ENT(601) – To Success, Ego is the Enemy

To Success, Ego is the Enemy…

Greetings & welcome back,

As we continue the journey through the “Ego is the Enemy” series I am delighted to see you come back for more action. As I have done in the past I will attempt to build on to the prior topics and elaborate on the effects Ego has on our business and private lives.

In this section, we are going to look at success and accomplishments, and the ways the ego can negatively impact it. I am hopeful that none of us, readers of this blog, will fall into a similar situation as we progress in our quest to becoming successful entrepreneurs. If you read journals on successful tycoons of the past you may have ran across the name Howard Hughes Jr. In his book, Ego is the Enemy, Ryan Holiday takes us back to the events in January of 1924 which led to Howard Hughes Jr. inheriting a very successful business, worth over a $1 million at that time, which would translate to roughly $14.8 million at the current rate, from his father as he died from a sudden heart attack in the middle of a business meeting (Holiday 2016). Originally, Hughes Jr. inherited three-fourths of the business shares but shortly after, and against their objections, he bought the remaining shares from his family; hence, consolidating the ownership of a business that would create billions of dollars of cash profit over the next century (Holiday 2016). As a young boy, at the age of eighteen, and nearly zero experience in business, managing such a business was going to be challenging.

Surprisingly enough, shortly after gaining complete ownership of the business, Hughes abandoned it, according to Holiday, Hughes left Houston for Los Angeles, and never stepped foot in the company’s headquarters again (Holiday 2016). Hughes was not interested in the business, just the cash. Hughes used the cash to invest in various ventures ranging from trading stocks, movie production, failed investments such as Chrysler, to a defense contractor business. One after another, his ventures crumbled and he posted major losses on each one. The most notable loss was the $40 million investment on a contract during World War II. This was a shared loss between Hughes and the taxpayers. Namely the Hercules – one of the biggest planes ever made- took more than five years to develop, cost more than $20million flew only one time, for nearly one mile, about 70 feet above the water, never to be used again (Holiday 2016). Realizing his failure in the aviation industry, Hughes decided to double down on his film business. He purchased a successful movie studio that employed over two thousand employees and ran it into the ground, producing losses of $22 million and cutting the workforce down to fewer than five hundred employees – within a few years (Barlett & Steele).

Interestingly enough, while Hughes was focusing his energy on the film business, he abandoned the defense contracting as he did with the tool business, leaving executives in charge; both businesses slowly began to thrive in his absence (Holiday 2016).

Others may report that, despite all failures, Hughes was still one of the most successful businessmen of his time. Hughes did produce some notable movies, amongst them Scarface in 1932 and the Outlaw in 1943 which were a great success (Howard Hughes Biography). In the aviation arena, Hughes’ self-designed aircraft set a landplane speed record of 352.46 miles per hour (The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica 2019). Additionally, his wealth came to his avail during his residency in Las Vegas, after being forced to move there to avoid paying the huge tax bill in California. Hughes was residing in a prestigious floor of Desert Inn, and after the hotel’s owner attempted to evict him, Hughes bought the entire hotel instead (Nix 2015).

In summary, all the wealth he had or claimed to have had – like many things about Hughes came to be untrue or a hoax did not do him much good due to his egoistic nature and extravagant spending habits. During the late years of his life, Hughes got in a lot of trouble with the law. Most notably, Hughes’s corporation was involved with the CIA and the “Watergate” affair led to President Nixon’s resignation in 1973 (Howard Hughes Biography). 

As he got older, Hughes became increasingly isolated and reclusive. He divorced his wife, left the United States, and moved from place to place; the Bahamas, Nicaragua, Canada, England, and Mexico. Due to his lifestyle changes, the lack of nourishment and excess of drugs Hughes lost most of his weight and went insane. He met his death on April 5, 1976, on an airplane from Mexico to a hospital in Houston, TX for medical attention (Hood 2012).


Barlett, Donald L, and James B Steele. “Howard Hughes: His Life and Madness.” Google Books – Howard Hughes: His Life & Madness, Google, books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=ivZGrgLszbcC&oi=fnd&pg=PA13&dq=”Howard+Hughes”&ots=ocpqpELlxQ&sig=vVi1iMi4vNt3g4bmNt6qgDIWlwY#v=onepage&q=”Howard Hughes”&f=false.

Holiday, Ryan. Ego Is the Enemy. Portfolio, Penguin, 2016.

Hood, Bruce. “The Self Illusion: How the Social Brain Creates Identity.” Google Books, Google, 2012, books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=x_loAgAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PP1&dq=related:qus9hkhAOG0J:scholar.google.com/&ots=c8o29lIa6b&sig=AejUbpEz6r6tW9MzWQhX5OftEEE#v=onepage&q=hughes&f=false.

“Howard Hughes Biography.” Encyclopedia of World Biography, www.notablebiographies.com/Ho-Jo/Hughes-Howard.html.

Nix, Elizabeth. “7 Things You May Not Know About Howard Hughes.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 7 July 2015, www.history.com/news/7-things-you-may-not-know-about-howard-hughes.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. “Howard Hughes.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 20 Dec. 2019, www.britannica.com/biography/Howard-Hughes.

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