the other hand, seem to contradict his philosophy or the philosophy he sells to his readers.
Readers love looking up to people. They want to have it all put together. People desire what Holiday is: a self-made man that mastered advertising and is able to sell best-sellers every year.
Ryan Holiday makes a lot of money for expressing these ideas and I think they are very important and need to be popularized for the public.
But when one sees hypocrisy, one needs to acknowledge it.
What are the values that you want to be defined as?
Do you want to remembered as someone that uses ‘tricks’ to get an audience?
Click-Bait Articles That Over-Promise and Under-Deliver
These are a common occurrence on Medium, which is a shame. It is even more of a shame to see Ryan Holiday manipulate readers to read his work through these insincere methods.
The titles to his articles on Medium include:
“The Fastest And Most Effective Way To Solve Your Problems.”
“I Read One Book 100 Times Over 10 Years… Here Are 100 Life-Changing Lessons I Learned” (100 Life-Changing Lessons you say? I didn’t know it’s so easy to do that).
“The Most Important Gamble I’ve Made in My Career.”
“30 Must-Read Quotes That Will Help You Turn Any Problem Into Something Great.”
Stop Tricking Your Audience by Promising Them Happiness
I have tremendous respect for people like Sam Harris who spend their time discussing consciousness, epistemology, politics, white nationalism, religion, meditation, Islam, science, psychedelics, and other interesting topics — all the while not losing their audience. He may have gained a lot of his audience by criticizing Christianity, but that wasn’t the end of his intellectual endeavor.
He now regularly sits down with numerous different experts in their fields and is able to hold in-depth conversations on complicated topics. By doing this, he is directly adding value to the the millions of listeners that tune into the Waking Up podcast every month.
I have also become a supporter of the podcast and will go see him live in Vancouver (5-hour drive there, 5-hour drive back) because of the value he gives through putting out sincere and responsible content.
He does not abuse his influence by creating clickbait books and articles, despite it being much easier to profit from. He takes the time to form opinions responsibly and does not “trick” his viewers to consume his content. For that — I support him with my finances.
I wish to become that myself one day as well.
Holiday, on the contrary, reveals himself as a pseudo-intellectual because he uses these click-bait tactics to lure in users, without actually living out the advice he provides in his blog posts and books. He simply knows that others will ‘click’ on these articles and that he’ll then be able to advertise his books which are featured in his bio on Medium.
One would think that Holiday would be humble enough to engage with his readers, then. But that is not the case. He values his time too much, as he expressed in his article, To Everyone Who Asks For ‘Just a Little’ Of Your Time: Here’s What It Costs to Say Yes
To Everyone Who Asks For ‘Just A Little’ Of Your Time: Here’s What It Costs To Say Yes
To the person who emailed me this morning with a perfectly nice request,
In it he writes:
“I always thought it was strange to hear actors complain about the two weeks of media they had to do to promote their movies. Who doesn’t like publicity? Isn’t that the whole perk of being famous? But then, over the last few years, I started to understand. These interviews were a major time and energy suck. It’s disrupting their life — a life where the rest of the time, they make their own schedule. Worse, it’s to do something repetitive and unfulfilling, answering the same questions over and over again, asked by people who usually haven’t even seen their work.”
Holiday, the one criticizing the ego and what it entails, looks to celebrities as a source of reference to what a bad week looks like. That “bad week” is promoting a work that they seek to sell for people to better their lives.
You possibly lack gratitude, if you are complaining about promoting a book that few people will even have the opportunity to write, which supports your farm and future business endeavors (Holiday has a farm in Texas that he bought because of the revenues received from his books).
If one truly believes in ones work, he would wish others would buy it so that they could do more good.
Cesar Vazquez wrote a fabulous response to this blog post. It is as follows (I’ll just include the entire thing, because it hits the head of the nail on this issue):
Well, Mr. Holiday. Everyone understands or should understand that you, (and a few others like Casey Neistat, Tim Ferriss, etc.) a pseudo techno-celebrity, are a very busy person who allegedly doesn’t like to be bothered not by groupies, but by the life hackers -yes, those 1000 true fans that the likes of you love to talk about- and that you are continually trying to connect to, speak to and extract money from. Just for argument sake, there is a full theory of living that emphasizes the golden rule: there is more happiness in giving than receiving. I consider myself a relatively busy person, but I always schedule a time to help my fellow man. It’s not like if one has a “practice” of mentoring or even hearing someone for 15 minutes a week it will kill one’s momentum or blessed “anorexic schedule.” Just a “little of your time” might save someone financially, physically or even mentally. Ironically, the time you spent writing this blog, could’ve been used to help someone. Don’t go to the extremes, just try to be a balanced man and I can assure you that it will make you a happier, content and fulfill a person. Isn’t that what you are continually writing about? . . . we can all agree “Ego is the enemy”.
There are so many ways I want to develop as a person. One of the main ways, however, is to give time fully to the people that are around me. I want to be vulnerable and serve others extremely well. I don’t want to live life for my own benefit.
To finish this off, here’s a quote from Holiday’s book, Ego is the Enemy, which I wish he exemplified more via his use of Social Media:
“If you start believing in your greatness, it is the death of your creativity.” — Marina Abramovic
Let me know your thoughts. I look forward to civil engagement. I don’t want to use my limited platform to criticize great people. I do, however, want to ask difficult questions and see what others think in a respectful manner.
I hope that this came across that way.
Before you go…
I’d love if you’d share the article on Facebook/TWITTER if you want your friends to benefit from it in some way at all.
I write to keep you thinking and to keep me thankful and reflective. Cheers and until next time,